New Year's Eve outfit

How to Wear Animal Print and Still Look Sophisticated

New Year's Eve outfit

Sofi knows it’s going to be a fun night when I break out the metallic snakeskin mini skirt.

There’s no doubt that animal prints can be one of the most sophisticated and versatile patterns out there. But it’s also a little dangerous—pop on too much zebra and one becomes a walking safari.

But how much is too much? Well, it depends. I’ve seen a couple of people (not many, mind you, but one or two) whose head-to-toe leopard oozed class and daring, but it’s tricky. Here’s a few hints for making animal work for you, whether you prefer a little or a lot.

In clothing:

  1. Keep the cut conservative. Generally, it’s not a fabulous idea to go with a leopard micromini. Animal print is audacious on its own, so wearing it in a revealing cut can quickly veer away from sophistication. If you cannot live without an animal mini, I recommend a snakeskin in neutral hues paired with other neutral hues in conservative cuts to form a monochromatic look (think grey snakeskin mini, slouchy grey turtleneck, grey tights, and grey knee boots—see a pattern here?). Conservative cuts apply to tops as well; choose a crew or boatneck, or keep it buttoned up.
  2. Think twice before going tight…See “conservative cut” remarks above. It’s hazardous territory even if you are quite svelte.
  3. …or bright. Bright animal prints can be done well, but they tend to look less sophisticated. If choosing a bright (like a neon leopard or zebra print) consider limiting it to a belt, bag, or shoe and keep the rest of your duds neutral. If you choose a dress or shirt, its doubly important to keep the cut discreet and the design simple (lest you give the appearance that most of your work is done in the evening hours on the street corner).
  4. Strive for quality… You don’t have to go designer to get a sophisticated animal print (I have a grey leopard scarf I once picked up AT THE DOLLAR STORE), but I’m not gonna lie—it’s your best bet when you want to convey elegance. The old adage, “Buy the best quality you can afford,” is especially true here, and if you’re shopping on the cheap, keep your prints neutral! Bright animal prints cheaply done look it.
  5. …and balance. To maintain an urbane look, try to strike an overall balance with your outfit. Animal print dress? Neutral shoes and bag. Snakeskin camp shirt? Black wide-leg trousers. Let the animal piece be the showstopper and all the other pieces play the role of supporting actors. That doesn’t mean the other pieces can’t be brights—these can play great support roles, too. Try a leopard blouse paired with a fuschia pencil skirt or a neon yellow necklace. Just be aware of the overall  look you’re creating.

Need some photographic assistance? Check out my Animal Instincts or I Love Leopard Pinterest boards for some examples of proper execution.


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