Title:
APPAREL WITH ATTACHED HAND PUPPETS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Described herein is a clothing and puppet system. The clothing and puppet system includes an article of clothing and a puppet attached to the article of clothing. The system further includes at least one coupling, wherein a first portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the article of clothing, and wherein a second portion of the coupling is attached to the puppet, such that when the first portion mates with the second portion, the puppet is attached to the article of clothing.



Inventors:
Soto, Benjamin (Costa Mesa, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/027998
Publication Date:
04/23/2009
Filing Date:
02/07/2008
Assignee:
PAUL FRANK INDUSTRIES, INC. (Costa Mesa, CA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/243.1, 2/244, 446/327
International Classes:
A41D27/10; A41D27/00; A41D27/08; A63H3/14
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070000004Arm guardJanuary, 2007Schleicher et al.
20080052806Strap member for use in securing a garment to a wearerMarch, 2008Mcdaniel
20070016996Tactical ballistic lower body armor outerwearJanuary, 2007Seitzinger et al.
20040237169Hunter's coatDecember, 2004Wood et al.
20100011476Sports face mask identification systemJanuary, 2010Kavanagh
20060137073Protective headgear with improved shell constructionJune, 2006Crisco
20070011794Assembled safety capJanuary, 2007Wang Lee
20060130220Baby carrier cover systemJune, 2006Morgan et al.
20080184457Baby Hat and Method of Manufacturing SameAugust, 2008Pham
20090307820CUSHION PAD AND GLOVE THEREOFDecember, 2009Yang
20040019958Supporting structure of chin-ventilation shutter for full-face type helmetFebruary, 2004Arai



Primary Examiner:
HOEY, ALISSA L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Paul Frank Industries, Inc. (270 E. Baker Suite 200, Costa Mesa, CA, 92626-4545, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A clothing and hand puppet system, comprising: a top, said top comprising at least one long sleeve; a hand puppet attached to said at least one long sleeve; and at least one coupling, wherein a first portion of said at least one coupling is attached to said at least one long sleeve, and wherein a second portion of said coupling is attached to said hand puppet, such that when said first portion mates with said second portion, said hand puppet is attached to said at least one long sleeve.

2. The clothing and hand puppet system of claim 1, wherein said hand puppet is in the form of a character, and wherein said character has movable mouth portions.

3. The clothing and hand puppet system of claim 1, wherein said at least one coupling comprises one or more of a group consisting of a: button, zipper, snap, hook-and-loop fastener (e.g., Velcro™), buckle, tether, adhesive, safety pin, rivet, complementary interference fit structure, tie, lace, clip, and loop.

4. The clothing and hand puppet system of claim 1, wherein said first portion of said at least one coupling is at least partially disposed on an exterior of said at least one sleeve, and wherein said second portion of said at least one coupling is at least partially disposed on an interior of said hand puppet.

5. The clothing and hand puppet system of claim 1, wherein said top further comprises two long sleeves, and wherein each of said two long sleeves includes a first portion of a coupling attached thereto, such that each sleeve is configured to be attached to a separate hand puppet.

6. The clothing and hand puppet system of claim 5, wherein each separate hand puppet embodies a different character.

7. The clothing and hand puppet system of claim 5, wherein each separate hand puppet embodies a same character.

8. The clothing and hand puppet system of claim 1, wherein said top includes graphic indicia thereon, and wherein said hand puppet has the appearance of a character and corresponds to said graphic indicia of said top.

9. A clothing and puppet system comprising: (a) an article of clothing; (b) at least one a puppet attached to the article of clothing; and at least one coupling, wherein a first portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the article of clothing, and wherein a second portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the puppet, such that when the first portion mates with the second portion, the puppet is attached to the article of clothing.

10. The article of clothing of claim 9, wherein the article of clothing comprises a top or a bottom.

11. The article of clothing of claim 10, wherein the at least one coupling comprises one or more of a group consisting of a button, zipper, snap, hook-and-loop fastener, buckle, tether, adhesive, safety pin, rivet, complementary interference fit structure, tie, lace, clip, and loop.

12. A method of attaching a puppet to an article of clothing comprising: (a) providing an article of clothing; (b) providing a puppet; (c) providing at least one coupling; wherein a first portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the article of clothing, and wherein a second portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the puppet; and (d) mating the first portion with the second portion; wherein mating the first portion with the second portion attaches the puppet to the article of clothing.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein the article of clothing is a top or a bottom.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein the at least one coupling comprises one or more of a group consisting of: a button, zipper, snap, hook-and-loop fastener, buckle, tether, adhesive, safety pin, rivet, complementary interference fit structure, tie, lace, clip, and loop.

