Melanie Sykes Equipment Leopard Print Dress copy

The Stigma of Leopard

I love a bit of leopard print. Not too much, or you risk looking ridiculous, but (and I don’t think it’s just me) I have to admit that the stigma it carries does enter my head, that it’s tacky, that you shouldn’t wear it after the age of thirty or even, as I just recently amusingly heard, that you must not wear it before 6pm.

The fact is I find it lush, sexy and a real statement. Sometimes you have to be in the mood to wear it and your mood should reflect its message, but its strong, confident, irreverent and ‘mess with me if you dare’ attitude can also be a great pick-me-up if you’re feeling a bit low. Other times, you just know when it’s the right moment to wear it – but then the demons of doubt can flood in. Can I get away with this?

I blame Bet Lynch from Corrie for the stigma. As much as I loved her, the brash, brazen leopard-print-clad barmaid, strong, vulnerable and always optimistic, was by no means classy.  In the 1980’s, leopard was a fashion statement down on its luck, long past the heyday of the 1960’s when Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy made it the ultimate in luxury style.   The late 80’s and 90’s reclaimed it and made it more punk, more rock and roll, and took it even further away from Bet’s dated but ever-hopeful idea of glamour.

But sod it! I own a sweater, a dress, some loafers, a pair of stilettos, a few bikinis and a silk shirt and… as I write this sentence I realise that the list could be quite lengthy!

Bet Lynch and her beehive aside, leopard has never really gone out of style, and I’ve been thrilled to see back on the catwalks in a big way for this autumn, which means that we will definitely see it filter down to the high street in great style. These days, leopard is a strong statement that says “pay attention to me – but don’t take anything for granted” (two words: Theresa May), and is worn by style icons from Kate Moss to Anna Wintour, so I think we can safely say that the Bet Lynch stigma is over (for now).

The only rule I use for myself is never to wear too much of it at one time – for me it’s that simple. So go forth and get wild grrrrrrrrr!

As Caitlin Moran assures us, leopard print is a neutral, and goes with practically everything, so here are some bits I’d like to add to my leopard print wardrobe, starting with the gorgeous and versatile shift dress from Equipment and chic Alexander McQueen scarf from Liberty up above.

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