Get Wild with an Animal Print!

1Wild about prints

Fashion expert Valerie Rippentoe is wild about including animal prints in your wardrobe: not a fad, she says, and not a trend, but a fashion statement that’s as old as fashion itself (what do you think that our ancestors living in caves wore?) and as new as the materials available and ways to wear them. Like everything else in fashion, it’s about how creative you, the wearer, can be.

Animal prints may have had their heyday back in the 18th century when Europeans began colonizing Africa and Asia: while the men killed animals for trophies, the women saw the potential for dramatic fashion statements. And almost immediately all these designs started getting reproduced on fabric for both décor and clothing. These days, animal prints are like neutrals (and in general they do in fact reflect neutral coloring, being black, brown, white and beige): they keep coming back because you can wear them with anything and they can create a bit of an edge in your wardrobe. How much of an edge, as we’ll see, is up to you.

2The statement jacket

The first example Rippentoe offers is of a python-leather jacket that, she says, is “definitely a statement.” It’s important to accessorize correctly: this jacket is paired with a gold scarf to add a slightly dramatic touch to the outfit. Leather is what Rippentoe calls a great transitional piece, something that can move from season to season and event to event. In this case, the python jacket is dressed down with a pair of white jeans, but it would equally well be dressed up with a black skirt for evening wear. The jacket is dramatic… and may be too dramatic for some people.

3Or the simple handbag

So if you don’t have a flair for the dramatic, what can you do? Rippentoe suggests that a great way to bring animal prints into your wardrobe is through a handbag. It doesn’t have to be a full animal print (although it certainly can be); it just needs to pick up on something that pulls the eye to the print part of the bag. These handbags will work well with neutral colors and really add a touch of the exotic to any outfit.

Another way she points out to touch up the edges of your wardrobe with an animal print is to get a sweater inlaid with an animal print so that your overall look is still very conservative but your result is just that little bit dramatic.

4Keep it in check

And then of course there are the full animal prints on blouses, skirts, dresses, and pants. Just remember that these aren’t mix-and-match: wear only one animal print at a time and make sure that the rest of the outfit is clean and simple. Only one part of your outfit at a time should be wild; if you have a zebra-striped dress, keep your shoes plain black so they don’t draw the eye away from the centerpiece of your outfit. Remember that there’s a fine line between classic and tacky when it comes to wearing animal prints—and you don’t want to cross it!