Myth: Animal prints are classic and you may wear them any way you want.

Myth 2: Animal prints are trendy and not appropriate for grown-up women

Truth: Animal prints are trendy classic and are terrific on everyone if you do them correctly.

As I write this we’re entering the fall season both in terms of weather and in terms of clothes. And with the fall season comes new styles and colors. I’m seeing a lot of leopard print tops, bottoms, and accessories. And I love it. Leopard print is probably my favorite print. So should I, or anyone else, go crazy? No.

From me, you get the truth.

Animal prints, including leopard, are “trendy classic.” That means that they go in and out of style and sometimes they’re harder to find, but they never really go out of style. When they appear in the actual colors of the animal they’re easy to wear and they make you look current without looking like a fashion victim. But yes, you can go wrong with them. Here’s how to avoid going wrong.

First, you need to go with the animal print that flatters you the most. If the bold contrast of black and white suits you, then zebra stripes will work. If your coloring is more autumn-y, like mine, then leopard print will work for you. If you do best with more texture and less contrast, then snakeskin print will work. If you love an animal print but the colors don’t flatter you, you can still wear it in small doses away from your face, such as in a pair of shoes.

Second, it’s best to stick with animal prints in their natural colors. Leopard prints work best in browns as in the spots on the animal itself. Zebra stripes work best in classic black and white. I won’t tell you not to wear the print itself in a color, but once you do that it has to be treated like a color and not like a neutral. I also feel that when you wear animal prints in a color it dilutes the impact. In some instances that may be exactly what you want and in that case it’s fine.  

Third, having said all of that, when done in neutral colors, animal prints are very dramatic. They make a very bold statement and are naturally dominant. This may sound like I’m contradicting my earlier statement that animal prints are easy to wear, but I’m not. Animal prints are easy to wear and they do make you look current if you handle them correctly. But since they’re very dramatic, that means that you need to work with that. That means it’s best to let them have that impact and not take the rest of your outfit too far.

For example, leopard print, when done in the natural mix of browns, can act as a neutral in that it goes with every other color. If you’re wearing a leopard print top, you can pair it with any solid color skirt you want and it will go. Or you can pair it with a neutral skirt and add colored accessories. Same with a leopard print skirt: it goes with every other color top. Leopard with red is a classic combination for fall but other colors work too. 

You can even mix animal prints with other prints, but here’s where the natural dominance of animal print cannot be ignored. Since animal prints are so dramatic and make that bold statement, you have to let your animal print item be the dominant print in the outfit and mix only more subtle prints in small doses. It also means that if you’re wearing one animal print, don’t mix it with another one. 

The easiest way to wear any animal print is in small doses, such as shoes or accessories. This allows you to add interest to any outfit. It also works if your personal style is more subtle and you don’t want too much attention. However, larger doses, such as a top or a skirt, can also work well as long as you remember to place animal prints only where you want the attention because they will draw attention. A skirt will draw attention to your bottom half so make sure you’re okay with that. A scarf worn draped around the neck or wrapped around your head will draw attention to your face – and that’s a universally flattering no-brainer as long as the print itself flatters you.

What about a dress? Animal print dresses can work but they’re a little harder. Since animal prints are so dramatic, a full-on dress is a lot and it will draw a lot of attention and you need to be okay with that. Plus, you need to be even more careful about fit and flattery because the slightest flaw will be noticed. It’s also best to go with a more conservative style overall. This is another “yeah tzniut” moment. If the dress is too tight and/or allows too much skin to show, it’s going to look overdone and inappropriate in more ways than one. 

Animal prints can add a wonderful bit of fun and interest to your outfit, and if you respect their dominance and wear them correctly you’ll look up to date and smart and beautiful. That’s a win all around.

Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe organizer, personal shopper, jewelry designer, and fashion writer/blogger and speaker. She helps women look great while saving time, effort, and money, all within tznius guidelines, and she’ll add to that with custom-designed jewelry. Read more about her ideas on her blog-  She also has a YouTube channel, “Look Your Best in Mitpachot,” where she does head-wrapping tutorials, and she is also available for private demonstrations. She can be reached at (718) 644-6135 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.