Wednesday, 19 September 2012

How to Wear... Animal Print

Throughout my teens, I held firmly to the belief that animal print shouldn't be seen outside soap pubs, and certainly never on blondes. But, as zoological patterns crept onto chic buttoned-up shirts and skinny jeans, slowly replacing the hideous lycra boulder holders etched on my mind's eye, I tentatively began to experiment. It's not unusual to find me clad H2T in the stuff these days, but that childhood memory of Bet Lynch burned forever on my memory serves as an eternal warning.

Animal Accents: Easing Yourself In...
Head to Toe: Unleashing Your Inner Leopard/Snake
Making Animal Print Work For You: Final Tips and Tricks

Animal Accents
I'm not really one for coloured animal prints (yet) - I prefer to stick to slightly more realistic tones, which can be paired with neutral co-ordinates for a chic pared-down look, or block brights for maximum impact.

Smart Casual

Snake print has a classy, ladylike feel - maybe it's the relatively subtle tonal variations, or maybe it's the associations with posh handbags. Eiher way, neutral-toned snake print skinny jeans can be dressed up in a flash with a chiffon blouse, chocolate heeled loafers and a tweed blazer drawing from the same colour palette.

Jeans: Primark (SS12)
Blouse: Primark (Past Season)
Blazer: Primark (Past Season)
Shoes: Primark (Past Season)

Shiny Shiny

The warm tones of leopard print also render it a perfect partner for gold (cooler toned prints work well with silver and pewter tones). With flat leopard loafers and a skinny colour pop belt to break up the look, a metallic tee and printed skirt make for a casually glamorous go-anywhere ensemble. Swapping the accessories for gold skyscraper heels and a wide metallic or black waist cincher would turn up the volume for evening.

Skirt: Primark (SS12)
Top: Forever 21 (AW12)
Shoes: Primark (AW12)

For a more casual, boho feel, I like to echo the diaphanous fall of this skirt in draping neutral separates (see the look here).

For AW, leopard print separates also look great with rich autumnal and berry tones - see how I style my lantern-style leopard mini for summer and winter here, and my leopard print shirt with a colour pop pencil skirt here.

Head to Toe
Despite making a bold statement, all-over animal print can be surprisingly wearable, and even sophisticated. Vintage-inspired glamour, casual cool and East London hipster style are all within reach.

Casual Cool

Printed skinny jeans look great with a loose buttoned-up printed shirt for a chic but easy to throw together casual look - I've mixed a leopard print shirt with snaky skinnies, but the unified colour palette stops the clash from jarring and keeps the look long and lean - a colour-pop printed shirt or jeans would add impact but could shorten you. The larger print and greater contrast on the shirt draw the eye upwards - keeping the smaller, denser print on the lower half minimises hips and thighs, but you can try the opposite if conscious of a chunky waistline.

Jeans: Primark (SS12)
Shirt: Primark (SS12)
Shoes: Primark (SS12)

Leopard in the City

I see this look as a kind of mash-up of ghetto girl and East London hipster chic style. As ever, I've stuck to a neutral colour palette, but blocked varying tones of leopard print together to add interest and avoid the Tarzan fancy dress factor. I stopped short of leopard print footwear in favour of wedged desert boots, but I have to admit it may have been a different story if I'd already invested in my Primark leopard sloafers or Chelsea boots at the time the photo was taken! Darker-toned tights are flattering on the pins, and keep the roar of such an outfit down to an acceptable level.

Jacket: Primark (SS12)
Top: Primark (Past Season)
Skirt: H&M (Past Season)
Tights: Accessorize (Past Season)
Boots: Marks & Spencer (Past Season)

The Drop-Dead Drop-Hem

A buttoned-to-the-throat leopard print shirt looks insanely chic tucked into a high-waisted leopard midi, or, even better, mixi skirt, matching tone to tone for maximum impact and a cute shirt-dress feel. Red lips and waist belt instantly inject a glamorous vintage feel, whilst matching leopard courts ramp it up even further (red would also work, as would black, if your shoe collection is more...classic).

I'd add black opaques and cute ankle boots for AW. I think this is also a look that could handle a coloured animal print accessory, like a red leopard clutch, or even a coloured skirt.

Shirt: Primark (SS12)
Skirt: Primark (SS12)
Shoes: Dune (Past Season)

Making Animal Print Work For You

The same principles that apply to other prints, such as florals, also apply to animal print, e.g. larger, lighter prints maximise whilst smaller, darker prints minimise; matching tones tend to slim and lengthen; and some element or elements (sizes and/or tones) should remain constant when mixing prints if you wish to retain a sense of unification.

If you want to play it safe, stick to classic, demure cuts and neutral tones, for an elegant look with impact. Take it up a notch by mixing in block colours.

And if you're feeling brave and are after a really funky, modern take, try out coloured animal prints - just be aware of how your cuts, proportions and tonal mix affect your overall appearance, as this look is easier to get wrong than right! A clashing accessory or two can work well. If you're going bodycon, make sure the cut isn't trashy.

Tomorrow: How to Clash Prints

(P.S. How to Wear Faux Fur: Coming Soon...)

See more posts featuring animal print here

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