Leopard print can be tricky to wear. Do it right and you'll look classy like Jackie O. (or more recently, Kate Middleton) or effortlessly cool like Alexa Chung; do it wrong and you'll look like the mom from Matilda . Terrifyingly high stakes. Still, I'm a big advocate of the leopard print coat. Other than a few leopard print accessories, the coat pictured in this article is the only animal print in my closet. I definitely recommend starting with a scarf or a pair of shoes if at all possible (my gateway drug into the world of leopard print was a pair of Gap ballet flats) but once you've eased into it that way, skip over leopard print dresses and tops and go straight to the coat.
It might seem drastic to go from a touch of leopard print in your accessories to covering the majority of your body with it, but the genius of a coat is twofold: you can easily take it off once you get inside, so it's low-risk, and it goes well on top of pretty much any outfit you can think of. Don't believe me? To prove it, here are five outfits that I paired with my leopard print coat for every occasion, from super casual to extremely formal.
1. For A Casual Sunday
A leopard print coat doesn't always have to be dressed up. It looks just as good when it's dressed down with casual street clothes: in this instance, a hoodie, a cropped t-shirt, high-waisted jeans and Adidas Superstars. The leopard print gives this sporty outfit a fun touch of quirky dissonance. You can take this outfit from walking the dog to going out for coffee or lunch with friends.
2. For A Saturday Night Out
Suppose it's Saturday night and you're going out with your squad. Skip the bodycon dress and tiny jacket and instead wear something a little more rocker-chic. Nothing goes better with a leopard print coat than a pair of leather (or in my case pleather) pants. A fun T-shirt balances out the killer heels. Whether you spend the night partying with your friends or going home with some cutie, this outfit is prepared to handle any situation.
3. For Work
Oh great, it's Monday again. That doesn't mean your leopard print coat has to be retired to the back of the closet until the next weekend though. Air it out a little bit first if it's seen a lot of partying, and then use it to give a boring work outfit some much-needed personality. Here I'm wearing a silk button-down and a pencil skirt with tights and heels: typical workwear. Add the leopard print, however, and this outfit gets an injection of confidence and sass. If it's a bit too much for your office, no worries: you're taking the coat off once you get to your desk anyway.
4. For Date Night
I love pairing a leopard print coat with a tiny slip-like dress. It's sort of trashy in a '90s way: think Kate Moss. Embrace that vibe, I say. Who cares if your roots show or you have a run in your stockings? It goes with the look. Add dark lipstick too if you want, but for shoes, I suggest picking something that's not too flashy to keep things from being overkill. Wear either a demure pair of ankle-strap heels like the ones above, or if you want to go for the cool girl vibe (and profit from it by being super comfortable) wear black ankle boots like below.
Pro tip: If your date gives you a hard time about your leopard print coat, they are obviously not cool enough to date you.
5. For A Formal Event
Finally, just because you're headed to a formal event that doesn't mean you have to wear a boring black coat. Make a grand entrance at your cousin's winter wedding or the office holiday party or whatever by showing up with a leopard print coat draped over your shoulders. Bonus: if there are any outdoor photo ops, you're bound to stand out in every picture.
I hope the real takeaway here is that (surprise!) you can wear a leopard print coat with anything for any occasion. These were just a few ideas. Whether you like to wear retro dresses or you're more of a jeans girl or you prefer the minimal all-black look, a leopard print coat is the perfect finish to any outfit. The only key is to wear it with confidence, because it is a loud piece that will draw every eye to you. Even if you're normally a wallflower, your leopard print coat will convince people that you're the life of the party — and if it you wear it often enough, it'll convince you too.
Images: Kelly Dougher