It’s a question every woman asks herself the moment animal print re-appears on the style pages; Will I look like the glamorous French model Brigitte Bardot, or Corrie’s bar-tender Bet Lynch? It’s a style that provokes many divided opinions; Is leopard print timeless or trashy? This is going to become all the more relevant come September as leopard-print has made a notable appearance in the Prefall’16 collections, with designers such as Stella McCartney, Coach and Alexander Wang all embracing the print through faux-fur styles; but should we succumb to the call of the wild? If Stella is unleashing her inner Tarzan then can’t we all?
While the coat of a leopard in the wild acts as camouflage, on a human body it is quite the opposite. It can transform our inner cave-man into a female seductress, who plays on the nature of this strong feline and transfers it into an exotic, wild and powerful fashion statement. There is no questioning its popularity, this ubiquitous print has adorned every silhouette of the 20th century, from the cocoon coats of the 1920’s to the glam-rock unbuttoned blouses of the 1970’s. So why after all its fashionable endeavours has leopard print still got a reputation for cheapening a girl’s look?
There is no denying that this print’s rise to fame was exclusively timeless, it rose off the backs of Kings. Which begs the question; Could it be our inner hunter-gatherer that’s drawn to this print because of the power it once represented? During the 1920’s it became precisely that, a style that instantly confirmed your place at in the social hierarchy, reserved exclusively for fashions’ elite. Marian Nixon pioneered the obsession, despite earning a star on Hollywood’s walk of fame as an actress, Nixon is arguably best remembered for wearing leopardskin coats and accessorising them with a live leopard on a leash. Sadly exotic feline pets were the ‘Accessory du Jour’, and the pelts worn by the women in the 20’s were real. It wasn’t until the legendary Christian Dior presented his infamous 1947 ‘New Look’ collection that leopardskin print was showcased as exactly that – a print rather than a fur, and it’s been with us ever since.
It didn’t take this animal print long to obtain it’s provocative connotation. In the 1940’s the infamous pin-up girls arrived in Hollywood and adapted the prints fierce, feline details as a method of seduction; It was bold, brave and exotic. The prints glamorous sexualisation was closely followed by admiring fans; both the men that found it attractive, and the women that wanted to attract. From this day forward it’s association with sex was cemented, a bond that would never be broken.
As the years passed by spots become all the more sought after, endorsed by a number of famous celebrities and designers. Marylyn Monroe was wearing it, The First Lady Jackie Kennedy was wearing it, rock-stars and punks were wearing it, Gianni Versace, Roberto Cavalli and Dolce and Gabbana devoted entire collections to it. Although the print has always looked the same, it has been widely adapted by different subcultures; leopard-print can be worn in a variety of styles by a variety of personalities. Could the prints versatility have been its lifeline? Perhaps not, as it was this same versatility that allowed the print to be spread extensively across the high-street, ruining any hope of exclusivity. It has even made its way into home decoration, adorned on pillowcases, towels and slippers – although this has to be the most tragic use of the print; Whilst leopard-print is an attractive pattern, we are not The Flinstones.
I can’t help but think that it was the British Soaps and the 80’s US show Dynasty that had a helping hand in the prints fall from grace. What started off as an affluent high-end design had gradually made it’s way through the sexual availability of the 60’s and on to the sticky dance floors and badly made-up women of the 80’s and 90’s; becoming the weapon of choice among female night-hunters. Had its time at the top come to an end? Had the over-sexualisation and association with raunchy high-street chains like Ann Summers stole this prints glamour for good?
Despite its fall from favour, every woman holds the door to her own style and every woman has the power to pull-off a statement piece. Be aware of this prints power, its origins and its connotations; this is a style that you will need to conquer or else it will end up wearing you. Personally, I am partial to a little leopard print here and there; a sheer Saint Laurent style blouse, a Marylyn Monroe neck-tie, even an Elizabeth Taylor styled swimsuit. Ultimately I believe that the only true timeless way-to-wear this print is to follow it’s sole existence, the coat (faux-fur of course). Every woman has the ability to conquer this fierce wardrobe-wear, and if you want to exude the power of the leopard, then these Prefall’16 collections will help you do exactly that. Whether you choose to wear-it Wang style on a busy weekend of an urban-city life, or slung over the shoulders of a monochromatic workwear outfit like Ellery suggests, make sure you wear this print the way it’s original owner does; boldly.
What’s your verdict, will you fight or take flight when it comes to wearing leopard print next season? Let me know your style thoughts in the comments section below, or connect with me over on Twitter.