I Wish This Were Endangered

by Erin on August 29, 2008


Cavalli NM dress

Theresa sent this in as an example of a fauxlero, which it might be, but it's also an example of the kind of dress that makes me wince. It's Cavalli, of course, who is the King of Wince as far as I'm concerned, but I'm sure I would be just as flinchy if it were Calvin Klein.

I know a lot of people love them and that they're sometimes considered kicky and retro and cool, but I just Don't Get animal prints. I feel like they are altogether too much like work; either you have to BE the leopard-print-wearing sexpot implied by your dress, or you have to be constantly elbowing everyone in the metaphorical ribs, saying "Get it? Get it? I'm playing with notions of sexuality (or class, or whatever). Grrr."

Of course, there are scores of things that I don't especially like that many other people enjoy immensely: bananas, Larry David, and the "music" of Rush come immediately to mind. And the number of things that I like that other people can't stand are also legion: the color orange, smelling like a box of Good & Plentys, extremely vulgar and palindromic hip-hop, liverwurst. De gustibus, and all that.

So every time I feel the urge to issue some kind of sartorial fiat, declaring animal prints (or sweatpants with "Juicy" written across the butt, or that godawful David Yurman jewelry) non grata, I think — "Wait a minute, what if someone out there loves lycra tiger stripes as much — or more — than I love liverwurst? Who am I to begrudge them their happiness?" So I don't.

I still wish Cavalli would retire, though. Hasn't the man done enough? (Although, come to think of it, this isn't bad …)

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

MAS August 29, 2008 at 8:48 am

Hm. I think David Yurman jewelry is beautiful. Which I guess proves your point!

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whistlepeaknits August 29, 2008 at 8:48 am

I always hated animal prints too. And Larry David makes me cringe. Also Rush, and I’m Canadian so I’ve heard plenty. But then I also hate orange.

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Anonymous August 29, 2008 at 9:07 am

That dress should come with a warning: “Flashbacks may occur”. I swear I heard ABBA’s Dancing Queen playing when I opened the page!

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sixties sewer August 29, 2008 at 9:11 am

I like Cavalli, sometimes. I like the “on the edge of trashiness” look, particularly because people think I am the near opposite — too safe, too much of a good girl. So I get a kick out of inappropriate looks for me. I don’t love animal prints, true, but sometimes the inner tiger has to at least peek out.

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Lydia August 29, 2008 at 9:19 am

Well, you know me and my love of leopard print! But I almost always use it in some sort of color blocking design. The only dress I have that’s all leopard print is a little cotton shift. This particular use of animal print is just too much of a not-very-great-thing. Which is too bad because the lines of the dress are gorgeous, IMO.

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Charles August 29, 2008 at 9:41 am

Tiger print? Oh! I thought it was a camouflage pattern. You know, the famous “Coffee Spills against Linoleum” pattern used by coffeehouse guerrillas for decades.

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Sold A Moke August 29, 2008 at 9:46 am

I hate animal prints too. The second Cavalli dress is nice, but the choice of shoes is unfortunate.

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Anonymous August 29, 2008 at 9:47 am

Now I have a sudden craving for liverwurst.

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Amy B. August 29, 2008 at 9:47 am

I’ve never been a fan of animal prints. Every ten years or so I try and give them a shot but I always look just a little too desperate, like the clingy girl on the edge of the cool kid clique.

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Kate in England August 29, 2008 at 9:53 am

I hate animal prints in clothing, it’s just the height of naff to my eyes, but a friend of mine is obsessed with all thing leopard-print, so each to their own I suppose! Weirdly, this is the second time this week that I’ve read something about girls with ‘Juicy’ on their backsides – the first was a Men’s Vogue article about two artists who dressed some disinterested teenagers in 50s clothes. The article is here if you’re interested.

