Leopard Print Skirt
Image Courtesy of Instagram/ @ann3yy
May 24, 2024

There’s A Leopard Print Resurgence, You Can’t Outrun It

We're breaking down the pattern's iconic history — and how to wear it this summer.

Is leopard print the new neutral? This bold, cyclically trending textile has clawed its way back into our closets, bringing out the fashion animal in everyone. 

Symbolically, the print embodies fierce strength. Wearing leopard print necessitates boldness and shirks one’s ability to blend in. Cats have always been associated with femininity and the divine, which accounts for much of the print’s endurance with powerful female figures. Felines are graceful, sleek, and poised, but possess a fiery capability to defend themselves beneath their calculated, well-maintained elegance. And, of course, cats always land on their feet — no matter how far they fall. 

Image Courtesy of Instagram/ @sofiamcoelho

The print is an apex predator when it comes to fashion’s most recognizable patterns. Christian Dior famously said of it: “If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.” The designer showed off the wildness of the “jungle” print to the Parisian high-fashion collective in the 1940s, creating many looks with the motif as a “house code,” according to La Galerie Dior. In fact, Dior’s original muse, Mizza Bricard, was “particularly fond of” leopard, as she “best embodied the figure of the femme fatale.” Successive designers at Dior continued to reincarnate the print, such as John Galliano, who created a lace and leopard print silk dress for his first haute couture collection in the late 1990s. 

Once only accessible as real furs, animal prints belonged to the royal and wealthy before the explosion of mass textile production. Jackie Kennedy famously wore a coat with a real leopard skin pelt in 1962, creating a fashion roar. But in the cycle of rapid consumerism, there is rarely an action without a vicious — and often unsustainable — reaction. As outlined by Rebecca Mead in The New Yorker, “It has been estimated that a quarter of a million leopards died to satisfy consumers wanting to dress like Jackie. A decade after Cassini made the First Lady’s coat, the U.S. government placed leopards on the endangered-species list, making it illegal to import their skins.”

Image Courtesy of Instagram/ @priscilladelcastillo_

While leopard print has been spotted on couture runways and has adorned First Ladies, its versatility spans huge cultural moments. Y2K gave us hot, glitzy, ultra-feminine renditions of the print, worn on the red carpet by young pop culture icons like Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson. Recent appearances of leopard pieces in cultural moments, like Ice Spice at the 2024 People’s Choice Awards, further solidified the fervor for this sassy, girly print. 

Did the Mob Wife Aesthetic Bring Leopard Print Back?

Perhaps the print’s current wave of popularity could be accredited to the Mob Wife aesthetic, which became the boss on TikTok this past winter. Characterized by fur coats, large sunglasses, and animal print accessories, the Mob Wife is fiercely loyal and confident, a glamorous, feminine fashion figure.

The rise and fall of niche micro trends on social media can be exhausting — and the interest in the Mob Wife has already waned. Nonetheless, recycling elements of a trend and cultivating a taste for its more enduring pieces is trend-forward dressing done right. 

Image Courtesy of Instagram/ @irislovesunicorns

How long will leopard print hold trendsetters’ interest? TikTok influencer Hannah Chody recently filmed a video declaring a Zara dress — a trending it dress of the moment — as a paradigm of the already-oversaturated fad.

“I’m sorry to break it to you, guys, but this Zara leopard print dress that everyone is ordering is giving the viral, 2017, off-the-shoulder chambray dress,” she told her followers. The Internet predictably fluctuates in its embrace of certain hero pieces; coolness is as much defined by singularity in a sea of similarity as it is by the aesthetic itself. As soon as a trend is branded as basic, it’s marked with the scarlet letter “B.”

“So on that note, I’m returning it,” Chody declared. 

Image Courtesy of Instagram/ @sofiamcoelho

The Zara dress, however, is just one of a handful of leopard print pieces that have dominated the algorithm. For instance, a pair of adidas Originals by Wales Bonner in leopard-printed pony skin leather offer an alternative to the timeless Samba sneaker. Another closet staple was reimagined as leopard denim cargo jeans, embraced and well-loved by maximalist dressers. These buzzy pieces indicate the limitless ways to style the print, in classic or ultra-modern taste. 

Despite the trending nature of the print, its rich history establishes it as a classic addition to any closet. In full-form as a mini dress, or as a pop of print in an all-black ensemble, leopard is a refreshingly versatile way to add visual texture to any outfit. The print is constantly being reborn and reinterpreted through different fashion mediums — whether that be the glamorous fur coat of the 1960s or a matching hot pink set on the early 2000s red carpet. After all, you can’t outrun a leopard, but you can do your best to keep up. 

Maren Beverly

Maren writes out of Brooklyn and works in the beauty industry. She graduated from Wake Forest University in 2023 and loved her four years reading and writing under the southern sun. There, she wrote for her school's fashion magazine, which sparked her love of the business. Now, you can find her in the city decorating her dresser with fragrances and fresh flowers, perusing vintage shops for summer dresses, or writing creatively with a dirty chai in hand.

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