Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Leopard Print Lovelies

Image source

Recently leopard print fabric has really been growing in my esteem. I have a history with leopard though, yeah we go way back. It's popped up in my wardrobe on and off for years. I remember a red and black leopard print sleeveless top from back when I was 18 and attempting to create a kind of punk/grunge Debbie Harry Vs. Courtney Love look and I wore it with a black slip. There was also a turquoise blue and black leopard print pencil skirt with black lace round the hem which was the first garment I made myself when I got to university. In more recent years my creations have included the leopard coat, leopard Rockabilly dress and the leopard print batwing top. Yep, me and leopard print are pretty tight.

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.

Image source

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).

This creation used the stretchier of the jerseys. It was donated, along with a ton of other less appealing animal printed sample fabric, to the charity I work for by a digital fabric printing company. Thus this fabric fulfills the 'secondhand/unwanted' requirement I place on fabric I use to make garments with. I used a tried and tested pattern I developed yonks ago that is fairly fitted in the body with a scoop neck, 1/2 sleeves and gathered sleeve heads. I would love to have a photo of myself wearing this top to show you. I would be all styled up in my black Jenny pencil skirt with black high heels and red lipstick, but alas I haven't had an opportunity to rock a look that sharp in recent times. Hopefully such an occassion will arise during Me-Made-May '12.

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?

23 comments:

Len said...

I love leopard print soooo much, although I don't have a great deal in my wardrobe. It tends to crop up most often with my shoes - I have flats and heels in leopard print which I adore, I even had one pair which had a hole in them for ages but I just couldn't bring myself to get rid of them!

I wish I could pull off a dress like the first one! Actually, I might try and make one if I come across some fabric like it... it's funny you should mention leopard print actually, because I spotted this rendition of Colette Pattern's Clover in some fantastic fabric: http://suzysewing.blogspot.com/2012/01/rock-chick-clovers.html

Claire (aka Seemane) said...

Awesomeness my feline-loving' friend! Great use of the salavaged piece too (it was indeed fished out of the bins - clean mind you! from my work LOL!). And, the pattern placement on the stretchier top looks really nice (there's a kinda central panel effect to the spots).

I reckon a black pencil skirt and a red or black patent wide belt would look smashing on you with either of these tops! (Red lipp/nails too??).

Lookin' forward to the de-stash meet up soon (can't wait - got my trolley full to the brim with things to swap).

Andrea said...

Leopard print is my neutral. My wardrobe is filled with all variety of animal prints so I'm a bit biased. :) I think it has to do with the type of garment. A leopard circle skirt paired with a cardi is probably not going to be perceived as tarty as a wiggle dress. The question is, do you let someone's opinion change your style? I've been told to my face, that leopard print is for hookers. I guess I have a wardrobe that would make some ladies of the night drool. :) It makes me happy, so I wear it.

jo90 said...

I had a pair of leopard print leggings I wore all the time when pregnant(this was in the 90's). I loved them. I have to say they usually were worn with black. Love the tops you have created, will have to keep an eye on those bins!

Aminat said...

I just made my first leopard print, see pic on my blog. I made a cardi from 1 meter fabric I got from a reminant basket at my local fabric store. They are very versatile but I dont think I can wear it as dress , not sure if it will work for my skin tone. Happy new year

Casey said...

I've been adding more and more leopard print into my wardrobe over the past couple years--next up I want to use my tried-and-true pencil skirt pattern and make i up in leopard twill. ;) Have you tried pairing leopard print with a deep, rich red? I have a leopard silk blouse I love to pair with a burgundy red cord skirt I have. Sounds like a while combination, but it works really well. Not too flashy/kitschy, but still really stylish. :)

Casey said...

I meant wild not while... Gah! Operating on 3 hours sleep right now. ;) lol. Also: wanted to add that the shade of burgundy the skirt is has a definite brown undertone, which I think helps keep it from looking "trashy". ;)

Kim said...

I love leopard print! I have a fuzzy leopard print coat similar to yours.

I think the most important guidelines for leopard print are a) ONE leopard-print garment at a time and b) pair it with solid colours (notice how the models wear theirs with basic black, white or red).

Maria (viola33) said...

I only have a leopard print scarf bought in Paris 13 (?) yers ago. It has had a lot of wear during these years and is still one of my favourite accessories. I use it to spice all kinds of solids from red to black, from beige to cream.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be the odd man out here, and say the leopard print top doesn't suit you. People who need pizazz because they don't have any of their own need such tops, and that isn't you.

MrsC said...

My only leopard print garments are a pair of heels so high I can't actually walk in them (but I lvoe them anyway!) and a babydoll dress I wear as a cami in leopard print netting with black lace trim AND wait for it...pink roses all over it!!! ARGH!! It is so white trash I absolutely love to wear it with jeans, leather jacket and high heel black boots. At 46 this is as funky as I can get away with, mre rock chick than rockabilly!

