We love a good leopard spot as much as the next Fran Drescher fan, but there are perhaps a few rules for wearing animal print to make it feel less like a ‘90s character costume. Whether you’re unsure how to incorporate these patterns into your existing wardrobe, or you just want to know what’s the coolest way to rock your favorite exotic spots, here are our top ten tips for wearing animal print like a pro in 2022.
10 Rules for Wearing Animal Print in 2022
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1. Start Simple with a Single Patterned Item and Black Separates
The easiest way to incorporate animal print into your wardrobe is one piece at a time paired with all black everything. Most animal prints have at least some black in them, so you know they’ll match, and an all-black ensemble is pretty much a no-fail way to look chic and put-together with minimum effort. We’d call that a win-win situation, for sure.
2. Let Your Outerwear Steal the Show
If you’re opting for an animal print trench coat, we’re going to go ahead and assume it’s because you’d rather stand out from the usual sea of beige, black and khaki green fall jackets. So why distract from your star piece with super bright colors or more patterns? Give your spotted coat room to shine by keeping the rest of your look neutral. And if you’re really dying to add in another bold pop, keep it small by way of a mini handbag or statement earring.
Shop similar styles: Just Cavalli Leopard Trench Coat (
$966; $695); SKIMS Fits Everybody T-Shirt Bodysuit ($62); Levi’s Ribcage Bootcut Jeans ($108); Burberry Olympia Shoulder Bag ($830); Jeffrey Campbell Maximal Boots ($220)
3. For the Office, Stick to One Accessory
Especially in more conservative work environments, leopard spots might be considered too showy or, conversely, too casual. So rather than rock an animal print blazer, try a smaller piece—like a tote bag, belt or headband—instead.
Shop similar styles: Sostter Leopard Print Bag ($277); Madewell Caldwell Double-Breasted Blazer ($158); Marine Layer Swing Crew T-Shirt ($45); Everlane The Way-High Drape Pants ($118); Superga Cotu Sneakers ($65)
4. There Are More Options Than Just Leopard or Cheetah Prints
Don’t forget about snakeskin, tiger and zebra stripes, cow and giraffe spots and, of course, Dalmatian print. There are many more options to choose from, all of which can add an unexpected-but-fun pop to your outfit. All the animal print rules in this list can just as easily apply to these less common takes on the trend, so feel free to have some fun with whatever print most suits your fancy.
5. Treat the Print Like a Neutral
Don’t be afraid to mix leopard with other patterns, like plaids, stripes or florals. Hint: Pairing shorter hems with spotted shoes creates a natural separation between the two prints and is less overwhelming to the eye.
6. Create Some Distance Between Mismatched Prints
You don’t have to drive yourself crazy trying to perfectly match one animal print item to another, but if you’re worried they’ll look odd placed next to one another, the best thing to do is add in a buffer piece. In the outfit above, a cream sweater and blue wash denim create distance between a leopard coat and leopard booties. But you could also use a white T-shirt to separate a spotted skirt from a head scarf, or black denim to separate flats and a crossbody bag.
7. Mix Black-and-White Animal Prints with Other Black-and-White Prints
Black-and-white stripes go with just about everything, so why shouldn’t black-and-white spots? Go forth and mix that cow print in with a striped dress or even a black-and-white floral. You can always use solid black items to draw the look together, like the black jacket and bag do above.
8. Remember That a Little Can Go a Long Way
Any easy way to break up a monochrome outfit without introducing too much color is by way of a neutral-hued animal print. Eschew unnatural variations, like pink cheetah or blue-and-yellow zebra stripes, for prints that look truer to their wild inspirations. This will help add depth to an otherwise single-note outfit without actually distracting from the central color.
9. Avoid Pairing Neon Colors and Animal Prints
The duo harkens back to the ‘80s, but not in a good way. It’s just too bold a combination, in our opinion, and most of the time ends up looking just too busy. Opt for a pastel shade instead, if you’re not one for neutral hues.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Some Fun
We may call this a list of “rules,” but realistically, fashion is all about having fun. So don’t be afraid to go big (or small or bright or dark or kooky or retro) and try something you’re not 100 percent certain actually works. Who knows, you might just end up finding a new combination you absolutely adore.
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