The History of Leopard Print in Retro Fashion

history of leopard print in fashion

Animal skins were among the first materials ever used for human clothing. Big cats are fierce creatures with beautiful coats, and so their skins were among the most valuable. Images as early as those from ancient Egypt show powerful women rocking leopard spots. In modern fashion, leopard print is still assured to be an attention getting detail. It has connotations of luxury, power, and animal sexuality.

The actress Marion Nixon turned heads and started trends in the 1920s by walking her pet leopard down Hollywood streets while wearing a matching coat of her own. Christian Dior is credited with creating the first leopard print fabrics for his 1947 collection, the two dresses that featured it called "Jungle" and "Afrique." In his Little Dictionary of Fashion Christian Dior cautioned: “But to wear leopard you must have a kind of femininity which is a little bit sophisticated. If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it...”

From Marilyn Monroe's accessories to pin up Bettie Page's swimsuit, mid century celebrities helped to cement the association of leopard print with glamour and sexuality. Truffaut's amourus 1964 film "The Soft Skin" contained the memorable line "Leopard skin. Women who wear them like making love." In 1976's The Graduate, seductive Mrs. Robinson wears leopard and other animal prints. It remained a popular pattern through the 1960s, now popping up on powerful female characters on Mad Men.

Joan Mad Men leopard print blouse

 

By the 1970s and 1980s, leopard print was considered tacky - worn by drag queens, prostitutes, and those who had not updated their style since the 1950s. Punk rock style seized on the transgressive idea of  celebrating tackiness, as well as the association of leopard with strong sexuality. This association with punk, and a visit to the original 1950s source material is where the prominence of leopard print in rockabilly style originates.

Today, leopard print has become a staple, with designers ranging from Betsey Johnson to Dolce and Gabbana employing it constantly. Retro or modern, leopard print is a strong style statement that Heartofhaute.com loves. For a little leopard at the office, a la Joan on Mad men, try our Ella Top in Hip Kitty, a leopard cardigan, or an A Line skirt. Stand out in a sea of floral sundresses with our Swettie Dress in Hip Kitty. Don't forget to pick up some our perfect solid staples to combine with your animal accessories. Our Trixie Top,  Super Spy dresses, and the sophisticated Stefanie Dress are perfect companions to your leopard print shoes, belts and scarves.

If you are a lover of the actual big cats that these looks are inspired by, check out Big Cat Rescue. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for wonderful photos and information. They do a lot of great work to help these gorgeous animals!

Marilyn Monroe wearing leopard print
July 19, 2013 — Allison Vallerga

Pin Up Cowgirl and Country Style with Heart of Haute

The country girl is a staple of mid century pin up imagery. The sweet and sexy rural cowgirl is an icon of American style. Often dressed in gingham, denim, bandanas, and a cowboy hat, it is a look that combines innocence and toughness. A general fascination with the American West has been an enduring staple of international pop culture.

Western films have been popular since the era of silent movies, but they had a surge in popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell and many others starred in Western films - pinup images from these movies were popular during World War II. Soldiers and Sailors got tattooed with the image of the sexy cowgirl, a motivation for and reminder of home in the American countryside. In addition, as cities and suburbs grew, I think that many people felt a fascination with and idealization of the "good old days."

Jane Russell in The Outlaw

 

 

Whether you are going to the "Hulabilly" themed Tiki Oasis, or just looking for some vintage American summertime style, we have the unique - and American made - pieces that can make your retro look! For a complete outfit, try our Sweetie sundress in all American gingham or the Peggy Sue Dress in picnic-perfect ketchup and mustard prints.

Our Heart of Haute halter tops will help you create the ideal country heat. Available in  many colors and patterns, including the bandana-influenced Annie print. Our Ellie Tie Top in red gingham or Mustard picnic print has a sweet, cropped casual look with a little more coverage than a halter. Don't forget our matching headbands and bows! Our Gretta gingham blouses will bring a Western element to any outfit - even at the office! Our Gigi tee - in white or black - matches perfectly with our print skirts or your cowgirl jeans - right out of Jane Russell's "The Outlaw" wardrobe!  