15. The puppet of claim 9, wherein the puppet is selected from the group consisting of a sock puppet, a mitten, and a glove.

16. A clothing and slipper system comprising: (a) an article of clothing; (b) at least one slipper attached to the article of clothing; (c) at least one coupling, wherein a first portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the article of clothing, and wherein a second portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the slipper, such that when the first portion mates with the second portion, the slipper is attached to the article of clothing.

17. The article of clothing of claim 16, wherein the article of clothing is a bottom.

Description:

PRIOR PENDING APPLICATIONS

The present application is a non-provisional application of pending U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/888,737, the entire contents of which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to apparel and clothing. More particularly, aspects of the present invention relate to methods and systems for enhancing the visual and consumer appeal of wearing articles of clothing.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention, which generally relates to systems and methods for improving the desirability of apparel and adding to the diversion aspects of the clothing, features an integrated clothing system that preferably includes a top and a hand puppet attached (as used herein “attach” may refer to “bring into proximity with” or “connect”) to the top. The top may include long sleeves and a coupling connected to the ends of the long sleeves, such that the coupling connects each sleeve to a hand puppet. In this manner, when the wearer of the top places his or her hands into the top, they can also insert their hands into a hand puppet which can be used to entertain the wearer, or used by the wearer to entertain others.

Additionally, the integrated clothing system (also referred to herein as “clothing and puppet system” or “clothing and slipper system”) may include an article of clothing and at least one puppet attached to the article of clothing. The system may further include at least one coupling, wherein a first portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the article of clothing, and wherein a second portion of the at least one coupling is attached to the puppet, for example, such that when the first portion mates with the second portion, the puppet is attached to the article of clothing. The article of clothing may be a top or a bottom. The at least one coupling may comprise one or more of a group consisting of a button, zipper, snap, hook-and-loop fastener, buckle, tether, adhesive, safety pin, rivet, complementary interference fit structure, tie, lace, clip, and loop. In some embodiments, the integrated clothing system may include an article of clothing and at least one slipper attached to the article of clothing. Additionally, the present invention may include methods of attaching puppets and/or slippers to articles of clothing. The methods may include providing an article of clothing; providing at least one puppet and/or at least one slipper; and providing at least one coupling. A first portion of the at least one coupling may be attached to the article of clothing, and a second portion of the at least one coupling may be attached to the puppet/slipper. The method may further include mating the first portion with the second portion, wherein mating the first portion with the second portion attaches the puppet to the article of clothing. The article of clothing in these methods may be a top or a bottom.

Additional features and advantages of exemplary embodiments of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and will be, in part, obvious from the description, or may be learned by the practice of such exemplary embodiments. The features and advantages of such implementations may be realized and obtained by means of the instruments and combinations particularly pointed out in the specification and in the appended claims. These and other features will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, or may be learned by the practice of the invention as set forth hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

To further clarify the above and other advantages and features of the present invention, a more particular description of the invention will be rendered by reference to specific embodiments thereof which are illustrated in the appended drawings. It is appreciated that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are therefore not to be considered limiting of its scope. The invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIGS. 1A-1D illustrate various example examples of an integrated top and hand puppet system;

FIGS. 2A-2C illustrate an exemplary mechanism for attaching one or more hand puppets to an article of clothing;

FIGS. 3A-3H illustrate various other representative example of mechanisms for attaching one or more hand puppets to an article of clothing;

FIGS. 4A-4C illustrate various example hand puppets usable with the present system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

The present invention extends to apparel, and methods and systems for enhancing the appeal of the apparel. For example, according to some aspects of the present invention, the appeal of apparel is enhanced for the wearer in that the user can use one or more hand puppets (as used herein, is interchangeable with “puppets”) in connection with the apparel. For example, one or more hand puppets can match the apparel and/or be integrally or detachably coupled to a top or other article of clothing. Accordingly, by using hand puppets in connection with a top or other article of clothing, a wearer—such as a child—can also be entertained while wearing the clothing. Additionally, it is to be understood that apparel or article of clothing as used herein may refer to an article of clothing worn on the top or an article of clothing worn on the bottom, such as pants, shorts, socks, skirts, dresses, pajamas, or the like. As such, as used herein “sweatshirt/hooded sweatshirt” or “top” is used for ease of description only, and may refer to any article of clothing worn on the top or on the bottom. Accordingly, as used herein, “sleeve” may refer to any part of the article of clothing worn on the top or the bottom.

