top of page

A History Of Animal Prints in Fashion

A staple symbol of power that resonates throughout the decades. Let's delve into and question the history, power, and movements into animal prints of the past.

Power of animal prints

Before a fashion statement, animal prints were a sign of power, empowering kings and queens who owned fur rugs depicting their social status. It was a statement of strength among the powerful aristocrats who could afford and were willing to pay sums of money for these rugs. This became enticing to men, leading them to become animal hunters who believed and manifested that "Wearing the skin of a cheetah would give them the speed of that cheetah".

The ideals of man vs animal dominance, as the suggested superior species, and the displaying, of so-called trophies, highlight that this power and attention is what we want and crave.

Through the recent years this has changed many perceived views on fur and even laws suggesting the act of poaching certain animals are now deemed illegal, along with activist groups who also campaign against this. As it only takes "The power of an individual" one voice to make a change, it shows how far animal prints in fashion has come.

The movie era of animal print

The movie era of animal prints was on the rise during the 1930s with the showcasing of Tarzan. This sexualised garment piece sparked a demand for animal prints everywhere. As they're still making remakes of Tarzan, the unconscious underlying fashion statement may make reappearance, and can commonly fall under the known umbrella as fast fashion. The adventurous bold prints catching the eyes of the audience and the risqué thrilling nature got everyone's hearts tingling. The addictive nature of these bold prints spread like wildfire which had manufactures pining for the days of solace and therefore had to come out with more and more animal print blouses, scarves, and coats than in previous decades to meet the rise in demands.

Years of animal prints in fashion

During the 1940s, fur was in demand and Jungle Bettie, a famous model who dressed up in a roaring leopard print dress "Created an uproar for animal prints in the fashion world". The beginning of this uproar sparked equality for woman and drove the feminist’s movement. The symbolism of this showed the world and woman the strength and courage as the sheer amount of indomitable spirit led them to find their voice. As of today, there is still an unbalance in equality for woman and needs to be vocalised more. The leopard dress was the most prominent fashion/political statement as it "Created a fierce and rather risqué look for many and gave a era of independence."

The 1950s, Christian Dior's chic aesthetic embarked a journey for a whole new line inspired by animal prints. With Mitzah Bricard, as his right-hand woman and both their passion for leopards lead to a new era for animal prints, which inevitably became a statement piece that every woman wanted. The transition of animal prints in the 1960s with the exotic wild prints, better known as the hippie movement, paved the way for a new domineering aesthetic.

However, this was in direct contradiction to the sleek sophisticated look of the 50s, as the untamed wild nature of the 1960s held this concept of wild and free. Animal prints in the 1970s took a turn to the 1930s, imitating some lost styles as the inspired pop hits of the 70s led to some interesting styles for animal prints.

The overwhelming 80s of animal prints paved its way to the introduction of snakeskin and zebra which took the nation by surprise. With more prints than ever before and more choice led to a revolutionary new statement which was met and equipped by manufactures with full length dresses in snakeskin and head to toes jumpsuits in zebra patterns.

Impacts of animal prints

Animal prints have come a long way in today's society and will continue to do so with burst of fast fashion making its way through the industry. As the mistakes learned from the past, along with injustices and statement pieces that hold so much more value in confidence for women, make me think about how we could appreciate how animal prints did in some way help the feminist movement. This gave women more than just confidence and positivity but also giving them a voice - how animal prints are about more than just fashion pieces but political injustices too.


bottom of page