Pattern Play: Leopard

Worn by well-known figures like Eartha Kitt, Jackie Kennedy, and Beyoncé, leopard print has been present for decades in pop culture. While considered luxurious and sophisticated, feminine and fierce, or trashy and loud, the pattern prevails as an animal print staple and, unlike the animal itself, continues to stand out in the world. 


Historically, the Leopard pattern has gone through highs and lows within the fashion industry, and according to Jo Weldon, writer of “Fierce: The History of Leopard Print,” leopard motifs and imagery have been used to signify power, independence, and confidence for centuries. 

Flapper girls and Eartha Kitt wearing leopard print.When hunting leopards was legal during the 1920s and 30s, real leopard pelts were prized everywhere and worn by movie stars and flappers to signify their high class, wealth, and power. Then, in the 1940s, Christian Dior was credited as the first designer to use the print–rather than the fur–on the runway making the pattern hit the mainstream fashion scene by storm. Following the 1950s, leopard print started being produced in lingerie collections, causing the pattern to be connected to ideas of femininity and sexuality. This narrative was further pushed within pop culture when singer and actress Eartha Kitt was seen adorning the print head-to-toe in a dress and coat. By the 1960s, Jackie Kennedy was seen sporting a leopard-skin coat which unfortunately increased a demand for real leopard skin. This resulted in about 250,000 leopards being hunted and killed, leading the United States to ban the import and sale of real leopard skin in the 70s. This of course caused a rise in demand for the leopard print which led to its mass-production and over-consumption. Ultimately, with the overproduction of Leopard printed garments, it was eventually viewed as tacky.

By the 1990s however, the print was elevated once again by figures like Naomi Campbell, the Spice Girls, and Lil’ Kim who were seen wearing the print at fashion shows, concerts and in music videos. In recent years, Leopard print has been present in both high fashion and fast fashion. Icons like Anna Wintour, Michelle Obama, and Beyoncé have been seen adorning the print to make a statement, while brands like Givenchy, Armani, and Balmain are continuing to uphold the pattern’s luxury.

Lil' Kim, Anna Wintour, and Beyoncé wearing leopard print.

Our Leopard Print

While the beauty of the Leopard print is left open to interpretation, we cannot doubt its significance in evoking feelings of power, confidence, and ferocity in those who wear it. Unlike the real leopard who uses its pattern to blend in, our take on the Leopard print is sure to make some heads turn.

Bather Leopard print shorts.