At risk of stating the obvious, in recent years I've also been increasingly drawn to a Rockabilly style of dress as well. I'm not sure if it is this that has reignited my flame for leopard print. They are so aethetically intertwined.
So how did leopard print become synonymous with Rockabilly (or vice versa) anyhow? Rockabilly is ostensibly a retro look. It references elements of the era from the mid 1950s through to the early 1960s and co-opts, exaggerates and blends them to create something reappropriated and somewhat separate from the more general retro/vintage style. More specifically, it references the bad-girl (or boy) elements of that era. These vintage garments (skirt and coat both pictured above) show leopard print being used in that era, but not in the way that animal skins have often been used to display wealth and status. These leopard print garment fabrics are clearly fake and therefore would have sent a different message: one of faux-luxe attitude. A sneer with a suggestive cheeky wink, if you will. At least these are my interpretations.
Every retro/Rockabilly clothing company has a leopard print offering these days and some are most definately more tasteful than others. Tara Starlet's leopard pedal pushers (pictured above) look totally stunning. Other leopard print variants? Not so much. Just type 'Rockabilly' and 'leopard print' into Google images and you'll see what I mean!
So, with the style stakes stacked so precariously high, how should a girl apply leopard print to look more like Imelda May (pictured above) than a tacky porno actress?! Well, of course it's an entirely subjective issue but personally I think some versions of leopard print design just look better than others. I'd also avoid a fabric with a leopard print that was glaringly synthetic and definately not velvety. I'd argue this top (pictured below) looks great all styled up on this fantastic Bettie Page-esque model, but in real life it'd probably be on the bordeline of a good/bad leopard print garment.
I've read in a few sources that leopard print is effectively a neutral tone, akin to black, white, beige and navy. Whilst I cannot really agree with that, I totally love the concept! I've never been brave enough to attempt to wear it with anything other than black. In theory it should work with red, but the results of that 'Rockabilly' and 'leopard print' Google search are still burnt into my retinas! All that aside, I recently came across a couple of pieces of leopard print jersey, one stretchy and one drapey, that felt like just the ticket to inject some Rockabilly sensibility into my Winter wardrobe (pretending I have a separate wardrobe for Winter, that is).
My second jersey leopard print offering is made using some wonderful drapey jersey which was a very kind gift from Claire (who salvaged it from a bin I believe, good work Claire!!!). It's sooooo nice. The only thing I could think to do with a drapey jersey was apply another tried and tested pattern from the batwing family that I've been using a lot recently. It's bascially a slightly more refined version of the Poker top, but this fabric is far more stable. It feels so nice to wear, and I envisage wearing it with my black Jenny pencil skirt or some killer black capri pants whenever I get round to making some. In the meantime, you can see me wearing it to work with my 'uniform' of denim sailor trousers:
What are your thoughts? How have you seen leopard print worn well? Any ideas on what to avoid? Can it be a daytime look or is it best saved for gin o'clock?