A Brief History of Animal Prints
In honor of my favorite leopard print coat, I thought it would be fun to write a blog about the history of animal prints and their use in lingerie. Animal skins have been used since ancient times for warmth and protection, but have also had spiritual significance as well. Many indigenous societies believed that by wearing the skin of an animal, you were harnessing that animal’s power.
Today, we prefer to wear the prints of animal pelts as opposed to the real deal, but maybe we are still trying to capture some of the wildness of our primitive past! The animal print has been very fashionable throughout the twentieth century, and here are a few examples of how they have been chic, sexy, and a bit dangerous.
Thanks to World War II, the 1940s saw the emergence of the pin-up girl as a new American icon. One of the most iconic pin-ups of the era was Bettie Page, a model known for her risqué fetish photography. Some of her best images were the Jungle Bettie photographs in which she posed with cheetahs in a Tarzan-like leopard mini-dress. The idea of women as sexual predators was a dominant one of the forties; perhaps men were uncomfortable with the growing emancipation of women. Page in her leopard lingerie were strong images of feminine power, and inspired many women to wear animal prints.
Christian Dior, the famous couturier of the 1950s, is another important lover of animal prints. His obsession with leopard fabrics came from his supremely chic muse, Mitzah Bricard. This Parisian fashion plate was Dior’s right hand woman, and thanks to her love of leopard, Dior produced accessories, gowns, and ad campaigns featuring the animal’s print. Dior’s interpretation of leopard was chic and refined as opposed to Page’s overt sexiness, and no fifties wardrobe was complete without a touch of leopard.
Animal prints have a dangerous side as well, thanks to the punk rock scene of the late seventies. The punks brought a trashy vibe to 1970s fashion, and often chose to wear animal print lingerie and stockings under their ripped and torn clothing. The seediness and danger of punk infiltrated the mainstream through the photos of Helmut Newton, and by the end of the decade animal print lingerie, hosiery and fashion was everywhere.
Want to ask me about fashion history?
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Bettie Page: http://piley.blogspot.com/2009/12/bettie-page.html
Animal Print swatches: http://www.housefabrics.com/