Reference will now be made to the figures to describe various aspects of exemplary aspects of the invention. It is to be understood that the figures are merely representative of exemplary embodiments, and are not limiting of the present invention, nor are they necessarily to scale in all regards. In particular, the description and/or drawings may note dimensions of features or elements depicted in the drawings, but such dimensions are exemplary only, and other suitable dimensions are contemplated. No inference should therefore be drawn from the figures and/or description as to a particular dimension being required of the present invention.

Referring initially to FIGS. 1A-4C, various examples of the integrated apparel and hand puppet systems according to present invention is described. As illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1C, for example, and according to one embodiment of the present invention, hand puppets can be used in connection with a hooded sweatshirt. In such an embodiment, the hooded sweatshirt includes long sleeves. At the end of the long sleeves are one or more hand puppets which can be worn by a child or adult who is wearing the hooded sweatshirt.

In a preferred embodiment, the hand puppets may be disposed at the distal end of the long sleeves of the hooded sweatshirt, for use by the wearer, in any suitable manner. For example, in one embodiment, one or more hand puppets are selectively and removably coupled to the long sleeves, such that they can also be selectively detached therefrom when the user does not wish to use or wear the hand puppets. For instance, as illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2C, the hooded sweatshirt and/or hand puppet may include one or more attachment mechanisms which act as a coupling to selectively attach a hand puppet to a respective sleeve of a hooded sweatshirt.

In particular, and as illustrated in FIG. 2C, a hand puppet can be connected to a sleeve 200 by using a coupling mechanism that makes use of an interference fit between complementary portions. Preferably, the hand puppet 202 includes a pair of top snaps 210 (individually, in a pair, and collectively referenced herein as “210”) and a cuff portion 210a of the sleeve 200 includes a pair of complementing bottom snaps 220 (individually, in a pair, and collectively referred to herein as “220”). As the top snap 210 engages with the bottom snap 220, interfering structures mate and temporarily lock into place until the interference fit is overcome by the user attempting to remove the hand puppet 202 from the sleeve 200 of the hooded sweatshirt. Accordingly, and in this manner, a user may temporarily and selectively couple the hand puppet to the hooded sweatshirt only when desired, and remove the hand puppet as desired.

The top and bottom snaps may be located on the hand puppet and clothing, respectively, in any suitable manner. For example, according to one embodiment, the interference fit portion of the top snap is located on an interior of the hand puppet, and the interference fit portion of the bottom snap is located on the exterior of the cuff of the sweatshirt. In other embodiments, however, this can be reversed, such that the connecting portion of the top snap is on the exterior of the hand puppet and on the interior of the sweatshirt. Naturally, however, still other combinations are contemplated, including mating portions which are both on the exterior or both on the interior of the respective component. In other embodiments, it is to be understood that more or less top and/or bottom snaps may be used. In yet other embodiments, the top snap may be disposed on the sleeve and the bottom snap may be disposed on the puppet. Additionally, it is to be understood that the bottom snaps may be disposed on any part of the article of clothing, depending on the article of clothing. For example, the top snaps may be located on a slipper or at the end of a pants leg.

It will be appreciated that a coupling which makes use of top and bottom snapping portions is only one exemplary structure capable of attaching a hand puppet to a sleeve of the hooded sweatshirt. For example, a representative set of other structures capable of operating as a suitable coupling are illustrated in FIGS. 3A-3H.

For instance, FIG. 3A illustrates a two component, locking buckle system 300 (or “buckle”). In the illustrated coupling system, the buckle 300 includes a female connector 302 and a male connector 304. The male connector 304 includes flexible tabs 304a (referred to individually and collectively as “304a”) and the female connector 302 includes corresponding openings that mate with the flexible tabs 304a. In this manner, when the male connector 304 is inserted into the female connector 302, the flexible tabs 304a bend inward and then flex outward when they align with the grooves. At this point, the flexible tabs 304a interlock with the female connector 302 and can be released by manually pressing the flexible tabs 304a inward while removing the male connector 304 from the female connector 302. Thus, the buckle 300 in FIG. 3A also involves complementary structures which, when attached, form an interference fit.

To use a buckle connection such as that illustrated in FIG. 3A, the male connector 304 may be attached to the hand puppet, while the female connector 302 is coupled to the sleeve of the article of clothing. Accordingly, when the user desires to use the hand puppet, the male portion of the buckle of can be inserted into the female portion which is attached to the sleeve. It will be appreciated, however, that in other embodiments, the arrangement can be reversed such that the male portion is connected to the sleeve, while the female portion is connected to the hand puppet.

