Animal prints have been worn throughout history for various aesthetic purposes, but they have typically retained that sense of boldness, sexual appeal, and ostentation. In the past, we associated animal fur coats and cloaks with medieval warriors and animal rugs with aristocratic excess, money, and power. Today, wearing real animal fur can draw ire and outrage from animal rights advocates.
However, animal prints – from leopard or cheetah spots to tiger and zebra stripes – remain as popular and sexy style options among many different circles. Animal prints have a place in the wardrobes of streetwear aficionados, high fashion devotees, punk rockers, bohemians, and the average fashionista. From Bettie Page’s leopard swimsuit to Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry’s zebra dress to Joan Collins’ wardrobe, pop culture icons have turned to animal prints when they wanted to make a memorable fashion statement.
Here are some of the ways in which you can tap into the primal allure of animal prints when you are in the mood to don an eye-catching ensemble:
As the saying goes, sometimes less is more. It is impossible to miss a full-length animal print trench coat or an animal print dress, but the occasion often calls for something slightly less subdued. You can opt for a sole eye-catching animal print accessory – a scarf, a bangle, handbag, a pair of gloves, or a pair of shoes – and pair it with a black dress or blouse and jeans ensemble to maximize the color contrast.
You can even match accessories (e.g. shoes and earrings, gloves and a scarf) to let anyone paying attention subconsciously register your hidden wild side.
People may make unwanted associations when you wear an animal print mini skirt or short dress. To avoid this, stick with more conservative animal print silhouettes (e.g. a coat, a longer skirt, a knee-length dress, pants, or a blouse that does not expose your back or shoulders). If you have a more provocative statement on your mind, try balancing it out with a longer coat and thigh-high boots.
If you want to come across as being edgy without being “too wild”, try matching a prominent animal print blouse, skirt, pants, or coat with the a neutral single-color counterpart. White, black, and beige are typically good options. You can also divide the attention you receive by pairing it with a similarly ostentatious (but matching) handbag or scarf.
The other option is to be unapologetically striking. Combine an animal print with a vibrant contrasting shade of green, pink, red, yellow, or orange and you will definitely make an impression.
Not necessarily, but it takes some strategizing to pull off more than one animal print. You can try pairing a more subdued print (e.g. animal prints on a darker shade of fabric) with an unmistakably loud cheetah or leopard print.
There’s always an element of risk when you add an animal print into the mix. You might not want to wear them all the time, but they are perfect for any occasion where you feel like taking a walk on the wild side.