Style Clinic: How to wear leopard print ... without looking like Kat Slater (or Pat Butcher) from EastEnders

Your style and beauty dilemmas answered by fashion editor Stephanie Smith, plus favourite new beauty products on counter

Sandra "Pepa" Denton at the MTV Video Music Awards 2019 held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey: PA Wire
Sandra "Pepa" Denton at the MTV Video Music Awards 2019 held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey: PA Wire

Dear Stylist

I love leopard print and would like to wear it, but I’m not sure it suits me. How can I avoid looking like Kat Slater (or, horror of horrors, Pat Butcher) from EastEnders?

The trouble with leopard print is that British soap operas will keep dressing their more flamboyant female characters in it, as lazy shorthand for “not very classy”, “well mouthy” and/or “bit of a man-eater”. Coronation Street’s Bet Lynch was the original; the template has changed very little since.

Leopard print shirt dress, £69 at

This is a shame because leopard print’s warm, mottled tones of tan, sand and black can be quite beautiful and have the advantage, unlike many prints, of being able to combine to suit all colourings. My advice is to go for it and wear leopard print unapologetically. For a full-on glam attitude, a jacket is hard to beat. Witness Sandra Denton, of 1980s American hip-hop girl group Salt-N-Pepa fame, looking good at this week’s MTV Video Music Awards in New Jersey.

Leopard print looks fabulous worn alone as a striking key piece, but for a softer approach, look for a chiffon or floaty maxi or midi dress or as a utility-style silky shirt dress. Check out Sosandar, which has elegant and wearable options, and also Oasis, which has some adorable pieces.

Leopard print also works brilliantly teamed with other shades, especially the brights of fuchsia, orange, emerald and lime. However, if you want to play safe and keep it classy, pair leopard print with a timeless neutral such as navy or black. Try a navy skirt or pair of cropped trousers with a leopard blouse, keeping accessories navy or neutral too.

Leopard print tie-cuff blouse, £69 at Mint Velvet.

Avoid coloured leopard print pieces, as these already look cheap and dated. And don’t wear tight, stretchy leopard print, unless you’re doing hot yoga (and even then ...).

Finally, to avoid any Pat Butcher comparisons, never ever wear leopard print with huge dangly earrings.

Men wear leopard too. French Montana at the MTV Video Music Awards 2019 in Newark, New Jersey: PA Wire
Leopard print halter neck dress, £40, Oasis.
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