Just when you thought you'd run out of ways to entertain yourself during the quarantine, Netflix drops Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. The documentary chronicles the demise of zoo keeper Joe Exotic (real name Joe Maldonado-Passage), a “completely insane, gun-toting, drug addict fanatic.” Yes, that is a real quote.
Produced by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, the seven-episode series covers the years leading up to Joe Exotic’s trial and sentencing for hatching a murder-for-hire plot against his biggest rival, Carole Baskin. The founder of Big Cat Rescue, Baskin regularly leveled animal abuse allegations against Exotic. It's also rumored that Baskin allegedly killed her second husband and fed him to her tigers. (Baskin denies all allegations against her in her husband's disappearance throughout the documentary.)
While the series is indeed full of mayhem, murder, and madness, there’s another serious issue that must be discussed: the fashion. Baskin dresses almost exclusively in animal print. In one scene, Baskin takes the viewer through her home, showing off her leopard furniture, vases, plates, cups, table cloths, towels, and luggage, alongside an entire closet of outfits in the pattern.
Some of Baskin's most memorable looks? A floral and cat print blouse with a matching flower crown. A graphic tiger t-shirt and spotted wide leg pants. A monochrome cheetah print ensemble (with a very '00s cowl neck shirt) paired with a single strand of pearls... for court.
Of her feline-inspired ‘fits, she says: "It's almost a uniform. When I go in to talk with a legislator, if I go in there, dressed head to toe in cat prints, people remember 'Oh, that's the person that's going to be all over my case about why cats need to be protected.'" And you know what, that checks out.
Upon seeing Baskin unveil racks and racks of cat print clothing, I started thinking about my own closet. I, too, have a deep affinity for leopard. Sure animal print is seeing a resurgence right now, but I wear it whether it's in style or not. I have dresses, handbags, swimwear, sandals, boots, flats, pajamas, and even blankets in the swirling pattern.
My family is aware of my obsession and every Christmas, to my delight, there's some sort of cat-inspired clothing under the tree. Not sure what to gift me? Leopard is a safe bet. The same is true for Baskin who remarks that a blue spotted towel hanging in her bathroom "was a gift." She quips that she has no trouble spotting her leopard luggage at the airport, and same with my cheetah print umbrella at coat check. I am cringing at the similarities here.
But what does it all mean? Do I secretly want to be a big cat person? Would I dedicate all my waking hours and millions of dollars (...if I had it) to protecting cats from the likes of Joe Exotic? Will I one day get married and dress my husband in leopard print and a leash for our wedding pics? I turned to a fashion psychologist for answers.
According to Fashion Psychologist Dawnn Karen, it all goes back to childhood. "When someone has an affinity for leopard, it stems from an experience in their childhood that they find most significant," she tells Bustle. "In that experience, they felt an emotion that they wanted to feel for perpetuity. If that person wore leopard on a particular day, and say for instance, they were getting bullied, they may have been able to activate this ferociousness, and then they were never bullied again."
A leopard print fixation can also be linked to personality traits, Karen explains. "It could indicate that the person is circumspective, meaning they're always on alert and on guard essentially. This could also indicate that this person is domineering." Like cats, that person may also have the ability to balance being introverted and extroverted. "Cats are peculiar creatures that have an amount of self-love that allows them to be alone," she shares. "But when their owner comes home, they can be snuggled next to their owner. So they have this duality, if you will."
Unsurprisingly, fans of leopard print have a fondness for cats, but Karen says their connection is deeper than you'd think. "This person may view the animal as being egalitarian to them as opposed to feeling like animals are inferior. They would view cats as having personality and characteristics."
So, should animal print fanatics be worried that their habit is borderline obsessive? Not at all, Karen insists. "If it makes you feel good and it's something that you like and it's eliciting a healthy emotion, then that's fine."
She explains that it only becomes an issue when you are concerned about what others think. "In my book Dress Your Best Life, I have a chapter titled 'Are You Dressing For Self Or Are You Dressing For Others?' and in it, I talk about these extremes and balancing these extremes," she reveals. "For someone that's concerned about [whether] wearing the same print [is] obsessive, it's only obsessive to the perceiver, the person that's viewing you. If you are concerned about what others think, incorporate a way to balance the dressing for yourself and dressing for others."
If this is making you feel better about your love for leopard, you are not alone. Lean in, and shop prints inspired by the “Mother Teresa of cats" below.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.