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Leopard print: Trendy or timeless?

I've become predictable.

Twitter friend Andy sent me a link recently, a essay about leopard print from Barneys New York creative director Simon Doonan. Given my closet, it's a law of averages that I'd be wearing some leopard. Indeed, I glanced down, considered my leopard print cardigan and let out a there-goes-the-neighborhood sigh.

I've been deep in the leopard game since 15, when I first got a pink baby doll tee-shirt with a little leopard heart in the middle. Intoxicating. I became drawn to it, like a dolty bird to a ball of tinfoil. These days, friends roll their eyes when we shop, because it's like I physically can't NOT go to it.

Leopard has an air of spunk, an old-fashioned pin-up vibe that makes outfits interesting. Because the base colors are neutral, leopard looks fantastic with bright, solid shades. It makes a black dress special. It's sexy when done well. Paired with lipstick, heels and sunglasses, it's an instant mental promotion. You can run the company AND seduce the pool boy!

Leopard is drugs.

Simon Doonan argues that leopard is not the trend the unfocused fashion world would have you believe, because most women lean toward bland "investment pieces" instead of bold personality picks. It's an interesting thought, and I think he's right. But I've never thought leopard was a trend at all. It has been around since the beginning of time. Just think of Gene Tierney's bathing suit in the 1940s, or Audrey Hepburn's pillbox hat in the 1950s, or Jackie Kennedy's coat in the 1960s. And it never goes away. It's timeless, the way all inspirations from nature are timeless. Because they're, you know, natural.

We must be realistic, though. Leopard can be dangerous, hard as good cheese to pull off. It's a fine, fine line between sophisticated butt-kicking CEO and nutty bag lady picking glitter out of the trash can. And thusly, it scares people away. My favorite line from Simon's piece?

The truth is that leopard print is challenging. It is not for sissies and comes with some serious baggage. It is tacky, theatrical, and sad, albeit fabulously so.

So well-said.

Right now, leopard styles are in stores in every shape, shade and size. This season, Express, Macys and Ann Taylor have a huge offering of cardigans, dresses, skirts and blouses. Betsey Johnson is the queen of department store leopard-print jewelry.

If you're new to the land of leopard, start out small. Pair a leopard scarf or blouse with classic pieces like dark jeans or a pencil skirt. Inexpensive ballet flats, available for less than $20 at Old Navy and Target, are a perfect place to start, too. Kind of like testing lime-green nail polish on your toes.

Look for leopard in structured, figure-friendly shapes that won't overwhelm your body. And never, ever wear leopard on both top and bottom, unless you want to look like Shania Twain in a 1990s CMT video.

Go on. Try it. You'll make me feel better next time I get a tweet.

Simon Doonan on leopard print

"I stuck my nose in a magazine wherein my eyes fell upon — yes, you guessed it! — yet another fashion piece about the LEOPARD TREND. Has any fashion fixation ever been more overheralded than this season's obsession with those predatory pussies? ... I lowered my mag and surveyed the packed subway car. Not one leopard-print scarf. Not a blouse or a babushka! Nobody was wearing that luscious three-quarter-sleeve coat, so prominently featured in all the Talbot's ads this season. Not a dickie or a dashiki. Not so much as a leopard yarmulke. What a disappointment! Leopard-print garments are so dripping with 20th-century resonance and nostalgic pastiche that they are much too much for the average broad to handle."


Leopard print: Trendy or timeless? 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 5:51pm]
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