Animal prints never seem to go out of style.
You can't venture into the retail jungle right now without crossing the path of leopard-print patterns. Tigers are on the prowl, too, and snakes are slithering.
In a season that welcomes a return to simple, classic style, who let all the cats in? Well, here's news: This is not a "trend."
Kate Dimmock, fashion director of PeopleStyleWatch.com, says animal prints are completely a classic now. Designers are creating standout pieces that function like neutrals in a wardrobe, she says.
"Leopard-print pumps are a complete outfit-maker, and you can wear them with anything," she says. (If you're going to buy just one investment piece this fall, a great pair of animal-print shoes or boots would be a safe expenditure.)
Although the palette extends to colors not found in nature -- subdued grays and olive greens, for instance -- the most noticeable evolution, Dimmock says, is how animal prints have adapted to a new habitat: lower price-point labels.
While Celine is "the pinnacle of the moment" at the high end, she adds, she was impressed recently by a "fantastic" faux leopard jacket at a JCPenney showing. Things are growling at the midprice range, too; Ann Taylor's fall line is amply spotted. So is Kohl's.
The home front is also looking wilder than usual. The popularity of animal prints hasn't been lost on buyers for Fort Worth-based Pier 1 Imports, long a purveyor of globally influenced goods.
Glassware that mimics leopard print and dishes in zebra print are among the current offerings.
"It's not just for textiles anymore," says Pier 1's in-house stylist, Aimee Beatty. "Our buyers are having a good time with it, and customers are really responding. It's something familiar used in an innovative way."
Beatty likes to use animal-print pieces to make a room pop. "It brings an environment up a few notches," she says. "There's a wild factor; it adds zip and personality."
The same can be said of a wardrobe.
"It adds just the right amount of sexy," Dimmock says. It's a fine antidote to a conservative suit or skirt.
But you don't need it head-to-toe. One great piece suffices. Less is more.
Dimmock wouldn't even pair a leopard shoe with a leopard bag. And animal-print leggings are only for the truly brave, she says. "You're putting sexy with sexy there."