FIG. 3B illustrates another exemplary coupling for temporarily and selectively securing the hand puppet to the article of clothing. FIG. 3B illustrates an exemplary zipper which includes complementary, mating portions. One portion may be connected to each of the hand puppet and the sleeve. A zipper slider can be attached to one portion of the zipper, on either the hand puppet or sleeve, which then acts to engage the teeth of each zipper portion and thereby interlock them in place as desired by a user.

FIG. 3C illustrates still another exemplary coupling device for selectively securing a hand puppet to an article of clothing. As illustrated in FIG. 3C, the sleeve 306 may include a button 308 sewn thereto, while the hand puppet includes a loop 310 attached thereto. The button 308 can then be placed inside the loop 310 to secure it in place. In an alternative embodiment, the loop 310 may be secured to the sleeve 306 while the button 308 is secured to the hand puppet. It will also be appreciated that other configurations are possible. For example, instead of using a loop, a button hole may instead be created in either the sleeve or in the hand puppet.

As shown in FIG. 3D, another example structure usable to connect a hand puppet to the sleeve of the hooded sweatshirt includes a hook-and-loop fastener of the type commonly referred to as Velcro™. The strip of hooks can be secured to the sleeve or to the band puppet, while the other corresponding strip of loops can be secured to the other component. When the sleeve and hand puppet are then drawn together, the hooks can engage the loops and thereby connect the hand puppet to the sleeve.

FIG. 3E illustrates a clip and tether system which may also be used to connect a hand puppet to the sleeve of an article of clothing. In the illustrated embodiment, a clip 312 is disposed on each end of a tether 314. The clip 312 may then connect into a loop formed on each of the sleeve and hand puppet, thereby securing the hand puppet to the sleeve. It will be noted, however, that in alternative embodiments, only a single clip is used, such as where the tether is sewn directly to the sleeve or the hand puppet. In still other embodiments, a tether may be absent and a clip 316 can be connected directly to the sleeve or hand puppet and clip to a corresponding loop or opening in the other component (see FIG. 3F). In still another embodiment, the tether is eliminated and each component includes a clip which connects to the clip of the other component.

Now referring to FIG. 3G, another example of a buckle system 400 including a buckle 403 and a belt portion 410 usable with the present invention is illustrated. As shown in FIG. 3G, instead of at two-piece buckle, a one-piece buckle 403 may be used. Similar to a traditional belt buckle, the buckle 403 can include a locking member 402 which mates with an opening 404 in a belt portion 410 which is received through the buckle 403. Where multiple openings 404 are disposed in the belt portion 410, this also allows the belt length to be adjusted, thereby changing the distance of the belt connection between the sleeve of the clothing and the hand puppet. Naturally, as discussed above, the buckle 403 and belt portion 410 can be connected to either the sleeve or to the hand puppet, as desired.

Now turning to FIG. 3H, an alternative example of a coupling is illustrated. FIG. 3H illustrates a sewn/stitched seam 406 which connects a first component to a second component. Such a seam can be used where, for example, it is not desirable or necessary that the hand puppet be removable such as where, for example, the hand puppet is integral with the article clothing, as described below.

It will be appreciated that the couplings illustrated in FIGS. 3A-3H are representative only, and represent only a small number of the many different ways in which a hand puppet such as that illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2B can be coupled to the sleeve of an article of clothing. For example, other structures and couplings are contemplated which may also selectively or permanently couple a hand puppet to an article of clothing. For instance, string or laces may be used. By way of example, one of the sleeve or hand puppet may include a lace or string attached thereto, while the other portion includes one or more openings or loops through which the lace or string is inserted and then tied. As such, the sleeve and the puppet may or may not make actual contact when the puppet is attached to the article of clothing. In other embodiments, a safety pin or rivet may be used to couple the hand puppet to the apparel. In still other embodiments, an adhesive (e.g., hot glue, glue dots, epoxy, and the like) can be used to attach the sleeve and the hand puppet. It is to be understood that any suitable means of attaching, connecting, or bringing into proximity a puppet and an article of clothing may be used.