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tea August 29, 2008 at 10:10 am

I like Etro Anice, too. And orange.Athough I have a tough time with animal prints (especially because I feel like theyve been done to deathliterally and metaphorically), I kind of like the hasnt he done enough example. Its an unusual take on the theme, though I still wouldnt have done it quite like that (so formless!). The second dress is too low-waisted and too long and too much with the horrible boots for my taste, though the rest of it is a good idea and very Beetlejuice in a way. Mostly, though, I LOVE the sleeves of the tiger dress. Im all about the tight to the top of the elbow sleeves, lately. I think because theyll be easy to put a sweater over when winter comes.

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Theresa August 29, 2008 at 10:28 am

I have always liked the trashiness of animal prints. I have a love for all things tacky. I also love orange ( I made an orange wool dress and an orange wool skirt last fall). I hate Rush too. My ex husband was a Rush fanatic….I absolutely hated it! I hate juicy across the buts of women… and here at Columbia SC – University of South Carolina are the Gamecocks. Here women walk with COCKS emblazoned across their butts and chests…or worse “I love cocks!” We even have COCK fest. shudder

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Nancy (nanflan) August 29, 2008 at 10:33 am

Not wild about that print, but I like the lines of that dress. I’m not usually a big Cavalli fan, either.

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Lisa Simeone August 29, 2008 at 10:33 am

I’ve become obsessed with animal prints over the past couple of years. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, I only know I love them and can’t get enough. I think they’re classic. Timeless. Simultaneously retro and modern. Of course, they can be tacky, too; anything can if it’s done badly.But I think this dress is gorgeous. I wouldn’t even call it a tiger print, frankly. It’s more abstract than that. And the “stripes” are more gold-colored than brown/black.That black Cavalli dress to which you linked — I have a black Cavalli skirt that’s very similar. (Got it at a 75% off sale; otherwise, god knows I could never afford the always-overpriced Cavalli.)You’re right about personal taste, of course. To each his own! (although “Juicy” across the butt — ugh — that’s just sad)

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Local Egg August 29, 2008 at 10:34 am

MC Paul Barman!! A rapper that name checks Dorothy Parker is a wonderful thing.

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Lisa Simeone August 29, 2008 at 10:36 am

Oh! And how could I forget Larry David?! You do know about my crush on him, don’t you, and my years-long quest to get an interview with him? Ah, well, I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

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wundermary August 29, 2008 at 10:49 am

Animal prints just look better where they belong. Those dresses are horrific! What is up with that guy?I enjoyed the Wiki on palindromes; not so much what it was attached to.

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propriatress August 29, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I believe leopard prints are appropriate for all sartorial occasions….and yes, you can’t be an oatmeal cookie and wear it with confidence, though…..I love liverwurst….So, um wear and eat what you like…..and I think I’ll applique BIG on the butt of a few pairs of sweats and sell them in my store!

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Eirlys August 29, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Can’t think “animal print” without thinking of Bette Lynch, the erstwhile barmaid in British soap ‘Coronation Street’. More here: http://www.juliegoodyearmbe.com/photogallery.htmlI'm not a big fan, but I’m guessing the Venn diagram of “apple processors” and “animal print lovers” will be found to have no overlap.

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Eirlys August 29, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Couldnt help but notice that a Facebooker is appealing for snakeskin fabric for a swap:http://www.new.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=2205033355topic=5376

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Anonymous August 29, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Funny when the page started loading and the picture appeared the first thing that came to my mind was “What a beautiful dress”. It’s not screaming animal print to me. Actually if you hadn’t mentioned it’s an animal print, I would never even have thought of it.

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Julia August 29, 2008 at 12:33 pm

I nearly choked on my banana laughing at “Larry David and… ‘music”..rush”. I have to agree – cept for the bananas. Oh, and that last Cavalli dressin black – nice. I never could do the animal prints – just grates against the naturalist in me.

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goldilocks August 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm

I like the idea of animal prints, but hardly ever admire the execution. That being said, now I have a hankering to make my favorite Easy, Safe and Modest Shirtdress, Vogue 8021, in cotton leopard print.

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evalyn August 29, 2008 at 1:02 pm

I don’t see the dress as animal print – it’s horizontal abstract stiping. I’ve never seen an animal marked that way. Anyway, I like the style and fit of the dress. However, the one in the link that’s floral and fur – that’s nasty.

