It’s divisive, deplored and derided. It’s the stuff of brassy TV barmaids and long haired old letches. Bet Lynch wears it, Peter Stringfellow lounges on it and I just love it. Hardly a day goes by when I’m not leopard printed in some way or another. It could be a bag, it might be my nails or I could be all out in a maxi dress, probably with a pair of leopardy sandals. Does this mean I’m vulgar? Tasteless? Trashy? Tacky? Have I seen spots for so long I’m now blind, no longer able to tell the difference between a pinch of purrfect from a moggy monstrosity? Well, from my experience there’s an army of print police out there and I’m not sure I’ve got them on pawed (sorry).
Exhibit A. I got an email from a colleague. We’d been talking about superheroes. I work with boys, this is the norm. Said email read, “You would be leopard woman by the way ‘cause you are always wearing lots of leopard print.” True. But we were talking about Batman. Exhibit B. I got a card from a friend. On the front, a quote from Jackie Collins, “My weakness is wearing too much leopard print.” Inside, “Amanda look it’s you!” Hmmm. Exhibit C. The countless comments, remarks and observations about my top, t-shirt, cardigan, tights, scarf, socks, dress, leggings, nails, bag, hat, ear muffs, purse, pyjamas… Whilst nothing is particularly negative, my animal themed wardrobe choices are mentioned, a lot. I’ve seen a mirror (honestly) I know I’ve been doused with a dose of GRRRRR , I chose it, I bought it and I’m feline fine. Apparently I’m brave; by channelling Dorian Green it seems I am marking myself out as a beacon of fashion fearlessness. I don’t feel brave, leopard is everywhere. From Mulberry to the Marks and Spencer, everyone is embracing cat couture yet still it’s mocked by many. This could possibly be part of the reason I love it so darn much.
I don’t like to stand out but I don’t want to blend in. I don’t want to be a carbon copy nor a sore thumb. I don’t want to wear the same as everyone else and perhaps part of my love for it is because not everyone does. I feel comfortable in leopard print. Granted it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I see past its dodgy history and it’s a pattern I enjoy. I can’t really do stripes; they are not the friend of the generous hipped. Spots are ok but they’re one distortion away from my beloved leopard, so that’s what I adopt. I like it, designers like it and it is overcoming its image problem. Yes it will always be the furry fashion fodder of the Kat Slater, Liz McDonald and Bet Lynch soap barmaid crew. The posing pouches and satin robes of the Hugh Hefner’s and Peter Stringfellow’s will always be cut from catlike cloth. But does that monopolise the market meaning I can’t join in the fun? Or when I do, am I tarred with the same brash brush? Other than an apparel animal instinct I don’t have a lot in common with soap landladies or elderly nightclub owners. I grew up in a village, I went to a girl’s grammar school, I’ve never even touched a cigarette, yet my loyalty to leopard is as strong as any cockney cad. I love it, it makes me feel good and I wouldn’t let preconceptions, stereotypes or wide eyed wonder stop me. If a print, pattern or design makes you stand taller, head higher and smile broader, then wear it and wear it proud. You should never judge a book by its cover or, more importantly, a leopard by its spots.