Returning now to FIGS. 2A-2C, it will be seen that a suitable coupling can be used to attach the hand puppet to the sleeve in any suitable manner. In the illustrated embodiment, for example, two interlocking snaps are located on each of the sleeve and the hand puppet. This can create a partial attachment which allows a user to selectively insert his or her hand into the puppet outside the puppet. It will be appreciated that this feature is exemplary only. Indeed, the number and alignment of the couplings can be altered in a variety of manners. For instance, a number of snaps or other couplings can be placed around the entire perimeter of the sleeve cuff, thereby necessitating that the user place a hand in the hand puppet when each snap is connected. In other embodiments, couplings can secure the sleeve and hand puppet around less than the entire perimeter. For instance, the couplings may secure the hand puppet around only about half of the sleeve, or even at only a single location.

While the foregoing description primarily describes connecting a hand puppet to the sleeve of an article of clothing in a selective, temporary and removable fashion, it will be appreciated that this feature is exemplary only. In other embodiments, for example, the hand puppets are disposed at the end of the long sleeves only when they are worn by the wearer. For instance, the hand puppets may not be connected in any way to the hooded sweatshirt such that they are maintained entirely separate from the hooded sweatshirt.

In another example embodiment, the hand puppets may be integral with the hooded sweatshirt. For example, the hand puppets may be sewn or stitched to a cuff portion of the hooded sweatshirt such that they are always connected to the hooded sweatshirt, such that the sewing and/or stitching acts as a coupling between the sweatshirt and the hand puppets. In other example embodiments, however, other couplings can be used for a permanent attachment between the hand puppets to the sweatshirt. For instance, a tether may be disposed between the hand puppet and the sweatshirt, and the tether sewn to or otherwise attached to the hooded sweatshirt and the hand puppet. In this manner, the hand puppet can be integrally connected to the hooded sweatshirt, with the tether acting as a coupling.

In embodiments in which the hand puppet is integrally attached to the hooded sweatshirt, it will also be appreciated that the hand puppet can be retractable. For example, a hand puppet may be reversed to be positioned inside a respective sleeve of the hooded sweatshirt, such that it is not visible. Alternatively, pockets may be sewn into the sleeves of the hooded sweatshirt, such that the hand puppets could be retracted within the sleeve and placed into the pockets by the wearer of the apparel when they do not wish to use or wear the hand puppets. Such pockets are not, however, limited to use with a permanently attached puppet and could also be used to allow a selectively attached puppet to be retracted while attached, or to be detached and stored within the pocket. Alternatively, the user could store the selectively detached puppet within the frontal pocket of a hooded sweatshirt.

As shown in FIG. 1, the illustrated hooded sweatshirt can include indicia thereon such as, by way of representation and not limitation, screen printing, patches, appliqué, or the like, which depicts caricatures. Such a sweatshirt could, however, also include other markings such as brand logos, lettering, non-caricature indicia, or any other suitable markings. Naturally, the sweatshirt could also be free from any indicia.

According to one aspect of the invention, the hand puppets disposed on the sleeves of the sweatshirt are configured to complement the indicia on the sweatshirt. For example, in FIG. 1, a black sweatshirt can include a depiction of a black and tan monkey, and a brown and yellow giraffe. Each sleeve of the sweatshirt can have a hand puppet attached thereto. In the illustrated embodiment, for example, the sweatshirt has hand puppets formed to have the shape, size and configuration of a character such as a black and tan monkey, and a brown and yellow giraffe. In this manner, the hand puppets can match the characters on the sweatshirt. In another example, such as that illustrated with the green sweatshirt in FIG. 1, hand puppets can include a pink and white bird and a green alligator/crocodile, which complement the sweatshirt which includes a similar bird and alligator/crocodile as indicia thereon.

It will be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein that the hand puppets and indicia on the sweatshirt can complement each other in any of a variety of different ways. For example, as noted above, the colors and shapes of the hand puppets can match the colors and shapes of the characters on the sweatshirt. Optionally, the hand puppets can also be configured to have similar features and facial expressions as those on the sweatshirt.

It will be appreciated that although the hand puppets can complement the graphic indicia on the sweatshirt, this is not necessary. Indeed, in some cases, no apparent relationship between the hand puppets and graphic indicia is necessary. For example, hand puppets may still be used even where the sweatshirt lacks any indicia. Furthermore, the hand puppets on each sleeve may be the same or different, and may be related or unrelated. Further still, only one sleeve or both sleeves may have a hand puppet disposed thereon.