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Kate in England August 29, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Back to say, I’ve seen a picture somewhere else of that Cavalli dress and it’s actually a really beautiful print underneath the weird leopard applique strips. Also, since you are now the fake Diana Vreeland, did you see that Style.com has dedicated a section of this autumn’s fashions as “Diana Vreeland” appropriate? You can see the slideshow here

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Vegan August 29, 2008 at 1:10 pm

I love animal prints (I have a leopard print jacket, a leopard print skirt, and lots of leopard and zebra print lingerie), but this one is a *bad* animal print. This does not look like an animal. It looks like ribbons of caramel and fudge in a pint of ice cream. Evelyn, I agree that it doesn’t look like an animal print, but I would suspect that’s what they were going for.

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Anonymous August 29, 2008 at 2:00 pm

I’m not a Cavalli ( and certainly not an animal print ) fan, but I have to admit to liking a lot of the dresses in the Fall 2008 Collection that was linked…. and a majority of them appear to have pockets.

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lorrwill August 29, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Excellent, hilarious post.I have in my WTF? files a picture of a pair of shredded, faded and other wise destroyed, crappy jeans – with a $1,600.00 price tag. Guess who “designed” them.The problem with animal prints for me is they make me think of trashy, tacky, Pamela Anderson-type women. I want no part of that club.VIVE L’ORANGE! (Caveat: Tasteful orange – like something found in nature, from the fruit(s) to the sultry, autumn tones. I’ll have none of that neon/safety crap, thank your very much.) But I can’t wear it with my skin tone :-( Well maybe pumpkin.Mmmmmmmmm liverwurst……..

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Elle August 29, 2008 at 2:58 pm

“This does not look like an animal. It looks like ribbons of caramel and fudge in a pint of ice cream.” Wow, maybe that’s why I loved it when the pic came up! And I do love it, on the model. Or on my daughter. It would just be disastrous on me, all those horizontal lines in the wrong places (and pretty much everywhere on me is the wrong places).

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Lauren August 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm

I’m just shocked that people would pay $1300 for a nylon/spandex dress, no matter WHO designed it. 99% of the time, that combo looks cheap if it isn’t part of athletic attire.

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Cookie August 29, 2008 at 3:12 pm

I think that dress would be nice for a gallery opening, but it’s a little too loud to wear anywhere else. Small touches of leopard (like Mrs. Robinson’s pillbox hat, or on the lapels and cuffs of a suit) are neat. It can also make for very fun lingerie. If I were going to wear leopard all over, I’d want to go all the way and have it be some Norman Norrell sheath made out of shimmering sequins. PS: I have a pair of skintight spandex, Pat Benatar type pants in leopard, but I only wear them to auditions for crack ho roles. They always get compliments, but maybe people get roped into staring in horror, and just have to say SOMETHING.

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Anonymous August 29, 2008 at 4:43 pm

I also don’t like bananas, or Larry David, Rush, sweatpants butt slogans, or David Yurman jewelry.But I would like a fake fur leopard swing coat with a silky purple lining. I’d wear it with dressy clothes or with jeans, and with quirky hats. Not sure what that says about me – maybe I have some repressed diva tendencies?-Natalie

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Cel Petro August 29, 2008 at 5:11 pm

I had a liverwurst sandwich just last Friday. It has become a guilty pleasure ’cause you can’t be eatin’ that stuff so much all the time (it had spicy mustard and was on a really good roll. Pate, dahling.

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Karen August 29, 2008 at 5:19 pm

I also have trouble seeing this dress as animal print. Tigers aren’t striped like that at all! Maybe its ‘inspired by’ tiger print. does that make it any better? The lower stripes look like twigs, I could see a whole ‘nature’ themed fashion line in this direction, with roughly-shaped sticks, leaves, and flowers. I love the idea of animal print though, and I think it can be classy if done well and with artistic restraint. I’ve never been able to pull it off though.

