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In Real Life, we humans are basically the only animals uncomfortable with public nudity; other animals in the world don't share this taboo, and spend the entirety of their lives without ever covering themselves in a shred of clothing. So when a work of fiction uses animals for its core cast of thinking, personified characters, what's an author to do about their underlying, well, nudity?
Now is an important time to define the term "nudity": When we say that a person is "naked", we usually use mean it in a social context, implying that they should Please Put Some Clothes On. Even though the standard for acceptable human attire can vary with each culture, this isn't a standard we hold animals to; we just don't view their nudity as being so objectionable. Maybe it's the coat of fur (or feathers) that partially obscures their genitals already; maybe it's the four-legged posture that makes their unmentionables less visible than those of a bipedal human (especially from the front). So while we may not particularly want to be looking at an animal's family jewels, the omission of them in art is much less noticeable than Barbie Doll Anatomy.
This gets weird with a Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal, since they often do have a concept of nudity. But even that is sort of a mock nudity, since it doesn't make the viewers feel uncomfortable the same way as human nudity would in many cultures.
It can also be due to Conservation of Detail by the author, especially in written media where they have more important things to discuss than informing the audience whether there's "something" visible between an animal's hind legs. But visual media needs frequent, consistent depictions of the characters (human or otherwise) so whether or not an animal is "anatomically correct" can be an important stylistic decision for the artist: Executives and Moral Guardians may object to such anatomical features, but on the other hand, an artist may prefer to show their work rather than deal with complaints that their Animals Lack Attributes.
But things start to get weird when throwing anthropomorphism into the mix. A Talking Animal (speech-impaired or otherwise) and their relatives like the Nearly-Normal Animal and Partially-Civilized Animal can easily get by without their lack of pants or shirt ever getting questioned. The Civilized Animal and Funny Animal can still get away with being naked, but when the animals are depicted in sufficiently human mantle, a lack of clothes may leave them stranded in Uncanny Valley territory.
When it is deemed "necessary" to clothe animals in some form of attire, artists have a wide range of options at their disposal
Actual Articles of Clothing Tropes
As the nonhuman equivalent of wearing Diamonds in the Buff, the individual is still essentially 'naked' underneath whatever pelt or plumage they naturally possess; but their Amplified Animal Aptitude is conveyed through the use of jewelry or other worn accessories. (Ring Around the Collar and White Gloves can also count.) Similarly, they may be wearing only the equivalent of a fig-leaf or Loin Cloth—the bare minimum necessary to preserve a sense of modesty for the audience if they are Petting Zoo People or Borderline Little Bit Beastly. (This is also a popular visual motif for depicting characters as 'exotic' or 'native' in origin.)
- Commonly seen on: Nearly Normal Animals, Talking Animals, Partially Civilized Animals, Civilized Animals, Funny Animals, and borderline Petting Zoo People.
One of the most common depictions in Western Animation, the individual is wearing a partial set of clothing—usually just a shirt or coat to cover their upper body while their bottoms, legs, and feet remain bare (unless they wear shoes). Going "topless" with a skirt or pants but no shirt is also an option, like the animal equivalent of a Walking Shirtless Scene.
- Commonly seen on: Civilized Animals, Funny Animals, and Borderline Petting Zoo People
- Sometimes Seen: pantless Nearly Normal Animals, Talking Animals, and Partially Civilized Animals, shirtless (male) Petting Zoo People.
- Rarely Seen on: pantless Petting Zoo People, shirtless female Petting Zoo People (because of the Nipple-and-Dimed Double Standard), and shirtless Nearly Normal Animals, Talking Animals, and Partially Civilized Animals.
Extending "half-dressed" to "mostly-dressed" results in this: The animal wears a full set of clothing, except retaining their unshod feet. Spat-wearing, but otherwise fully-dressed animals also count as Barefoot Cartoon Animals. When this is the status quo in a setting, the exception becomes known as The One Who Wears Shoes.
- Common Way of Dress for: Petting Zoo People, Borderline Petting Zoo People, and Funny Animals.
- Sometimes Seen in: Civilized Animals.
