Fashion fades,” Coco Chanel famously said. “Only style remains the same.”
Purebred dog fanciers know this all too well: In their individual breeds, fads may come and go, but that which is essential and intrinsic persists. So it should come as no surprise that a dog show as well heeled as Morris & Essex should inspire a degree of sartorial splendor that almost no other show can match.
The modern-day Morris & Essex — a historically faithful revival of the famous show held by Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge — takes place every five years. The next show will be Thursday, October 1, at picturesque Colonial Park in Somerset, N.J. The closing date for the show is Wednesday, September 16. And in the days leading up to this show, the dogs aren’t the only ones being meticulously groomed.

Morris & Essex Kennel Club | Every 5 Years

Morris & Essex Kennel Club | Every 5 Years

Morris & Essex Kennel Club | Every 5 Years

Morris & Essex Kennel Club | Every 5 Years

“Before the show, everyone is asking each other, ‘Do you know what you’re wearing?'” says Morris & Essex board member and supported-entries chair Lorraine Bisso of Metaire, Louisiana. Many attendees opt for a vintage look that echoes the original show’s long tenure from 1927 to 1957, she adds, which leaves a lot of leeway. “It can be everything from Lady Mary goes shooting to the ladies who lunch to Donna Reed sets the table.”

Morris & Essex Kennel Club | Every 5 Years
What remains a constant, however, is the degree of anticipation that accompanies the wardrobe choices for this once-every-five-year spectacle. “It’s gotten to the point where some of the outfits are as well kept a secret as the judging panel,” adds Mrs. Bisso, who will be judging English Setter and Welsh Springer Spaniels at the show. “Nobody’s tipping their hand too early. They all want to capture the crowd when they walk on the grounds.”

Morris & Essex Kennel Club | Every 5 Years


Elaine Lessig of Clinton, New Jersey, who is judging Chinese Cresteds, Miniature Pinschers and Toy Fox Terriers at the 2015 show, doesn’t need to go far afield to outfit herself: She collects vintage clothing as well as hats, and has examples from the Victorian and even Edwardian eras, as well as some from covered designers, including surrealist 1950s icon Elsa Schiaparelli.
“You can never get enough of a good thing,” she says, adding that she long ago snagged a suit for the 2015 show, and will finish it off with a feathered English-made hat from the 1930s and leather gloves.
For more information on Morris & Essex, please visit www.morrisandessexkennelclub.org.

Photos by Scott D. Herring.

  • The 2015 Morris & Essex Kennel Club Dog Show was the largest outdoor show held in the United States in the past 20 years — and possibly much longer.

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