Pick Your Perfect Cherry Print Dress

Cherries have a strong identification with retro pin up style. Where did this correlation come from? With many trends, the answer is a mix of influences. As early as the 1800s, fabric manufacturers printed images like fruit, animals, city scenes, and people on fabric. These novelty, or "conversational" prints continue to be popular even today. Cherries were a particularly popular image in America in the 1930s. Cherries decorated dresses, kitchens, jewelry, and more. "Representations of this exuberant, cheerful fruit might have appealed to consumers wearied by the Depression. Within the United States, the popularity of cherries and cherry blossoms might have been linked to the April 1934 Washington D.C. cherry blossom festival." Cherries continued as a popular motif through the 1940s and 1950s, commonly appearing on everything from tablecloths to bathing suits. I am not sure if it is due to their color, shape, or taste, but cherries also have an undeniable association with sex. The combination of such a sweet vintage image with subversive feelings is probably what makes cherries a sexy subculture stable, from rockabilly and punk fashion to tattoos.  Cherry prints are a sweet retro motif with a sensual undertone - perfect for pinup style! SJcherrytattoo Heart of Haute has an orchard of retro cherry print style! For an adorable retro mother and daughter photo, our Baby Beverly dress is available in Cerise - Mom can try our matching Diane wrap dress, or the Rebecca halter dress with a full swing skirt. Our popular and versatile Beverly and Sweetie dresses come in black or red cherry prints. For a smaller serving of cherries, try our A line skirts in Fresh Cherry on White or Cerise. The perfect summer sun Maybelline Dress has a full skirt, adjustable straps, and bright red contrasting trim. These prints really pop when accessorized with bright red, so break out the red lipstick and your bright shoes that don't get worn enough. Mrs. V  
Heartbreaker Fashion - Sweet and Sexy Cherries

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Your Retro Tiki Weekend Wardrobe

Mid century America was crazy for all things tropical and Hawaiian. Many served in the South Pacific during World War II, and returned home with tales of palm trees and rum. Hawaii's 1959 statehood and the advent of quick and more affordable jet travel made it a popular - yet still exotic - travel destination. "Trader Vic" Bergeron opened his first restaurant in California in 1934, serving an approximation of Cantonese food and concocting cocktails like the Mai Tai. All over the country, Polynesian pop culture spread - tiki bars, backyard luaus, and Exotica albums and movies were everywhere. Those who still still celebrate the sips, styles and sounds from this era meet up at various tiki weekend parties all over the country. Two of the biggest are the Hukilau (June 6-9th in Fort Lauderdale) and Tiki Oasis (August 15-18th in San Diego).

257828_10100136482430178_3901742_oMe (on the right) with friends at the Mai Kai

Heart of Haute will help you pack your bags to arrive as the perfect retro tiki pin-up! Having attended a few of these events, here are my tips:
  • Bring more than one bathing suit. A lot of the events are poolside, and you don't want to be pulling on a soggy suit after a midnight dip in the Ocean. A stylish swimsuit cover up, like our quick drying Knotty Dress, is also a must.
  • At the Hukilau, the Mai Kai can be quite warm inside. I like a cocktail dress that will still keep me cool. The Sweetie Dress in Hip Kitty has an authentic vintage shape, and a print that will help you stand out in the sea of floral aloha wear. Get to the Mai Kai with plenty of time before your dinner show reservation to enjoy the gardens and the great happy hour prices in the Molokai Bar. The Moonkist Coconut is my favorite drink.
  • The Paradise Dress has a great retro wiggle dress shape in a perfect tropical pattern, with a faux sarong front that ties at the waist.
  • There is a lot of standing, dancing, and walking around. I like wedges for just a little more comfort.
  • Tiki Oasis has a theme each year - for 2013, it's "Hulabilly." For this mix of Hawaiian and country rockabilly style, bring our Ellie Tie Front Top in Red Gingham, a sweet Heart of Haute top, or gingham headbands and hair bows. Our best selling Sweetie Dress comes in red, blue, olive, and black gingham - the perfect fit for this "Hawaiian Hootenanny."
  • Accessories! These parties are not the time to be subtle. I always bring tons of hair flowers, sunglasses, and jewelry. A few extra to loan to your best friend is always a good plan.
  • I don't actually stay at the official Hukilau hotel(s). I like the Best Western Oceanside. It's right next door and has a cute little pool and free breakfast.
  • Don't overdo it! Take a nap every afternoon and alternate drinks with water. Have some snacks in your room and wear sunscreen.
Love & Moonkist Coconuts, Mrs. V  
Tiki Weekend Style