- Rarely Seen in: Nearly Normal Animals, Talking Animals, and Partially Civilized Animals
This is an animal who wears a full set of clothing including footwear (socks and/or shoes). Often averted because a full outfit with shoes and/or socks has a high chance of obscuring what species a particular animal character is. Funny Animals who typically have this form of dress, especially the head-to-toe variant, can be a little unsettling when shown completely naked, but it's not as unsettling as a nude Petting Zoo Person.
- Most Common Way of Dress for: Borderline Little Bit Beastly, Petting Zoo People.
- Also Common Way of Dress for: Borderline Petting Zoo People, and Funny Animals.
- Not so Commonly Seen in: Civilized Animals
- Rarely Seen in: Nearly Normal Animals, Talking Animals, and Partially Civilized Animals.
Animal Attire Convention Tropes
When being barefoot (whether otherwise fully-dressed, half-dressed, accessory-wearing, or otherwise completely nude) is the status quo in a setting, wearing shoes or socks becomes the exception. Sometimes, this is inverted by having footwear-wearing be the status quo and being barefoot be an exception.
Another convention applied largely to anthropomorphized animals (Petting Zoo People, Borderline Petting Zoo People, Funny Animals, and even Civilized Animals) is a gender-based Double Standard regarding who is allowed to wear what kinds clothes; for example, requiring females to adhere to a higher standard of dress than the males.
Sleepwear and Swimwear Paradox
This is the tendency for the sleepwear and swimwear of typically completely naked, mostly naked, or partially dressed Funny Animals and CivilizedAnimals to not follow the rules of their everyday dress (or lack of dress). Instead, they appear more fully dressed in their sleepwear and swimwear than in their normal outfits.
- Sleepwear: A character's nightgown or pajamas would cover their body more than their typical daywear does. If they're wearing pajamas, they would be wearing pajama bottoms even if they are normally naked below the waist.
- Swimwear: An animal character who doesn't normally wear pants, shorts, or a skirt would be wearing swim trunks if male or a swimsuit if female.
Normally Pantsless or Naked Character With a Towel Wrapped Around His/Her Waist
Winter Attire Without Pants, Shoes, or Boots
For winter weather, a naked or partially clothed Funny Animal or Civilized Animal would often dress with a hat, scarf, and jacket, but without pants or shoes/boots. They would seem to be dressed for the weather, but logically, they should still be cold because of the lack of shoes/boots and pants.
Pantsless or Mostly Naked Character Acting Denuded When Naked
Natural Body Parts as Articles of Clothing Tropes
A manner of playing the subject of an animal's "fur coat," feathers (if a bird), or scales for laughs is to treat it as an actual article of clothing. Expect to see Goofy Print Underwear and/or a reaction from the character (see above point) to protect his or her modesty if he or she should be suddenly denuded.
- Fur or Skin Used For a Sexy Leg Reveal: An animal lifts the fur or skin on his/her leg, revealing a sexy woman's leg. To put it another way, it's Fur Is Clothing meets Show Some Leg.
- Physiological Pockets: An animal character has pockets, most commonly placed on his/her thighs, as part of his/her actual physiology.
The turtle and other shelled or carapaced creature equivalent of Fur Is Clothing.
One manner of presenting a child-like demeanor for young animals born from eggs is to preserve their modesty using part of their egg's shell.
Ears As a Hat
This is when an animal with pinnae (outer ear flaps) doffs his/her ears as if they were a hat.
Note: Due to the broad nature of this Super-Trope, please limit examples to cases regarding the topic as a whole; examples of averting or playing with individual subtropes may be placed on the respective pages.
- The Furry Fandom's focus on animals and anthropomorphism gives it a diverse range of examples and opinions on to what extent its animals should wear clothes (and/or what kind). Wikifur, the Furry wiki, provides its own discussion of the matter.
- There is "I Might be a Duck, but I'm Human": An Analysis of Clothing in Disney Cartoons. It talks about the state of dress of various Classic Disney Shorts characters, ranging from completely naked (like Chip and Dale), to accessory wearing (like Pluto and Clara Cluck), to half-dressed (like Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy), to fully clothed (like Minnie and Goofy).
