Leopard spots often get a bad sartorial rap as trashy, cheap-looking, or the preferred print by cougars on the prowl for young bait. Leopard doesn't have to be a no-no! There are plenty of ways to wear the print this summer without looking like a cliché.
(Above: Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate in leopard, as the original cougar)
A hint of leopard, balanced out with classic pieces, can never go wrong. Olivia Palermo's mini isn't the traditional brown and tan, and looks fresher for a more contemporary feel with her simple white top and layered necklaces. The heels give just another bit of leopard (if she were wearing leopard boots, it would be overkill), and the rockstud style is otherwise fashion-forward for a great look overall.
Try a traditional brown and beige leopard that's washed out in a semi-watercolor, semi-trippy print only recognizable to be leopard up close. This dress is great because it looks like a bold and striking print from afar, and thus isn't over the top leopard, despite it being heavily featured on the dress.
Black and white leopard spots in a tiny print will make the print almost unrecognizable as leopard to begin with. Whether on a dress, top, or pants like Olivia's (who seems to love leopard), this print is almost a fun play on polka-dots, and definitely won't have any of the animal associations. Another variation is a leopard-meets-dalmation print, demonstrated by Kate Middleton above. The print is small enough that the spots just look like a bold design.
Leopard print in an unexpected color (blue is the wash of choice) will look less animal and more striking as an abstract print. It should still be worn carefully and in moderation, but will eschew the immediate connotations classic leopard print may have. Pair it with classic solids like denim, jersey, and leather to tone down the bright color and eye-catching print.
And finally, if you're cautious to try the leopard print, try the smallest hint of leopard used to make a monochrome outfit pop; think shoes, purse, or a lightweight leopard print scarf to add interest to an otherwise understated look.
General rules to rock leopard...
* Stay away from anything skintight in leopard print. Whether it's a bodycon dress, a crop-top, or just tight shorts, it can too easily go in the wrong direction.
* If you're wearing something with a lot of leopard, like a dress or romper, it's safer (but not 100% necessary) to try one of the twists on a traditional leopard print mentioned above.
* Leopard trim, accents, and embellishments are great contrast for an otherwise simple garment, and will add some fun without being over-the-top!
* More modest silhouettes are better pairings for leopard than anything too short or low-cut. A button-up shirt or long-sleeved dress will look interesting and unexpected, and you can always pair them with denim cut-offs or a non-leopard, more bare piece to show some skin. If your leopard purchase is short or low, pair it with a more covered piece. For instance, you don't have to throw out a leopard mini, but pair it with a high-neck blouse or a collared shirt, and a little leopard cami can be balanced out tucked into a long, voluminous skirt.