Many years ago, my husband and I were at the Vintage Fashion Expo, and while there I thought I would get the “perfect” leopard print coat. You know, that vintage leopard print coat every woman should have in her wardrobe. As I pulled out a leopard print coat which I thought would be the “one” my husband put his hand on my arm, and said, “Nooooooooo. Not that coat.”
Not that coat? Was it too long? Did it look like an old stuffed animal? Did is smell funny? I asked him why, and he said it was tacky. Why was it tacky? He replied, “I don’t like leopard prints, they’re cheesy.”
“As far as I’m concerned, leopard is a neutral.” ~Jenna Lyons
Don’t like leopard prints? That’s crazy! They’re a classic print that has the spunk of a trendy print. They’re fun, a little gaudy, yes, but one of those prints you can pair with all shades of colors. As, Jenna Lyons says, “As far as I’m concerned, leopard is a neutral.”
Once upon a time leopard was considered a luxury, well, because the only way to get it was to kill a leopard. Poor guy. Even up to the mid-20th century, owning leopard and cheetah was a luxury… my grandmother had a cheetah fur coat. Not a cheetah print coat. A coat made out of a real, once living cheetah. So basically, I had a grandparent who couldn’t understand the problem in wearing endangered species.
“But to wear leopard print, you must have the kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated.” ~Christian Dior
In 1947, Christian Dior came out with the first leopard print dresses for day and night. Even back then, he didn’t think the print was for everyone, saying, “But to wear leopard print, you must have the kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated. If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.” I’m going to have to take the interpretation of “a little bit sophisticated” a lot bit liberally. Audrey Lou, who is a product designer, says of the print, “Maybe when I’m older.” Perhaps, sophistication is really what’s needed to carry it off?
Earlier this year, Elizabeth Hurley came out with a swimwear line for girls, in, you guessed it leopard print. Which caused a major uproar among parents feeling that animal print swimwear sexualized children. Is leopard is too sexy and exotic for children? These days does when the creative director of arguably America’s most wholesome retailer, J.Crew, declares it a neutral?
Sexy, exotic, tacky, classic, neutral… it seems that leopard print is the most polarizing of all the prints. Do people get so riled up over stripes? And perhaps the polarization of the print is really what keeps from getting too popular. Musician, Paul Flemming said, “An old reliable classic in my opinion. Never gets so popular as to get overused, never goes entirely out of style either.” Since not everyone can wear it, but it doesn’t alienate any particular demographics, leopard keeps coming back season after season.
I thought back in 1998 leopard print would go out of fashion any minute. It still has not.
Grechen Harnick, assistant Professor at Parsons, says, “David Wolfe from Doneger was a guest speaker in my class today. He said he thinks leopard is brilliant because of two reasons: 1. it can be expensive and glamorous and 2. it can be cheap and tawdry. It hits all markets and honestly sometimes we all want to be glamorous and tawdry at the same time!”
“[Leopard print] hits all markets and honestly sometimes we all want to be glamorous and tawdry at the same time!” ~David Wolfe
Which brings me to the final thoughts about leopard print. Women often get pigeon holed into categories, the whole Jackie/Marilyn, Madonna/Whore thing. Leopard is truly a dynamic print that really delves into many different connotations, and addresses various parts of the female persona. While leopard can be considered tacky, or expensive it still is both. Which I believe is how most of us are.
So do I wear leopard prints even though my husband hates them? You betcha. After all, he still has that collection of Members Only jackets that I completely despise.
What do you think about leopard prints?
And yes, I know the photo of Peg Bundy features a cheetah print. That can be a different post!