- The Law of Cartoon Pants on Wolf Gnards website. It talks about Accessory Wearing Cartoon Animals, Half Dressed Cartoon Animals (both shirtless and pantless), Fully Dressed Cartoon Animals, and Fur Is Clothing.
- The childrens book Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett talks about animals and clothing in general and why they should not wear clothing. It shows that some animal's body parts don't go very well with clothing.
- Clothes Do Not Make The Toon on The United States of Geekdom website talks about the state of dress of various classic cartoon animal characters, from completely naked, to accessory wearing, to half-dressed.
Other Examples That Do Not Fit The Subtropes
- Donald Duck puts a towel around his waist after showering. This is far more commonly seen in the comics than in the animated shorts.
- Calvin and Hobbes: Hobbes doesn't wear clothes, although in one storyline he wears "jams" to go swimming.
Live Action Film
- When everybody gets up in Muppets from Space, Kermit wears pyjamas (we even see the pyjama bottoms) and then a bathrobe on top of that. Fozzie takes it Up to Eleven; a character who's normally naked except for a hat and a tie, is wearing a heavy raincoat to take a shower.
- Kermit the Frog from The Muppets considers his collar clothing; one time when he was without it, he acted as if he were naked (hiding his neck-nudity from Miss Piggy, for one thing).
- The Classic Disney Shorts feature the swimwear/sleepwear and winter attire paradoxes a lot, especially with Donald Duck and Chip and Dale. For example:
- Donald’s nightgown covered more of his body than his usual outfit did, and sometimes included pants, which aren’t part of his usual outfit.
- Even though he doesn’t wear pants, he always wears swim trunks in water, whether it was just swim trunks or a two piece with a shirt and shorts.
- Donald frequently went out in the snow either with his trademark sailor suit and hat or put on a coat, but he wouldn't put on pants or winter shoes/boots.
- In the short “Two Chips and a Miss,” the normally naked Chip and Dale are seen wearing nightgowns and sleeping caps.
- In some shorts, Chip and Dale wear winter outfits with jackets, but not pants or boots.
- Justified in the Bugs Bunny short "High-Diving Hare". While wayyy up on the high-dive platform, Bugs tells Yosemite Sam to cover his eyes while he puts on a bathing suit. It was really just a trick to avoid diving.
- In a few other shorts, he tucks his ears into a swim cap before diving. This could have practical purposes as well though (like keeping water out of his ears and speeding his swimming up).
- Disney's Donald Duck is a prime example of a pantless Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal who acts denuded like a human when he is naked. Not only does he run around with a shirt but no pants, but when said shirt is taken he reacts to protect his modesty despite not having anything to protect.
- The Disney version of Winnie the Pooh wears only a shirt that is one size too small, but at night he wears a proper-sized nightgown and night cap. On a sidenote, the original illustrations show Pooh naked most of the time, with the shirt only worn during winter.
- In The Pink Panther cartoons,the Panther would occasionally "undress" (typically just removing "socks" just before going to bed), only to look exactly the same.
- In the 1929 Classic Disney Short, "The Karnival Kid," Mickey Mouse doffs his ears as if they were a hat.
- Before that, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit doffed his ears.
- In episodes of Go Diego Go that show Baby Jaguar and are set in an Arctic setting, Baby Jaguar wears winter attire that includes a jacket, but not pants or boots. It's partly justified because he stays on all fours.
- From The Oddball Couple we have Neat Freak Spiffy as a Fully-Dressed Cartoon Animal, and unkempt Fleabag as a Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal.
- Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants usually wears a shirt and no pants. It doesn't seem to stop him from being embarrassed when he finds himself naked in public.
- Mrs. Cluck, an otherwise normal hen in the Higglytown Heros episode "Corn to be Wild" wears a two piece swimming outfit when cannonballing into the lake, but is otherwise naked. Fran the squirrel in contrast only wears a swimming cap to cannonball.
- In the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Leonardo complains about having to sneak around in what he sees as cumbersome clothing and doesn't know what humans see in them. Raphael asserts (and sounds like he'sspeaking from experience), "You ever see a human in his skivvies? Trust me, it ain't a pretty sight."