HOW TO: Select The Right Kind Of Leopard Print Coat

I mean, I like leopard print in theory and concept, but the execution is very make or break.
Publish date:
January 9, 2014
leopard print, coats

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You can’t really be a alive in the socialized world and not notice that leopard print is totally a THING and has been for a long long time now.

There are polarizing debates on the appeal of it -- chic and timeless vs. tacky and attention-starved, with either sides foaming at the mouth in vehement appraisal or opposition. My mom was quite the fashion plate (I mean, she still is. Sorry mom) when she was my age and had a collection of leopard print coats, gloves, scarves, handbags, skirts, what have you.

I mean, I don’t think she wore them all together, just saying -- the woman clearly plays for team cat-skin. Because of this, I’ve always associated the pattern with fancy lady gear, expanding into a more punk aesthetic during my angsty teen years.

Strangely though, there were certain kinds of leopard print patterns that I hissed at and dismissed with a violent distaste.

One of my closest dude friends hates leopard print, full stop. He generally has good taste and being a designer, a discerning eye on what makes aesthetics “good” or “bad.” I trust his judgment, is what I’m saying. I trust anyone’s judgment who has the enviable consistency to have culled an effortlessly chic wardrobe entirely in grayscale.

I asked him why the leopard print hate and he just shook his head and muttered something about it being tacky. Part of me could agree with him, but another part dreamed up images of 50s starlets swathed in animal print stoles and was like, “Nuh-uh!” If Jackie O, for crying out loud, is wearing a leopard print swing coat, that is basically the A-bomb of arguments there.

I mean, I like leopard print in theory and concept, but the execution is very make or break. I’m not talking about what wears it, so much as the print itself. With its growing fast-fashion ubiquity, you can’t help but notice the discrepancies with the shapes of the spots and general color of the “pelt.” I’ll take the regular ol’ light beige/tan background please -- no weird ombré or wacky hot pink, electric blue or Barney purple.

I’ve scoured the annals of eBay and Etsy as well as all the fancy vintage shops in my Brooklyn neighborhood for the perfect faux-fur leopard print coat, to no avail. All the nice ones are nearly twice as expensive as other solid colored faux-fur coats, or even just regular non-animal printed coats.

What gives? Must we pay a premium for the spots? Clearly the Almighty Fashion Tribunal has sanctioned the leopard print as a means for taking liberties in price points which sadly just MAKES ME WANT IT MOAR. (I’ve personally witnessed Alexa in this coat on the streets of Manhattan. It only further ignited my lust for this look.)

My susceptibility to supply-vs.-demand principles aside, I was determined to find the “right” kind of leopard print coat -- one that I could flaunt in front of my designer friend all, “HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?” I’m sure he would and will still shake his head come that day, but I don’t care, it’s going to look fab. Animal print + animal ears? Oh Daisy, you slay me.

So are there rules to wearing animal print? That’s basically like asking “Can I wear white after Labor Day?” or “Can I wear black and navy together?” It worked for Obama so I don’t see why it can’t work for you -- YES WE CAN.

I don’t like fashion rules. I think they are dumb, antiquated and borderline fascist. Anything smacking of negative reinforcement just brings out my rebellious and petulant “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME” side. That being said, the idea that I could ever be a Fashion Don’t makes me a little green around the gills. Life is complicated. So let us discuss the devil in the details.

Leopard Print Coats: What You Know About That?


The shape, the size, the quantity per square foot. I’ve noticed that there appears to be about three variations of the spots: vaguely oval-shaped black spots, black blobby ring-shaped, and black blobby ring-shaped with some kind of brown coloring in center… all in varying densities. The first one is cheetah-print if we’re splitting hairs here (or if you were very concerned about telling them apart). No one seems to recognize “jaguar print” as a thing even though jaguars look nearly identical to leopards but with bigger spots. Meh. WWKD? Things to consider whenever in a LPC conundrum.


It appears that someplace beneath the butt cleavage and above the knee is preferable for where the hemline falls. ¾ length to full sleeves. Short sleeves? No sleeves? What even! I’m talking winter coats here. You can get all Fonzie cool moto-girl with this style when icicles aren’t dangling off the thermometer these days. For instance, this top knot says prim, but that floor-sweeping hemline is all pimp.


Much like the LBD, a leopard printed coat is a fashion staple that speaks for itself. Generally these are standalone pieces, competing against no other patterns or colors. All over the Internet, it’s “animal print and dark denim jeans, “animal print with black jeans” or just black black black anything everything.

That’s cool and pretty effortless and all that. Nothing against that. But then I see a woman wearing a leopard coat with red trousers or even DARE SHE TRY chartreuse and my heart thumps like Looney Tunes. Basically whatever you pair your leopard with acts like a dimmer switch for how much attention you want to attract. It’s going to get you attention anyway, but you can toggle the wattage as you please.

Colorful shoes, colorful bag

Evidence that a little bit of organized chaos is a very good thing.

Look, I’m a reasonable person. I’m not going to buy like six different animal print coats and jackets because “It’s good just to have it.” I don’t want to blow my wad on furry road kill, so I am remaining in a dormant state of vigilance for a classic, mid-length, conventionally colored, not too faux-furry, leopard print coat… under $100. Oh yeah, and there’s that. Price point. Let the games begin.

I am, however, one of those people that own at least a dozen Fall/Winter jackets and coats. I mean, when it’s the bane of winter and I want every exposed extremity insulated with fabric so that no part of the elements can touch my fragile skin, my outerwear is pretty much the only outfit most people will see me in. I like having options. Lots of them.

A leopard print coat has always pretty much been the definitive “slip a sable under the tree” sentiment for me. I am tired of looking like a cold and weather-vulnerable human in a sensible parka or some wool peacoat type of thing. I want to look like I know fashion-type things, and go to party-type events with friend-type people.

Sure, I could just go out and do all those things, but it’s 2014 and I live in an iCloud, you know? Can’t I just go outside, draped in a fabulous coat made to look like the skin of a wild cat and have that be my “thing?” I’ve been good -- I don’t smoke or drink, so just let me have this, OK?