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mamafrog August 29, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Seriously–I’m with the dress is ugly and wrong on so many levels. But I really like animal prints more and more as I get older!! NOT the real thing–just fabric, of course. It reminds me of the beautiful animals and it’s fun to wear and play with. It takes all kinds to make up the world and I’ve seen some really awful fashions I wouldn’t wear that work okay for other people.

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Anonymous August 29, 2008 at 6:24 pm

Doesn’t anyone at least appreciate the gorgeous lines of this dress? Check out the zoom view. It’s fantastic! The fabric, not so much, and it certainly ought to be silk jersey instead of nylon spandex for $1,300, but at least it’s a different take on animal print. I would wear this. I’m not obsessed with animal prints, not a crack ho, and not sleazy. Actually, I’d be considered a pretty conservative dresser by most.

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lorrwill August 29, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Yes. I sort of like the dress style itself. After all, it is a fauxlero! But it is way, way too low cut for day wear (for me) and if I were to copy it that neckline would go up several inches.And allow me to be a happy vintage pattern addict/enabler and point out that Janet at Lanetz Living is having a Labor Day sale.@cookie: you are too funny!

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tampopo August 29, 2008 at 8:08 pm

I once crossed the street behind a wannabee fashionista with the utterly ridiculous and somehow more grotesque ‘uicy’ emblazoned on her bum…I have an irrespressible love for op prints, including zebra, which are fun when surreptitiously mixed with the right fabrics and colours…I hope…

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Yvonne August 29, 2008 at 8:46 pm

I’m with others who’ve already commented: I don’t think animal print at all when I see this fabric, more abstract, sunlight/shadows, camouflage-y effect. There’s a “jungle” aspect to it for sure, but it’s vegetation that comes to mind rather than animals. It wouldn’t suit me but I don’t find it offensive or obnoxious. Do quite like the cut though, very flattering for the girl with a long neck, narrow shoulders, small breasts and long torso!

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AE August 29, 2008 at 9:15 pm

And here I thought this blog was a safe place to indulge both my love of pretty dresses and the musical stylings of Rush. I guess that was too much to hope for, and I’ll have to go back to compartmentalizing my interests.

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goldilocks August 29, 2008 at 11:35 pm

(I like Rush, too. In limited quantities.) Boy, it IS hard to think of where you would wear this dress. Too low-cut for regular daywear, too stripy for any formal occasion I can think of… ??? Would you wear it out for dinner and drinks, maybe? Maybe the ladies shopping at NM would have a spot on their day-planner for such a garment. That sort of thing is just galaxies away from the little domestic world I inhabit. Babies and chickens and laundry, doncha know.And yes, 1300 bucks is too much for nylon/spandex. Blech.

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Anonymous August 30, 2008 at 12:43 am

Ooh! Thanks! I made a sign for my closet with the latin saying you linked to. (yes, incorrect grammar)

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saidee August 30, 2008 at 3:37 am

Love the black lace dress, used to love liverwurst until I had to feed my cat wet food, love almost anything licorice and the way good ‘n plenty click on the teeth, also love bananas and am a woman of a certain age so don’t get most of the other references, though I do like palindromes, but not so undiscriminately IMHO to include hip hop?rap? (sorry, it’s late).Must go to bed because it IS so late, but now I have to check out the Latin link, tho’ I remember almost nothing from my 2 years in H.S., which was in the dim and distant past.LOL at the ‘enough’ link: so nice to have a good laugh to retire on, so thanks a bunch!

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saidee August 30, 2008 at 3:49 am

Oh. De gustibus. I guess I remember more Latin than I think I do.Orange is a recent passion–wish I could wear it.Have an unindulged–so far–weakness for animal print shoes. One pair would do it: either rather high pumps, which I wear about once every 3 years, or maybe ballet flats which would get more wear. Hmm…may have to get some. Discreet trim on a jacket is on my to-sew list. Some day.

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Meg August 30, 2008 at 9:37 am

Liverwurst is great. So is the color orange. Yellow is the true enemy. That and bologna.

