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Go Way Back

Go Way Back: Leopard Print

Go Way Back BY bea koch 11/15/2013

Since animal pelts were some of the first clothes people wore, like, ever, it’s not so surprising that leopard has a long, long fashion history. See how to rock it like an Egyptian (or an eighties soap star) below. 




The Origin: There are Greek vases dating as far back as the 7th century BCE that show mythological figures draped in leopard skins, but there’s definitely evidence that they were worn even earlier than that. This image is from the walls of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, which dates to around 1323 BCE. The Goddess Nut on the right is wearing a pretty serious leopard situation as she welcomes Tut to the afterlife.





The Evolution: During the Renaissance, leopard spots and tiger stripes were abstracted to create the popular cintamani pattern. And it wasn’t only the Italians who loved the design—it was super on-trend in the Ottoman Empire, too.




The graphic nature of the animal skin makes it perfect for use in costumes. This leopard-lined robe was designed by Erte for Chicago Opera Company’s production of Rigoletto in 1922. Talk about some serious print-mixin’!





Josephine Baker took Paris by storm in the twenties. One of her more dangerous affectations? She kept a leopard as a pet.





For his 1947 collection, Christian Dior decided to work in some leopard. But instead of using the fur, he chose to print the spots onto fabric—a revolutionary move.





After being photographed on her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio in 1954 wearing a leopard scarf, Marilyn Monroe solidified the motif’s reputation as the sexiest print out there.





Getting in on the punk action, thanks go Debbie Harry, who wears leopard print on her 1978 Blondie Denis vinyl.




The eighties called, and it wants its hairdo back. Joan Collins’s campy goodness on Dynasty is perfectly supported by her glamorously tacky, leopard-print-heavy wardrobe.





For girls growing up in the nineties, leopard print meant one thing: Lisa Frank, with her affection for DayGlo hues and Trapper Keepers.





The Right Now: Phillip Lim got leopard-print happy for his very-big-deal collab with Target. If you missed the shopping frenzy, head on over to eBay, which is littered with leftovers.




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