Marian Keyes: We need to talk about leopard print

Sudden Wild Enthusiasms: Leopard Print. It’s not a neutral. It’s everything

Model Thalia Heffernan wearing Just Female Leo faux fur leopard print coat. Photograph: Julien Behal

Model Thalia Heffernan wearing Just Female Leo faux fur leopard print coat. Photograph: Julien Behal

 

Okay, let me ask you for your opinion.

Other than in a locked ward, would you wear a flowery skirt with a polka-dotted tee-shirt?

YES? NO?

The answer is – of course! – a big, gigantic, Ian Paisley-esque NO.

Let’s try another question.

If the only clean clothes available to you were a pair of striped trousers and a check shirt, would you pretend you had The Plague and hide at home until different, non-clashing clothing was available?

YES? NO?

The only rational answer is an emphatic YES.

If you’ve agreed with the above, then let us discuss leopard print, and the – frankly baffling – statement: “Leopard print is a neutral.”

Lately, all the fashion types are including it as one of their “fashion rules” (Look, I know.)

What they mean is that a leopard-print skirt is the same as a plain beige skirt, or a pair of black jeans, when it comes to matching garments: a leopard-print skirt can be comfortably worn with a shirt patterned with unicorns or a sweatshirt embroidered with flowers or a tee-shirt featuring a giant silver star.

But this is a fiction of Trumpian proportions. It is arrant nonsense!

Leopard-print raincoat by Ganni, €269
Leopard-print raincoat by Ganni, €269

Opposite of neutral

Leopard print is not always regarded fondly (which I’ll get to) but it is never bland or nothing-y. It’s a defiant statement, it guarantees instant glamour and it’s a little scary. It cannot ever be a neutral. It is the opposite of neutral, it is everything.

Like I said, some of leopard print’s associations are a bit dodge: if a telly soap wanted to insinuate that a woman had ‘loose morals’, she was kitted out in a leopard-print jacket – signalling her dark heart without her uttering even one word of dialogue.

This is out-dated codswallop and this coming autumn (and frankly, it cannot come soon enough for me) leopard print is everywhere. Dresses, skirts, boots, coats, jeans (no, don’t, I beg you, that’s going too far), shoes, bags and scarves.

Those of faint heart, you don’t have to commit to an entire garment in ‘the print’. A pair of ordinary oul jeans paired with a manky oul shirt will become instantly chic if you throw a leopard-print scarf into the mix.

Or a subdued woman in a plain black dress will be transformed into a quirky little minx simply by swapping her workaday black opaque 60 deniers for a pair of leopard-print tights.

However, if you are confident enough, nothing quite says The Party Has Arrived, like showing up in a actual leopard print dress.

I take my leopard print via this gorgeous raincoat from Ganni. Yes, it’s dear and I’m sorry about that. But it takes one of the grimmest items of clothing in existence, the plastic raincoat, and endows it with glitz.

I was wearing it in Stillorgan shopping centre recently and I overheard a man mutter to his wife, “She’s very showy.”

See what I mean? Not neutral at all!

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