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Gidget Bananas August 30, 2008 at 11:48 am

OMG! [insert other adolescent text exclamations here]Good N Plenty is my favorite candy, I love orange (can’t really wear it, alas) and liverwurst is one of my guilty pleasures! If I wasn’t old enough to be your mother, Erin, I’d say we were separated at birth!I used to like animal prints as an accent (I have an old one-button suit jacket with a velvet leopard-print color and an oversized leopard-print button that I can’t give up) but I haven’t worn any since animal prints were designated the official uniform of the “cougar.” And by cougar I don’t mean the beautiful mountain lion, but the label afixed to older women who, allegedly, cruise for younger men. Hate the label, hate the association. Thanks for ruining a simple pleasure, popular culture!!!Oh, how I do go on.

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Gidget Bananas August 30, 2008 at 11:49 am

Should that be “If I were not . . .?” I think it should.

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India August 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm

My mom loves anything animal-printed, and she’s able to look cool in it somehow.Not having inherited this ability, the closest thing I have to an animal-print garment is a skirt with green, black, and khaki abstracted leopard spots on a white ground. There’s a wide strip of black with white polka dots around the hem, and some piping and pleats are also involved. As implausible as this sounds, it’s really cutemaybe because the spots have mutated enough to pass for camo?I think I will wear it today.

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frken lila August 30, 2008 at 12:52 pm

usually i think animal prints are really tacky and i never ever would get the idea of wearing anything like that. or, well. i once had a pair of jeans with a cow-print on, they were kind of cool with a artan-checkered jacket =) anyways, this dress actually doesn’t look so tacky, and i think it is because i didn’t even realise it was an animal print, at first. i thought it was a kind of tree-branches print or grass growing horizontal. so. this one is not so bad, i think. i actually like it. but i wouldn’t wear it, because me and large horizontal prints don’t go well together..

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lorrwill August 30, 2008 at 5:54 pm

OMG thank you so much for bringing up the C word gidget bananas. I had no idea there was an animal print and trolling for boy-toys connection! Being of a certain age, this is news I need to know.Some women actually call themselves that on purpose! To me, to call yourself a ‘cougar’ is the same as saying, “Hi, I am a desperately hard-up older woman with the morals of a dog in heat who stalks young men for sex.”YECHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! I will seriously go off on anyone who calls me that. I have a couple of very subtly animal print scarves that I will be retiring now.

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lucitebox August 30, 2008 at 8:07 pm

I have to agree with Goldilocks. Not all animal prints are created equally. I happen to love leopard prints, but about 99.385% of them (most often the ones that are contemporary, rather than vintage) are completely wrong. They don’t do a good job at assigning the colors and the prints are all a mess of blobular shapes that are usually too small, too self-conscious, and just “off.”I notice this kitty gone bad sydrome particularly when looking at handbags and shoes with animal prints. I think there ought to be some realism to an animal print. My favorite I ever saw was a trench coat (vintage 70s) that was made of some sort of satin finish rayon. It had completely classic trench coat styling. Of course, where the heck is anyone going to wear that? But really, there are a lot of bad animal prints out there (I’m of the mind that this dress isn’t even animal-esque at all.) I completely agree with Cookie–”Small touches of leopard (like Mrs. Robinson’s pillbox hat, or on the lapels and cuffs of a suit) are neat. It can also make for very fun lingerie. If I were going to wear leopard all over, I’d want to go all the way and have it be some Norman Norrell sheath made out of shimmering sequins.” And wasn’t Anne Bancroft’s slip and bra in leopard print (probably Vanity Fair) just the best?!Add me to the list of concerned people wondering “What up with Cavalli?” I have never understood the appeal.If I may, I’d like to proffer this for any animal print lovers. If it were my size, I’d definitely wear it to a party, but never during the daytime. http://tinyurl.com/64c6hh

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Anonymous August 30, 2008 at 11:29 pm

That model is painfully thin. She looks like a mannequin. Sad.

