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Leopard Is a Neutral, Fight Me

The once-wild print is now chill as hell.

A woman wearing leopard-print stilettos. Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

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Once shorthand for faraway lands and mean puppy-drowners, leopard print is one hella versatile (and klutz-proof) pattern. The recent omnipresence of leopard print stretches far beyond its faux-fur coat iteration (though it should be noted the Uniqlo x Carine Roitfeld leopard-print jacket sold out in a cool five minutes in fall 2015. We should have known the storm was coming.) Leopard print gilds Michael Kors calf hair flats, that Louis Vuitton bag Beyonce has, opulent Williams Sonoma pillow shams — it’s no longer solely reserved for the bombastic or your drunk aunt; it ran the design gamut and now may rest atop a pillow of absolute mainstream acceptance in front of the crackling warmth of the apocalypse.

But! Just because you are now allowed to wear leopard print to PTA meetings without someone shoving a breathalyzer in your face at the door, it still takes some finesse to wear well.

Leopard print embodies the most “fuck-off” iteration of neutral. (Oh, and I hope it is also clear in all instances mentioned here, I mean faux leopard fur.) It demands attention and space while harmonizing with the rest of your wardrobe; a glam amalgamation of the two OG neutral shades, black and brown. The pattern recalls rock stars behaving badly as well as nouveau riche freely and questionably spending their probably inherited fortunes. If we’re just ghosts zooming around space in meat cars, leopard print is a good armor to plaster on your own mortal vessel. There’s a decadence to leopard print, but it’s way more accessible than you think.

Beyonce carrying a leopard-print Louis Vuitton bag. Photo: Robert Kamau/Getty Images

First, understand “neutral” isn’t mutually exclusive with “loud.” Leopard print is loud, so you’ll want to avoid mixing it with most other patterns. If you’re on the hunt for something more entry-level, try this subtle leopard-trimmed white oxford from Calvin Klein and tuck it into some skinny black slacks or a pencil skirt. Next step, literally step into some low-key leopard-printed mules (like this Steve Madden pair), mixing with a simple long-sleeved dress in a non-color like maroon. A mini skirt is another great gateway to this important print — step it up like Alicia Vikander did with a printed top and heeled combat boots. Really, you can style leopard print with anything as you would with either just brown or just black.

Once you finally start living my (and Jenna Lyons’) philosophy, throw caution and middle fingers to the wind and peep this deliciously histrionic ASOS open back mini dress. Truly, if you choose to wear this, you don’t even need a holiday party excuse. But you do have to agree to be my best friend.

Leopard print is slightly ridiculous — has been and always will be. Don’t fight it. We’ve leaned into the madness in other arenas, such as removing shoulders from otherwise-practical clothing, so we might as well add this luxe print to the bizarre potpourri we’ve all been huffing.