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Spring 2013 Runway Trend - Prints!

The spring 2013 runway shows were all about prints. From gingham and plaids at Kate Spade, to stripes, lace, and elaborate botanicals at Dolce and Gabbana. Even the often severe Prada featured more abstract and geometric florals. Subculture favorite Betsey Johnson had stylized cherries, and sharp, high-contrast florals in feminine shapes. Heartbreaker Fashion has always featured bold and unique prints, and our current collections are no exception - we have our own unique takes on these runway trends. Gingham is a cotton or linen fabric woven in a check patten, typically red or blue. Despite its common association with the 1950s American West and countryside, gingham originated in India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Plants common in these regions produced the madder (red) and indigo (blue) dye colors. It was imported to Europe and America, both of whom began manufacturing their own gingham fabric using synthetic dyes during the industrial revolution.  We have loads of great retro gingham style - check out our Beverly Dress in Blue Gingham, or the Lil Lou Lou Headband. The Maybeline sundress in cotton candy seersucker plaid is sweet and sexy in trendy pinks and blue. Our Gypsy Skirt in Chantelle in Berry has a striking black floral on a hot pink background. The Marseilles Dress in the new Katherine Purple Floral is striking and versatile, with the same feminine full skirt seen on the Betsey Johnson runway. For cherry prints, we have numerous skirts and dresses in blacks, whites and even blues. For a bold, more urban look similar to Prada's Spring 2013 mod style florals, we have the Fifi dress in Elke, or the graphic Monique Dress in Cici. If you enjoyed the umbrella stripes at Dolce and Gabbana, Try the Jolene Dress in Blue Prague Stripe. Try that or the Twirl Skirt for an afternoon in a seaside Cinque Terre Cafe, or at least imagining it - Che bella ragazza!
Prints on the Spring 2013 Runways

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Prints on the Spring 2013 Runways

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May 21, 2013 — 1
Tags: Style

