Volunteer Voices: the Enduring Popularity of Animal Print

An Ode to the 90s – Forever Chic

Taking a trip down memory lane, we can see where our obsession with animal print came from. The 1940s saw the print clawing its way into evening wear, in the 60s it conquered accessories and in the 1970s Debbie Harry helped introduce the rock and roll we associate with the print today. Then came the 90s and animal print truly began to dominate; Naomi Campbell was fierce in leopard print bikinis, Kate Moss owned the night life scene in the fur coats and of course, the world was graced with the arrival of Scary Spice.

Dominating the Streets

Trends come and go, but few seem to have such lasting impact as animal print. From taking a walk down the high street, to a drink at to your local pub, from paying a visit to your go-to vintage shop, to showcasing your style on a night out, animal print is almost always someone’s look of choice. Leopard, cheetah, snake and alligator in the form of accessories, dresses, skirts, and of course the faux fur coat, all often take centre stage in a closet.

In his 1954 manual, The Little Dictionary of Fashion, Christian Dior famously wrote that “to wear a leopard you must have a kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated. If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.” While it’s fair to say that we are moving away from this notion, there are still those that might consider it daring or wild to wear animal print. The truth? Anyone can wear it, and many women feel it has allowed them to reclaim their power on the streets.

Taming the Silhouette

In recent years, brands such as Prada, Chanel, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and many more have made the decision to stop using animal products, banning fur and exotic skins from their production lines. This is still a huge moment and movement in fashion, as we continue to learn to appreciate animal print, without the use of real furs.

This evolution may have been foreshadowed in Alexander McQueen’s 2010 show, Plato Atlantis. With this show, McQueen arguably changed the future of fashion. By screen printing replicas of animal print, the designer mastered the pure fantasy of a futuristic colourful world. By succeeding in transforming the wearing of animal print through technological advances, McQueen created an enduring obsession with his 2010 show. Though of course, even this iconic show doesn’t come close to emulating our enduring obsession with animal print.

Our thanks to the author of this weeks Volunteer Voices, Honor Wood.

We do hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the Fashion and Textile Museum online. If so, please consider making a donation to help us continue our important work, showcasing contemporary fashion and textile design.

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