There are some outfits that you can only really get away with wearing when you are two and half years old.
Based on my daughter’s wardrobe choices, a little bit of leopard print can be a good thing.
I am partial to animal prints and using them to lighten the general blackness of black clothing. I wear a lot of black. This is due to the fact that I am (a) lazy (b) a lawyer and (c) more concerned about shoes than clothes.
Animals prints work well on shoes. Leopard print shoes can be matched equally successfully with cream, brown, grey, and black provided that the colours used are actual leopard colours like this:
rather than Paris Hilton leopard make over colours like this:
Unless you are Lily Savage:
Animal prints are kitsch and I am an unrepentant kitsch enthusiast.
Kitsch things I love include:
- Diane Arbus photographs
- John Waters’ films
- The Green Faced Chinese Lady
- Gold Charm Bracelets
- Leopard Print
If you like and buy vintage shoes and clothes, the chances are good that you are going to rear end kitsch and end up wearing in leopard print sooner or later. It’s cheaper and more readily available than the classy stuff.
I will accept that leopard print is kitsch. But is it also ironically chic or simply tacky, tawdry and to be avoided at all costs? I decided to ask:
I got immediate and unequivocal answers.
First up were the Aargh It’s Tacky people @jameslocke230 @Deconstructo @NomiePT @bronska01 who to a man and woman denounced leopard print as tasteless, nasty and nauseating or all three. No exceptions.
Then there were those in the It’s Tricky But Try It Camp. KristenObaid, for example, considers that leopard print only works on Shania Twain or real leopards. Pam Rosengren mentioned that if a leopard print was “very finely done with lots of well-observed shades it was non-tacky; otherwise it was very tacky“.
@Paininthenet didn’t so much say that leopard print was tacky as “tasteless and likely to be worn by women over the age of 65“. Until I showed him this pair of Christian Louboutin peep toe Lady Claude pumps:
He quickly agreed that the Louboutins were not tasteless and said, “they actually look good. Like you kicked a leopard to death cool and used your toes”. Be warned though that, in his opinion, these shoes demand “very pert well manicured toes“.
Finally there were my fellow Embrace Your Inner Tacky ladies – the ever quirky and whimsical Victoria aka @firebirdasusual @gannet_guts, @lgcollard and @helenperris. Sonya/gannet_guts (one of my favourite fashion bloggers) told me about her faux leopard print coat that she wears with red fishnets. Helen takes the view that “Leopard print heels with classy dress = good. Leopard print boob tube or mini skirt = bad.‘ Victoria is “inexplicably drawn to leopard print and ‘snake skin‘” even though she never wears either. Last but not least @lgcollard (bless) said “Ain’t nuthin’ tacky about my leopard heels. Rowr.”
Here are my leopard heels.
I have absolutely no idea who made them.
Here is the insole insert which is virtually unreadable…
If you recognise the maker’s mark, please do let me know. I got them from Broadway Betty in Sydney.
If you Google Broadway Betty you’ll find this TwoThousand review:
“Hidden on Broadway near Glebe Point Road between a dodgy-looking op shop and an even dodgier looking brothel, lies a dark dingy and dirty little second-hand clothing store called Broadway Betty.”
Don’t let the location or the shopfront put you off – this place is a treasure trove. It is always a drama bringing a toddler into any store but the owner was very kind and attentive to the Minx. This meant that I stayed longer than I would have done and bought a lot more footwear than I expected too including the Geek Ladies Lunch Boots and Well Mannered boots and two pairs of stilettos.
Maybe again appearances are deceptive.
Leopards are shy nocturnal animals and hence not easy to observe. That might be a reason why the leopard is the most prevalent wild cat.
(Source: Gilbert Guerin.com)
Helen told me:
“I used to own a Leopard print faux fur mini dress. Not classy. Used to get chatted up a lot when wearing it though.”
Leopard print is somehow seen as being provocative. Witness the fuss caused by Liz Hurley’s animal print swimwear collection for 2 – 10 year old girls.
I think that the bad reputation that leopard print has is linked to the fact that femmes fatales like Ava Gardner and Marilyn Monroe once favoured big cat animal prints. In the Fifties, to emulate these stars, showgirls commonly wore leopard print mules like these Spring-O-lators:
Beth Levine created the Spring-O-Lator in the 1950s using an elastic strip to keep the wearer from walking out of his or her shoes. The elastic insole creates a tension between the shoe and the bottom of the foot which allows the shoe to stay on a your foot.
It is still possible to pick up Spring-O-Lator pumps reasonably affordably on Etsy and eBay particularly if you have vintage sized feet (under a US 6). I have my eye on one or two pairs at the moment. Meantime, however, I am making do with these which are admittedly hard to walk in.
Occasionally, I like to kid myself that these have an Edie Sedgwick in Poor Little Rich Girl edge to them. But basically they add a burst of pure, plain kitsch to inject a bit of Las Vegas glamour to cheer me up on otherwise dull days.
So next time you see someone somewhere wearing animal print, remember that while he or she may be projecting a jungle cat on the outside there is a very good chance that there is a shy, retiring tabby on the inside.