Changing A Leopard’s Spots

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Leopard prints continue to have a HUGE presence in fashion this season.  From tiny accents to all-over prints we are seeing fabulous spots.  While I have seen many chic and terrific interpretations on this motif, and I love the concept of this print in theory, in practice I have personally had a hard time finding just the *right* version for me.  

So what is my deal?  It’s not about what or how to wear such a great print – in fact it’s so versatile it’s almost too easy.  Leopard can be dressy or casual, bold in a big swath with a major statement piece or more subtle with a detail such as a lining or a skinny belt paired with an otherwise solid ensemble.   It’s fun, it’s chic, it practically screams confidence and is one of those sure fire signs of a fashion insider. 

But I can’t help it, somehow in my mind leopard, rather than evoking the powerful, beautiful, sensual being we are trying to mimic has instead gotten a costumey party time/bad girl/retro reputation that makes me feel like wearing it is almost too much, too cheesy for my every day life.  When I think of leopard print I envision the woman who gave me my first driving test.  My memory conjures up cream, orange and black polyester, topped by a bee hive hairdo and small red cat-eye glasses on a chain ala Far Side – baaaaadddd.  Or I see naughty costume/lingerie ala Fredricks of Hollywood – well….  Or I think of fifties/sixties starlets or current pop stars like Beyonce and Katy Perry – much much better, sexy, fun and cool, but not really me. 

Ridiculous, isn’t it?  And yes, I know, *this* from the girl who regularly wears sequins to work…   In fact, come to think of it, I have a silk satin Anna Scholz tunic from a few years back that is in a bold floral print where the flower petals are in animal print in grey, cream and rose, AND it has sequins too!  Cool, fun and chic, and in no way subtle or mundane.  

In recent years leopard prints have done much to overcome the old-school retro images and been replaced by cooler, less traditional options such as that Anna Scholz print.  But still I struggle.  I find myself being quite a print-snob and I edit mercilessly – this version is too clubby, that one too tacky, etc…  so that it is rare that I find myself sufficiently in love with a print to commit.  In fact I own exactly four pieces – two truly fabulous belts, the previously mentioned top, and one in the lining of my favorite trench coat (which hardly even counts!).  Any less and they might take away my claim to being a true Fashionista! 

This season several designers did some riffs on leopard that have me rethinking the overall wear-ability of this look in my own life, so optimistic and hopeful I set out to change my own image of leopard prints and bring some home.  But after looking at a bunch of garments and accessories I had to ask myself – just what exactly is the deal here?  Why do I look at one spotty fabric and find it more appealing than another?  What makes one print look cheesy and another one super chic? 

Decidedly it’s not price point, as there are some YSL and Marc Jacobs prints that are just NOT it, and some more reasonable brands like Talbots that made some really good stuff.  It is also not the designer, Jimmy Choo for example has some leopard I hate, and then some I love – like this amazing little bag that I am having a full blown crush on.  And the god of leopard himself, Roberto Cavalli – has one or two pieces that I think are to die for, and the rest – meh.  For a bit I thought it was the color scheme as I do find that I am drawn to versions that are a bit different from the usual tan/orange/black motif, but then I saw these Rebecca Minkoff pumps, which I loved.   

Hmmm…. Whatever it is in my mind’s eye that makes a print good and wearable vs. not, there are some terrific choices out there that are au courant without being completely irrelevant in my day to day life.   But will I really wear them?  Plus designer Igigi did a top that I am on the fence about – I love the print and the cut, but I am not sure I would really WEAR it.  So, will I continue to bypass options so that the leopard I own remains in the form of linings and accessories?  Stay tuned!

And what about you?  Are you seeing spots?  More importantly, are you wearing them?

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