It seems that not a fall season dawns without leopard print apparel and accessories gracing the shelves and racks of every retailer. What is it about this trend that makes it so popular, coming back again and again? After all, it is not a trend that suits everyone. While Morgan has a knack for finding the most sophisticated animal prints and can pull them off wonderfully, Charlotte is pretty confident the only thing leopard print in her wardrobe is a pair of gifted unmentionables; not even a purchase she made herself. It left us wondering – how did leopard print get its start, and why is it so popular?
Leopard print for Fall 2012 – Roberto Cavalli’s “Just Cavalli” RTW collection via style.com
A little research proved to us that it was back in the beginning of the 20th century that leopard was introduced to America via trade with the English, who had been poaching the real pelts in Africa. The pelts were worn by tribal chiefs and safari hunters alike, in each case a symbol of affluence and masculinity. This hints at one of the main reasons leopard print is so popular – it is considered a status symbol of luxury and wealth, even now that it has trickled down into mass fashion to be accessible by all.
However, the masculinity of leopard print was exploited in the 1940s when women began borrowing the textile, incorporating it into their scarves, skirts, and shoes. It became a highly bold and inevitably sexual symbol – it wasn’t just the print that was being borrowed, it was the symbol of power that women were taking along with it. Thus, another reason today we are attracted to leopard print – it helps display a confidence and comfort in one’s sexuality.
Through various fads and fashion movements, leopard print was there, whether it was the bohemian movement and free love associations of the 1960s, in the thick of the rock and roll 1980s, or on celebrity red carpets recently (Jennifer Lopez, the Kardashians, Lady GaGa, etc). Thus it would appear that no matter what style tribe you relate to, the print can be relevant to you. From Audrey to Jackie O, leopard print was incorporated into the wardrobes of almost every fashion icon the industry has seen in the past century.
Connotations of wealth, sexuality, and identification to style tribes – all in all it is little wonder now that leopard print will never die. Perhaps it is finally time Charlotte finds a piece to incorporate into her wardrobe. Any suggestions? How and how often do you wear leopard print?