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Radley Stories

Style Notes

Animal Prints Used in Fashion: A Guide to Different Animal Prints

02 June 2023

Discover the different animal prints used in fashion and find out all about their history and popularity through the decades with our Radley London guide.

What are Animal Prints?

Animal prints are inspired by the natural pattern of an animal’s coat or fur and they are extremely popular within the fashion industry. 

There are many types of animal print, including leopard, cheetah, zebra, tiger, cow and giraffe, as well as snakeskin and crocodile textures. The most common animal print fashion is leopard spots, which has remained popular through every decade across animal print bags, coats and more. 

Animal Print Trends Over Time

Animal prints have been around for many years. Centuries ago, they were seen as luxurious and exotic, and were used to symbolise wealth and status with many Kings and Queen choosing animal print rugs to emphasise their affluence. 

Now, animal prints are used in fashion and often seen as a bold choice but not one to shy away from. Leopard print in particular has always been embraced and has certainly made its mark in history with many iconic TV and film characters gaining reputations for wearing leopard-print coats and dresses. 

In the 1931 film The Graduate, Anne Bancroft’s character Mrs Robinson wore a leopard-print lingerie set, for which she is now known. It was also during the 1930s that American actress, Bette Davis, was seen wearing a leopard-print coat and her iconic red lipstick, which prompted the sales of these items to soar as many attempted to recreate her look. 

In the 1980s, bold was always better. Trends were big and bright, from hair and make-up to shoulder pads and busy prints, and animal patterns in fashion became very popular as many people shopped for leopard-print faux fur coats. 

After the ‘80s, the hysteria around animal print calmed down and it wasn’t until late 2017 that it began to rise again. Reintroduced to runway collections, different animal prints were appearing in the form of zebra stripes, snakeskin textures and the beloved leopard print. 

But why is animal print fashion doing so well? It’s believed that changes to the way women are perceived may be supporting the popularity of animal prints. Bold prints are often seen as a sign of confidence and currently, female empowerment has never been stronger.

The animal print trend has been around for decades, and despite rising and falling in popularity, it always returns with huge success, making any animal-print item a worthy investment. Despite trends changing, you can be sure that all types of animal print will return again in the future, giving you the perfect opportunity to pull out those wardrobe staples again. 


“The pattern designed to help these dangerous animals blend in was one that a woman used to stand out.” - Jo Weldon, 2018 - Fierce: The History of Leopard Print

Different Animal Prints

Snakeskin Print

Inspired by the snake’s scales, this pattern has become one of the most popular animal prints used in fashion. It’s common to find snakeskin in pared-back palettes such as grey and brown, making it easy to add subtle hints to outfits without being too bold. Snakeskin can be found across clothing, footwear including pretty ballerina shoes, trainers and ankle boots, plus leather accessories.

Cow Print

The standout print of 2019 and the newest on the fashion scene is the cow print. Similar to the black and white Dalmatian spots, it is thought to be a more subtle option of animal print in a monochrome palette. Made popular by influencers and fashion icons such as Kylie Jenner and Meghan Markle, cow print has now appeared as part of every major luxury fashion brand’s collections.

Leopard Print 

Arguably the most popular print, leopard print is an iconic part of animal print fashion history. Often favoured in its natural colour palette, this print has also been recreated in snowy leopard and neon alternatives to create clothing items for all occasions. A favourite among celebrities and consumers, you’ll find it on patterned dresses, co-ords, blouses and accessories.

Crocodile Print 

Very similar to snakeskin, crocodile print is inspired by the animal’s scales. Not as bold as other animal prints, it’s typically given a more subtle colour palette and is often thought of as truly luxurious and exotic. Some of the most popular crocodile print items are leather handbags and leather boots. You can find out All About Leather with our Radley London guide.

Zebra Print

Less common than other animal prints, the zebra print gained popularity in 2019 when it was introduced to collections and catwalks. With options in the animal’s natural black and white palette, as well as coloured designs, the zebra print continues to build a reputation. One of the most popular items in recent years has been the zebra-print jumper.

Tiger Print

Just before the zebra print rose in popularity, the tiger print emerged as one of the key animal print trends for Autumn/Winter 2018 and continues to appear today. Worn by fashion influencers in the form of long coats and midi dresses, this type of animal print was favoured in its natural colourway before paler recreations began to emerge.

How to Wear Animal Prints

Which season? During spring and summer, different animal prints are paired with bright colours to match the vibrancy of the season, while in autumn and winter months it’s worn with darker, more subtle colours.

Which event? Animal prints can be sophisticated if worn correctly. With animal print accessories such as pretty ballerina shoes, patterned earrings or a statement bag, you can subtly introduce this trend to your occasion outfits.

Which weekday? Depending on your job, you may or may not be able to wear animal print to work. If suitable, pairing a printed blouse with tailored items like trousers or pencil skirts, adds some personality to smart and sophisticated looks. If you work in a more casual setting, an animal print might help to reflect your fashionable, fun and confident side.

Can I Wear Animal Print if I am Vegan?

Wearing animal print comes down to personal preference. All types of animal prints are inspired by the natural markings on an animal’s coat and are not necessarily sourced from the animal itself. Before making a purchase, you should check the composition of the item to ensure it is suitable for you.