Last spring was all about the polka dot. It swarmed our Instagram feeds and shopping carts and collective consciousnesses like honey bees at a picnic (i.e. in droves), effectively transforming what was once the default pattern of little girls and grandmothers into a hot topic. At one point I actually had a dream about that polka dot Jacquemus blouse (you know the one) where bought it and discovered that all the polka dots were actually holes, and I held it up and said to no one, “This is high-fashion Swiss cheese!”

I’m not usually in the business of recapping my dreams (because snoooooze) but I felt that this particular one was illustrative of the phenomenon at hand. Like most fashion phenomena, this one became rather saturated, which made it ripe for competition. Enter: ANIMAL PRINTS. They were all over the runways during fashion week in February, and not just leopard print (the designated neutral of the animal print kingdom), but also zebra, tiger and even cow. My maximalist soul was enthralled. I immediately sensed an opportunity to stage the print-mixing editorial of my Swiss cheese-filled dreams, featuring animal print rendered head-to-toe. What better way to test-drive a new trend?

That question is non-rhetorical and fully answered by the three outfits below, each of which corresponds chronologically to the various stages of animal print commitment.

BEGINNER LEVEL

Welcome to Animal Print 101 — a jungle-themed amuse-bouche to whet your appetite for this sartorial trip to the zoo. Any of these pieces could be worn separately without raising many eyebrows, and even together I would say they offer a subtle approach to the potential rollercoaster that is head-to-toe animal print dressing. If you’re going to dabble in anything, may I suggest the cow-print Le Specs sunglasses? They’re $59 and the perfect entry point to the animal kingdom.

INTERMEDIATE LEVEL

I’m very into athleisure as a “going out” outfit concept right now, so that seemed like a great foundation for the intermediate level of this head-to-toe animal print extravaganza. Pairing a leopard-print bustier with leopard-print leggings is a decision I can wholeheartedly recommend, especially if you’re in the market for thigh comfort and sensational posture. If you want to go the extra mile, I highly recommend paw-shaped earrings.

ADVANCED LEVEL

Congrats to your eyeballs for making it to the highest echelon of this adventure. As you can see, this level is not for the faint of heart. It is for the heart that has already done lots of animal print-ensconced reps. I’m was very eager to include a heavy dose of zebra in this round, but not as eager as I was to tie a leopard scarf around our model Grace’s head under a sunhat, a styling trick I observed on Zara’s website and immediately bookmarked for my own styling purposes. It reminded me of Susan Sarandon’s head accoutrements in Thelma and Louise (see here and here) combined into a deliciously weird sandwich, topped off with earrings.

Would you wear head-to-toe animal print, or is this a trend you’re keeping at binoculars’ distance for now?

Photos by Edith Young. Modeled by Grace Parish.

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