Marie said...

Absolutely brilliant post Zoe! I have a love affair with leopard print too, but I would not describe my style as Rockabilly at all. I always have a pair of leopard print pumps that I wear to death (and then have to buy another). I also have a great leopard print scarf thing and a skater/shirt dress too. I definitely think it's a look that can be rocked day or night, but I agree that some prints/fabrics are better than others. There's definitely a fine line between looking retro cool and tacky! I love all your leopard print makes though!

euphoricstimuli said...

I love leopard print.I still haven't grown out of liking it from being a teenage manics fan. Thats what I've always associated leopard print with, and more lately the whole rockabilly thing. I've always seen it as a bit 'alternative' rather than mainstream tarty.
Its reached a stage, specially with it being everywhere in the shops this year where I've got far too much in my wardrobe, some of it homemade, but sadly a lot of it not.
I love those tops though. The first one especially has a really nice pattern to it.

Mezzamay said...

I am quite a conservative dresser but I do occasionally wear leopard print. I feel different when I wear it and I don't know if I imagine it or not, but I'm pretty sure men react differently to me as well.
All over leopard print is probably not a good look and I'd avoid too much gold jewellery and keep make-up classy....pretty much as you've done it :-)

Anonymous said...

i think leopard print goes with GREEN especially a lighter zingy lime green. to wear to my friends wedding i made a dress from some leopard print linen/cotton and wore a green wollen jacket and tan wedges...i looked fab naturally :) and no-one had the same outfit either, ahh the joy of handmade.

sonia said...

In college I wore a 60s fake leopard coat all the time. I loved that thing and wore it to death. The coolest thing about a classic leopard garment is that it's so timeless and really can make an outfit.

Tors said...

I'm not a fan of animal prints at all. Rather crucially, that statement needs to be quantified with an 'on me' tag, because I love leopard and animal prints on others when done well. I think you're right, the style of the clothing and the print are crucial in being about to make this look work.

lladybird said...

Put me in the leopard-print-goes-with-everything camp! I made a little leopard print jacket recently and spent a good 20 minutes at the fabric store mulling over the lining selection (they have every color of the rainbow). Pretty much *everything* looked good with my print except bright yellow. I ended up using a deep teal lining (here's a shot of it flat showing the lining - http://www.flickr.com/photos/lladybird/6499998979/) and it turned out pretty gorgeous :)

Anyway, I think one can wear leopard print anywhere/anytime as long as they're not head-to-toe covered... leopard in small doses (or even medium-size doses) is so classic & transitions well from daytime to evening.

Suzy said...

Great article Zoe!! I am a huge, huge fan of leopard print. I have two sewing projects starting at the moment that will use leopard print and have just finished some Colette Clover trousers in leopard print too. Len, thnak you very much for referencing to my post :)

I think if you use it well and style it well it will look awesome with a lot of things. I agree with lladybird though, I would not use head to toe.

Jill said...

I've was never a fan of leopard print until about a month ago when I saw a pair of leopard print heels in the store that I MUST HAVE. Going with the theory that leopard is a neutral, I think they'd go really well with my boring black suits that I have to wear for work. Sadly, the shoes are out of my budget, but I haven't stopped looking for less expensive alternatives yet!

Margaret said...

I think keeping your tits and bum covered goes a long way toward NOT looking like a porn actress. Zoe, you always look classy though so I really don't think you will have anything to worry about!

Lavender said...

Oh man, I just picked up this silk leopard print dress at Goodwill, a plus size. Score!!! Like you, my love affair with leopard print goes way back. When I decided I was going to make a quilt, I knew it just HAD to be leopard print. If I was going to actually going to make such a homey thing, I had to put my spin on it! I love it rockabilly and in unexpected ways like said quilt. But shiny or certain prints can def look trashy/cougar. I mean, a bit trashy is good, IMO. But you gotta keep the trash/class ratio perfect :) Other than black, a rich red looks great.

Linda C said...

Last year I got a leopard print (Black, dark brown, gold-ish, velvet (sorry-cotton velvet) jacket- what my daughter would call a blazer. I love it but I had not worn it much because, as you said, I only wore it with black- since I have no red. I took a chance one day and wore it out for lunch with a pair of grey pants, a black tucked blouse (tucked in, and lots of tucks too) I wore my leopard jacket, and decided it needed something- so I grabbed my big wine scarf or shawl and tied it sort of around my neck , a low sailor tie. Then I rolled back the cuffs of my jacket and, guess what? The lining was a slightly brighter shade of wine. An outfit! Amazing!

LindaC

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