Heart of Haute: Attire for the Workplace

For many years, I had my "work clothes" and my "real clothes." My work clothes were your typical boring unflattering dress pants, ill-fitting collared shirts, and floppy cardigan sweaters that I had somehow decided were what office jobs required. I put much more thought and effort into my "real clothes" and felt more comfortable in the unique dresses and outfits I wore to fun events with my friends. I have since largely integrated my work wardrobe and my "real clothes." I no longer have a division in my closet, and I am not ashamed to meet friends at the tiki bar right after work (in fact, sometimes that mai tai is essential and must be acquired ASAP). Many of us have requirements for work wear (no jeans, covering tattoos, natural hair colors) that are limiting, but they don't make expressing your style and feeling great impossible. If you are in a conservative industry or position of authority (yes, and yes for me), the rules (or rules you place on yourself) may be even stricter. Thankfully, a lot of retro dresses and other pieces work well for the office. I like skirts and dresses for work to touch the top of my knee when standing. Feel free to disregard my suggestions if you are confident that you are in a more creative or permissive arena, but I don't think that miniskirts belong at any type of office job. I also abide by no cleavage at work, but daring dresses and tops can easily be worn with a scarf or camisole. A few items that do more than their share of heavy lifting in my work wardrobe: Dresses - comfortable, cute, and great for those mornings when you forgot to pick an outfit the night before - no decisions to make! I wear both knit and cotton dresses most days of the week. Ponte knit is a great fabric that is comfortable yet has a very refined look. Cotton dresses will keep you looking sharper and feeling more comfortable in the warmer months. High-waisted black pencil skirt - any top tucked into this looks more pulled together. The three piece rule can also be helpful. Three pieces can make a more complete looking outfit. Skirt, shirt, sweater. Pants, top, scarf. Dress, jacket, scarf. Plain black blazer - great for making any outfit look like serious business. Look for jackets that are fully lined. A structured blazer thrown over a cotton dress like the Monique is a great look, and an easy way to make more casual dresses work appropriate. Leave the blazer at work during the summer to take the chill off of excessive air conditioning. A sleeveless Ella blouse and swing skirt like our Twirl Skirt is an outfit that can keep you cool during a hot commute. My business travel and or conference uniform is one blazer thrown over several knit dresses. It is as put-together as a suit and certainly more comfortable for long days in meetings. A large tote bag is essential for carrying your shoes, lunch, work, purse, and even gym clothes without looking like an overburdened pack rat. I have this canvas tote - it is stiff enough to keep its shape well, and has a zip top. It is decent enough to carry into a meeting, yet can be thrown into the washing machine. With spring comes many graduations, and then new jobs and internships. Take some time to really think about the look that you want to project at work, and invest in a few key pieces. You will feel better, and look great – the corner office is waiting for you! Mrs. V
Retro style at work

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What Do I Wear to This Wedding?

Spring is finally here - warmer days, blooming flowers, and a pile of wedding invitations in your mailbox. Weddings now are not always the church and banquet hall celebrations of the past. Couples have gotten more creative, and often more casual. Looking for the perfect dress to wear to a non-traditional (or traditional) wedding? Heartbreaker has you covered! You never thought your wildest friend would ever settle down, but she is getting hitched in Vegas! It's sure to be an outrageous party, and you want to look the part. The Sweetie Dress in (limited edition) Hip Kitty leopard fabric will look right at home on the Strip, downtown on Fremont street, or posing with the Elvis Impersonator who performs the ceremony. Don't forget a sweater to ward off the freezing casino air conditioning, and a hat for a hungover pool day. For your very practical and private friend, there was no ceremony - they simply went down to the courthouse on a Tuesday. For the informal after party at a local bar, try our popular Beverly Dress in Black Dynasty. The gold metallic print elevates it from typical daytime wear. For a more traditional, semi formal wedding, try the Elsie or Elaine Dresses by Heart of Haute. These cocktail dresses are polished  and versatile, whether you prefer a fitted or fuller skirt. Sheer black stockings and your highest heels complete the look. For a tropical destination wedding, the Rebecca Dress has a full skirt and halter top that will keep you cool and comfortable in the sun and sand. Remember your sunglasses, sunscreen, and no tanning until the ceremony is over - no one wants to be the lobster sunburn girl in the photos! Kork Ease Sandals are comfortable, come in many colors and heel heights, and look better than flip flops. For a casual ceremony in the country (or even a bridal shower), try our Aimee Dress in (limited) Strawberry Patch. The Marseilles Dress in the Katherine Floral Print is a great choice for a chic country or beach wedding. For wedding gift ideas, I like a couple of cookbooks (Nigel Slater and Mark Bittman are both great), and a cast iron skillet. It is something that every kitchen (and barbeque grill, and campsite) needs, and one will last a lifetime. I hope that you have a great summer filled with top shelf open bars, good appetizers, and inspired dance moves gleaned from other people's parents! Mrs. V
What to Wear to Weddings - Summer 2013