Leopards may not be able to change their spots, but they can definitely change their image, thanks, primarily, to the fact that over the past few years celebrities noted for being über-cool have been donning animal print pieces.
Kate Moss has been seen in the past 12 months in leopard-print faux fur jackets, a Cavalli animal print dress and leopard-print mules.
Kylie Minogue was papped looking totally on-trend in a short, leopard-print fake fur jacket over a long sweater and jeans, while Nicky Hilton, the infinitely better dressed younger sister of Paris, was photographed recently in a grey animal print dress, worn with black opaques, black courts, groomed hair and almost no jewellery. (Her sister, on the other hand, should have reined back on the leopard print, having been snapped wearing — all at the same time — leopard-print leggings, a not-quite matching leopard shirt, a leopard handbag and, as if that wasn’t enough big-cat references, a leopard-print hairband).
All of which means those of us who remember Bet Lynch, the Coronation Street barmaid with her peroxide beehive, scarlet nails, gravity-defying earrings (in her heyday, she out-dangled even EastEnders' Pat Butcher), have to come out from behind the sofa, take our hand away from our eyes and take a fresh look at leopard.
And the news is that there are great pieces out there, some decidedly bold, statement pieces, but many quite low-key. And they really do give an instant update to a winter wardrobe.
If you want to look on-trend rather than on-the-game, the trick with any statement animal print piece is to underplay the rest of your outfit (and your hair and make-up): under a leopard print coat or jacket, wear plain, dark trousers, leggings or a pencil skirt plus same-colour sweater, or a crisp, dead-plain white or ivory shirt, glossy ankle boots and a big, slouchy bag.
Or rough the look up with jeans and a grungy sweater. An animal print dress calls for similar treatment — add a cardi or jacket in a dark neutral, dark opaques, plain courts or boots and bold, plain jewellery.
If you are still wary of taking the jungle route, you can signal your fashion savvy with accessories — a pair of leopard-print court shoes, an animal print scarf, a leopard bag, or even animal print bangles.
Where to find animal print
Coats and jackets
High neck, short, leopard faux fur jacket, £50, Simply Be; demure little fake fur coat, £85, Oasis; ponyskin leopard print coat, Yves St Laurent, £4,840, Net-a-Porter; fabulously 50s faux fur leopard coat, £95, Next; leopard faux fur coat with shawl collar, £895, and lynx jacket, £695, both Caroline Charles, St John’s Wood and Beauchamp Place.
Long-sleeved merino wool leopard-print dress, £119, Hobbs; ruched cap-sleeve leopard print dress, £45, Topshop Boutique; belted, scoop neck animal print dress, £45, M&S; Fitted, cap sleeve leopard print shift, YSL, £1,305, drape detail leopard print dress, Balenciaga, £1,095, both at Browns (www.brownsfashion.com); drape-front animal print dress,£180, Gil Bret; animal print silk shirtdress, DKNY, £319, Fenwick, Bond Street; Issa animal print dress, with clever gathering, £425 at Net a Porter; sequinned one-shoulder dress in green leopard print, £670, Ashish.
Tops, tunics and knits
Animal print blouse, £19.50, M&S; animal print silk blend sweater, DKNY, £130, Fenwick, Bond Street; silk animal print blouse, £395, and leopard print cotton sweater, £195, both Caroline Charles, as before; leopard-print silk blouse with peak shoulders, Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, £199, Fenwick, Bond Street; digital animal print tunic, £60, Oli; leopard-print tunic, £28, Topshop; leopard-print ruffle blouse £40, House of Fraser; leopard-print cardi, £14, F&F at Tesco.
Short, animal print tulip skirt, £38, Urban Outfitters; ruche waist skirt, £25, Topshop Boutique; mixed print silk tulip skirt, Dries van Noten, £340, Browns (www.brownsfashion.com); Warehouse animal print body con skirt £30; sequined leopard-print skirt, Ashish, £365, at Net-a-orter.
Leggings / tights
Leopard leggings, £22, Dorothy Perkins; intarsia leopard leggings, £25, Topshop; goldfoil leopard print leggings, up to size 32, £20, Evans.
Leopard-spot court shoes, £490, Christian Louboutin, Motcomb Street, SW1; leopard ankle boots, £110, Dune; leopard courts, £35, Dorothy Perkins; leopard courts, £45, Wallis; leopard-print Mary Janes, £45, M&S; leopard-print bag with gold lock, £175, House of Fraser stores; Leopard bangles, from £3, F&F at Tesco; leopard-print stole by Stephen Sprouse, £420, Louis Vuitton, W1, SW1 and Westfield; fake snakeskin clutch with bow, £40, Moda in Pelle; leopard print cashmere scarf, Lily and Lionel (www.lilyandlionel.com); leopard-print silk georgette scarf, £125, Caroline Charles; animal print shopper, £8, Matalan.