Many things have gone in and out of fashion throughout time. In fact, whatever your parents, or even your grandparents, wore when they were younger you would not dare wear it today. However, I can guarantee that if they owned a piece of clothing that was of a particular style, you just might be quick to wear it. And if you haven’t already guessed, I'm talking about…animal print.
Over the course of a century, animal print has been a force in fashion. It has implemented itself in luxury, power, sexuality, and much more. Unfortunately, with animal print having such an influence in so many aspects in society, it has created distinctive divides between groups in society as well.
The style was first brought into popularity when film stars like Joan Crawford began to wear it in the public eye in the 1920s. Going into the 1940s, more notorious figures like Bettie Page continued to push the trend. In fact, because of this, animal print ended up being more in demand due to the influence of celebrities.
Change in affluence
Since people with status had first started wearing it, it sparked the notion that animal print was a style fit for those who could afford to live in luxury. Coats of that style were signature looks of wealthy women in the 1950s and '60s. They showed sophistication and class and if you were caught wearing them it would reveal to people that you were of a certain standard.
Unfortunately, as timed passed, animal print went from making you look chic, to making you look trashy. It represented sexually available women. Kat Slater, from the famous soap opera EastEnders, is an embodiment of this. Slater’s signature look since her debut has always been animal print, and many of her storylines were about her engaging in sexual activity.
Women and the war
However, in the time where animal print was thriving, specifically in the 1940s, the style did have more depth to it than just being trendy. The '40s was a significant time for women in relation to the Second World War. They stepped out of their typical housewife and mother roles and were actively involved in essential positions.
After the war, they became a force in society and understood that their destinies were no longer limited to wifehood and motherhood. In fact, this newfound independence led to soaring high divorce rates.
And, with animal print having been so prevalent in fashion during those times, the style grew in significance. More women bought animal print clothing because it made them appear brave and fierce.
Christian Dior told women after Second World War, "If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it." During these times, animal print was a trend that was not suited for women who were not fierce and sassy, and it didn't fit the aesthetic of women who were lovely and tender.
The style definitely came with connotations of being untamed and wildness. Evolutionary psychologists have suggested that threat and arousal are the two things that draw us to animal patterns. In the 1950s, sex appeal was heavily linked with animal print. Men were attracted to women in animal print because they saw them as beings who had to be tamed. Women were inspired by those in animal print because they oozed dominance and power.
All sorts of power have also been affected by trend. Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was famous for his animal print hat. In many countries across Africa, animal fur and masculine power are connected. Hunters thought owning the print gave them the power and skills that animal had. Kings and queens used the print to display their social status. Michelle Obama often wore the print and despite her being FLOTUS, it made her accessible and sociable because by that time, it was not just style an exclusive to the elite.
The future of animal print
Fashion is constantly changing but what has remained consistent is the popularity of animal print. Throughout the course of time, it has been a style that has catered to people from all sorts of backgrounds. However, what is interesting about it is that not everyone receives it the same way. To some people, the style is associated with affluence and luxury, whereas with others find it to be cheap and tasteless. Irrespective of that, animal print truly has been consistent style and since it has maintained relevance for a century, there's no doubt that it will continue.