The Search for the Perfect Leopard Print

Let me take you on a little tour of photos collected on my last Goodwill foray:

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That’s a lot of leopard.  And I’m not even including all the non-traditional takes I found, like this:


As you have probably gathered, I love me some leopard (or is that cow?). But I haven’t yet pulled the trigger on a full-blown leopard item. (I tried with a Target top once and I just felt like a Las Vegas retiree.)

Wait.  There’s this; but the grey/black combo is missing the tan of a classic leopard – see?


A lot of times I steer away from a particular full-on leopard because it has too much black, which kind of swamps me.  But also, many all-over leopard items can feel overwhelmingly busy.  (See above.)

So I’m not sure if addressing my reluctance will involve finding *juuuuuust* the right leopard – something with little black, a warm golden taupey color, and lots of clean background showing through? – or if I just need to stick to muted/minor uses of leopard – accessories, shoes, a panel or two.

(My coworker, for example, wore a sleeveless sweater yesterday with a cream back and trim and a leopard-on-cream front.  It was light and fresh and fun, not tacky, brassy, or frantic.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture!)


So, Thrifters – I need your input.  What are your tips for making large swathes of leopard work?  What are your favorite leopard palettes?  Do you just skip the shirts/skirts/dresses/pants (oooh, pants I could probably swing!) and stick with accessories?  Scroll down to comment.



7 thoughts on “The Search for the Perfect Leopard Print

  1. I have a long-sleeve, cowl neck leopard print, knit top which I LOVE. But like you, I feel overwhelmed wearing it “out-in-the-open”! The best way I have found to wear it is with a beige or black jacket over it (or a sweater would do) – that way only a portion of the really active print shows and the look is toned-down a good bit. For a grey leopard print sweater, I just wear it buttoned-up and slung over my shoulders with the arms tied or hanging down in front – again not quite the “full impact” of a very of a dynamic print! Finally, if you LOVE leopard and are not comfortable with too much of it, try a scarf (I have three and they work very well with the right outfits).

    1. Always proofread! That sentence should read: “For a grey leopard print sweater, I just wear it buttoned-up and slung over my shoulders with the arms tied or hanging down in front – again not quite the “full impact” of a very dynamic print!” Incidentally, these tips also work well with any bold print or for example, a “too-strong-of-a-red” sweater!

      1. Carol, good idea with the cardigan/sweater! I *TRY* to stay away from things I can only wear under something else, so that I don’t worry about taking off my cardigan in varying weather and so every piece I own can be worn in multiple ways…but I also love wearing a long-sleeved shirt under a sleeveless cold weather dress, so that would definitely up its versatility.
        I don’t have a leopard scarf yet, that’s a great option! I do have a ruana (poncho-style wrap) that’s vaguely leopardy but very, very muted. I plan to take it out for a spin this fall/winter and see if it’s wearable “out in the open” as you say. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Oh my gosh, I absolutely love leopard and am always on the lookout for a new piece (I used to have a navy/turquoise leopard sweater like the one you highlighted there). For me, the basics are: a pair of leopard pumps (classic, and they go with everything!), and a leopard pencil skirt. Full head-to-toe is a little harder to do (but I’ll never say never!). I love this grey leopard on you!

    1. Sheila, thanks! I have to admit that as I was writing this I had a picture in my head of you rocking a leopard top – but I didn’t have time to scroll through your archives to determine if I was making it up or not!
      I think a leopard skirt would be divine, but I think it also looks better with heels (which you do with panache) and I have nary a heel in my closet. Maybe with leggings to soften it up and a solid color top it could work with some flats… now you’ve got me thinking…

  3. Accessories work for me. I have both heels and a slip-on sneaker which I wear a lot. A lightweight scarf with a blazer or coat is also part of my normal rotation. I love leopard in theory. My problem is not so much the amount of black in the pattern, but trying to find one that isn’t quite so gold – which is awful with my coloring – but I keep looking!!

    1. Accessories all the way! It’s funny, leopard seems to have a little something to clash with EVERY skin tone – black for me, gold for you. With all its millions of variations, I’m pretty sure there’s a fit for each of us out there somewhere…but it is taking awhile to find it!! Thanks for commenting.

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