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dugshop August 31, 2008 at 5:05 am

Doesn’t Anne Bancroft also have a pony print slip in The Graduate? I’m a selective animal print wearer – I have a Ceil Chapman leopard jumpsuit that’s just total boy-seducer wear, but truly, I wore it to work on Halloween, as Mrs. Robinson!Mostly I keep my animal prints to handbags, coats, and dog beds. It works out well!

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oracle August 31, 2008 at 8:03 am

To me, animal prints celebrate the wearing of real animal skins. So, they tend to turn me off since I feel, along with wundermary, that ‘animal prints look better where they belong’. I don’t eat meat from the flesh of my fellow beings, either. But if this sounds preachy, I don’t mean it to be! I mean it about how I live in the world, and not how others do.That said, I must take you to task about the bananas, Erin! How can you not like bananas! I mean, *really*!I do love orange, ‘though I look better in a sweeter, softer version of it than others might. Also love those stop-just-above-the-elbow sleeves.

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cpeep August 31, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Not being a jewelry wearer, I had to look up David Yurman. While it looks like any old crap from Sears, it doesn’t offend me.WHY would anyone want writing on her butt? Why? Why?

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M Smith September 1, 2008 at 5:05 am

This is a wonderful blog. I really enjoy your posts.I hope you don’t mind my making this comment. If you dislike requests, then please ignore it.I wonder if you might make a particular post sometime? You write so often about your love of pockets that it seems likely you know lots about them.I’m just learning to make them, and I don’t know much.I know there are different types, but I don’t know much about what they’re called, or their history or common uses.Anything you might post on any of these topics would have a very keen and grateful reader in me, and possibly in many others.Whether you do this or not, thank you for your excellent blog.Maire

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jessicajlee September 1, 2008 at 6:43 am

So, so true. My mother occasionally pulls out animal prints and I wince every time, precisely because the reasons you cited above would never even occur to her.

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MadeByAmanda September 1, 2008 at 8:57 am

I agree with others, I would have not thought “tiger stripe” in connection with that dress until it was mentioned. I do like the lines of the dress.I don’t wear animal prints myself, ever, but on others, there are some that look good, and some that look trashy. In the “look good” camp are the small touches like collars and trim.

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Latter-Day Flapper September 1, 2008 at 10:06 am

That’s one of the least offensive animal prints I’ve ever seen. 99.8% of the time, I think they’re tacky. Sometimes it’s oblivious I-have-more-money-than-taste tacky, or intentional drag-queen tacky, but virtually always tacky.

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fourthmonth September 1, 2008 at 2:55 pm

I also love MC Paul Barman, but have nothing against that dress. I’m in the camp of “looks more like foliage than skin”.

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Frantic Home Cook September 2, 2008 at 9:12 am

Horrid dress. And it looks like the model needs to eat whatever was killed to make this print.

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scormeny September 2, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Just this weekend I had one of those nightmare moments where a well-meaning sister in law said “I thought this was really you,” and handed me a leopard-print stretch sleeveless tee, with a vee neck and black lace. First I thought: Blech! And then I was depressed that she thought I’d wear the garment, which frightened me just to look at. I guess I’m the “sassy” SIL, but “sassy” and “stretch animal print with lace” are not the same thing. Witness, I have never worn an animal print before. Now I have to find something that’s “really her” to exact my petty revenge!

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Jen September 2, 2008 at 5:14 pm

If you ever get a chance (like being in Sak’s or Neiman Marcus), seek out the Cavalli group. His fabrics are to die for–the weight, hand and surfaces are amazing, and the prints far outclass the copies that seek to imitate but never succeed.

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La BellaDonna September 4, 2008 at 12:03 pm

[Raises hand]Actually, leopard is my favorite colour. I have leopard in skirts, a dress, and a jacket; I have leopard in silk, in gauze, in velvet, and in plush!However, in exchange for all your leopard, I will gladly deed you all my Good ‘N Plenty, which nauseates me. Ditto liverwurst. Ditto – HIP HOP? Really? OK, ditto hip-hop. Chacon au son leopard!

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Isa September 22, 2008 at 2:19 am

I agree with you wholeheartedly on just about everything you said, except I rather like Rush.

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