Olivia Wilde looking chic with zebra clutch; Hailee Steinfeld in sassy leopard booties; embellished leopard pumps on Elizabeth Olsen
By Allison Daniels
In the ancient world, animal prints were a symbol of wealth, luxury, and style. Since animal fur could only be obtained by hunting (or having your servants hunt), the upper classes and especially royalty furnished their homes and wardrobes with leopard throws, bear skin rugs, and ermine coats to demonstrate their superiority and affluence.
Throughout the centuries, animal prints have had periods of heightened popularity (the court of George III, the 1960s Bohemian movement), as well as dormant eras (the past decade categorized animal prints as tacky and dated). But 2011 saw a revival of exotic patterns – this time as accents – incarnated as silk scarves at Louis Vuitton, loose knits at Markus Lupfer, furry stoles at Dries Van Noten, and swing coats at Gucci.
Celebrities, ever eager to make a statement on the red carpet, hopped on the animal print bandwagon as soon as it left the trend station (sorry – couldn’t help myself). Recently (see pic above) it’s been seen on trendsetters like Beyonce, Olivia Wilde, The Olsens (all three sisters), and Hailee Steinfeld.
This trend is easy to pull off, as long as you remember two key things: 1. The printed piece should be an accent – think shoes, bags, sunglasses, scarves. 2. It should serve as the focal point of your outfit - meaning the rest of your clothes, while they can be complementary brights, should not compete with the accent piece (so no mixing your animal prints, ladies – we’re not going for the Zsa Zsa Gabor look).
And now, for giggles, here’s the trend done very, very wrong (in order of least to most offensive).
I know this isn’t really fair. That poor Roberto Cavalli dress on the left didn’t have a chance to be classy. But the lesson still applies whether it’s Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Lopez or you: never wear a full-length animal print gown. Ever. Even on grown people who occasionally make good fashion choices, animal-print evening gowns are never okay.
Sharon Stone (left) goes print-crazy with a matching leopard dress and shoes, plaid-lined trench, and shades indoors. Hmmm, safari or acid trip?; (center) I don’t care if it was the 90s. I promise: pairing red leopard separates was a fashion “don’t” 15 years ago, and should be 15 years hence; (right) Go big or go home, right? You can’t deny, the man’s got gumption.
Here are a few fun animal accents to liven up your wardrobe this winter. Just promise you won’t wear them all at once.