As described above, an integrated apparel system, such as that described above with respect to a hooded sweatshirt and hand puppets, can be integral, can incorporate selectively removable hand puppets, and/or can be configured in any desirable manner. Accordingly, it will be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein that the integrated apparel assembly can be manufactured and/or distributed in a variety of different manners. For example, an integrated clothing assembly can be sold as a complete system in which the apparel is packaged with, and optionally connected to, one or more hand puppets. In an alternative embodiment, the hand puppets and/or apparel can be sold as stand-alone components. For instance, a consumer may purchase the article of clothing and then select from a variety of different hand puppets, thereby allowing the user to customize and mix-and-match hand puppets and clothing in an individualized manner.

With reference now to FIGS. 1A-2C and 4A-4C, it will be appreciated that hand puppets used in connection with embodiments of the present invention are character-based, such that the entire construction of the hand puppet is directed to achieving the shape and appearance of a particular character. For example, as illustrated, a hand puppet may form the shape of a monkey, giraffe, crocodile or alligator, bird, or the like. Thus, the hand puppets may take the form, appearance, and general shape of characters such as animals. Of course, a hand puppet is not limited to taking the appearance of animals, and could also be used to depict humans (including celebrities), robots, or any other living or non-living thing.

Furthermore, the depiction of a character is not limited to a mere graphic or illustration of a character. In particular, the hand puppet is configured such that, as a whole, it takes the appearance of the character. Moreover, in this manner as the wearer of the integrated system places his or her hand into the hand puppet, the user can manipulate portions of the hand puppet, such as upper and lower mouth portions of the character embodied by the hand puppet. Thus, the hand puppet is not merely a mitten or glove which includes a picture of a character, but it is configured to, in its entirety, depict a character. In this manner, when the wearer inserts his or her hand into the hand puppet, the user can animate the character and optionally cause the character to have different facial expressions, actions, appearances, and the like.

While the foregoing discussion, as it relates to FIGS. 1A-4C, generally discusses an integrated clothing and hand puppet system in which hand puppets are used in connection with a hooded sweatshirt, it will be appreciated in view of the disclosure herein that the invention is not so limited. In particular, the aspects and embodiments of the present invention are not limited to use with sleeves of hooded sweatshirts, and can be used in connection with a variety of different types and styles of clothing. As used herein, top includes by way of example and not limitation, those coverings used on the upper portion of the body that would be classified as shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, hooded and non-hooded sweatshirts, long sleeve t-shirts, thermals, jackets, coats, pajamas, or any other clothing that includes a long sleeve to which a hand puppet can be attached, all of which are equally suited for the present invention. Further, in some cases, hand puppets can be connected to clothing which does not include long sleeves, such as even three-quarter sleeve or short sleeve apparel. Additionally, as used herein bottom includes by way of example, not limitation, those coverings suitable for the lower part of the body, such as pants, skirts, shorts, undergarments, socks, shoes, and the like. The puppets may be attached to, or brought into proximity with, any part of the article of clothing worn on the bottom. For example, the puppets may be attached to, or brought into proximity with, a pants leg or the like.

It will also be appreciated in view of the disclosure herein that the present invention is not limited to any type of hand puppet. Indeed, a hand puppet is broadly construed herein to include hand puppets, sock puppets, and even mittens and gloves to the extent they, as a whole, take the shape of or look like a character. Moreover, in some embodiments, the invention can be used without a hand puppet. For instance, slippers may be connected to the legs of an article of clothing in a similar manner and have the appearance of a character. Accordingly, for ease of description, reference is made to “hand puppets” or “puppets.” However, it is to be understood that “hand puppets” or “puppets” may refer to slippers, or the like. Alternatively, a character-based mask can include coupling devices which allow it to be connected to a shirt or other article of clothing and worn by a user.

In view of the foregoing discussion, it should be apparent that, according to one aspect, embodiments of the present invention enhance the appeal of clothing to the wearer. For instance, a toddler or other child may wear a top which incorporates a coupling device and is connected to one or more hand puppets as described herein. Rather than look for external objects with which to play, the apparel can include hand puppets directly connected to the top, thereby allowing the child to use their own clothing as a toy. Furthermore, in embodiments in which the hand puppets are removable, the child can pick different hand puppets to use, according to the child's tastes. Alternatively, a caretaker of the child can choose different hand puppets to, for example, use as instructional tools to help the child learn the names, appearances, sources, etc. of different animals or characters. In all, the integrated clothing and hand puppet system adds to the enjoyment of wearing the particular clothing. Furthermore, because the hand puppets can be attached to the clothing, they are also less likely to become lost as compared to using hand puppets with clothing to which they cannot be attached.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive.