Leopard print – its fashion history


Animal patterns periodically come into fashion in various forms. Opinions about them have also changed over time – for example, snakeskin is often associated with elegance and expensive leather goods, while leopard print has often been seen as vulgar and cheap.

Leopard print has a long history in the fashion world, with high highs and low lows.

In this article, we’ll find out more about where leopard print came from and how it has passed through different eras of fashion history.

Leopard prints have been in fashion since ancient Egypt

leopard print

Historically, leopards have played a prominent role in iconographies around the world. The clay figurine ‘Çatalhöyük Seated Woman’, dating from around 6000 BC, shows a female figure resting her arm on a leopard.

For example, the top image shows Seshat, the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, who was often seen wearing leopard or cheetah skins. The goddess Xi Wanmu, known in Chinese mythology as the Queen of the West, is depicted wearing tiger teeth and a leopard’s tail. We can conclude that leopard skins were considered an exclusive and royal symbol because of their beautiful pattern.

Leopards have long been considered to be strong, very sturdy and elegant animals. The desire to emulate and to indicate one’s high status in society is believed to be the reason why man feels a primordial bond with these beasts.

Moving forward in time, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the The leopard pattern confirmed status and indicated wealth. Entering the 20th century, leopard prints on clothing and accessories were mass produced, becoming a popular choice. Thus also entering the fashion world directly.

The evolution of the leopard print in fashion

leopard print fashion evolution

From royalty to punk rockers, from trend to sophistication, there are many different leopard patterns. In this section, we will follow the evolution of the leopard print over the last hundred years of fashion.


At the beginning of the 20th century, leopard prints came into fashion because of the real skin of the beasts. It was hung on the walls of the offices of the richest and most powerful men to show dominance and power. Leopard skins began to appear in the wardrobes of popular film stars and rich housewives.

Much of the credit for starting this fashion trend goes to the mass production influenced by Hollywood stars. Designers such as Christian Dior said at the time that:

If you are honest and nice, don’t wear this print.

This way, the leopard print is designed for people with character.


In the 1940s and 1950s, American pin-up girls embraced this pattern by wearing decorated corsets, lingerie and dresses. This, in turn, contributed to the association of the leopard print with eroticism. At that time, the American lingerie brand Vanity Fair started selling leopard-print lingerie.

When the 1950s rolled around, the leopard print enjoyed another renaissance. Fur had become an important status symbol among the wealthy, and although rabbit and fox fur were at the top of the charts, big cat skins outsold all others, especially leopard fur.


In the 1960s, the leopard print trend made a real splash with the public, becoming a major fashion trend for the next few years. Demand became astronomical and hundreds of jaguars and leopards were killed to boost the fur trade.

However, by 1968, Rudi Gernreich devoted an entire collection to fake animal skins after the bloody trend for real fur sparked a successful protest by the animal rights movement.


By the 1970s, the AVS leopard pattern had become associated with a vulgar and flashy lifestyle. Consequently, the pattern appeared widely in those sections of society that were resistant to the norm. For example, the leopard pattern began to appear in the emerging punk subcultures.

The 1980s, on the other hand, was a time of freedom, when all kinds of colours and patterns could also be found in fashion. You could name any animal and there was a good chance that it was represented in fashion. From leggings to sunglasses and handbags, from leopard, zebra and snake patterns to giraffe and elephant skin motifs. Everything was on trend!


In the 1990s, leopard prints started to fall out of favour, although they were still often worn. In this decade, the line between elegant and flashy in terms of leopard prints starts to disappear. Celebrities like Kate Moss were not afraid to wear leopard print dresses and skirts in full swing.

What about now?

fashion nowadays

Animal skin patterns are also in fashion today. Until the last few years, it was no surprise to see leopard prints in Givenchy’s collections as well as in Prada’s latest collections.

It is no surprise, however, that these famous designers have fallen back in love with the giant cat patterns on clothing and accessories. After all, leopard print can be applied and is compatible with every colour palette, every occasion and every skin tone.

Local brands like Zee Socks are also incorporating stylish leopard prints into their collections, as socks can also be a fashionable addition to an outfit. Their stylish Leopard socks are an example of how leopard print socks can also be a cool addition to your wardrobe.

We don’t think leopard print will go out of fashion any time soon either. They can be expensive and cheap, loud and neutral, feminine and masculine all at the same time. So many possibilities, and we all like at least one of them!

Leave a comment