Little Black Dress or Leopard Print: The history, evolution and the most iconic fashion moments


Taylor Spalding, Journalism Undergraduate, University of Roehampton

In a world where fashion is a continuous evolution, there is no denying the little black dress and leopard print will always be iconic staples in the fashion world. The debate - held at Wimbledon BookFest on Wednesday 10th October- was between Chloe Fox, author of Little Black Dress, and Camilla Morton, supporting the feisty leopard print.

The Little Black Dress

Chloe Fox delved into the LBD history, its story and how these infamous three letters really shaped the fashion industry. The LBD is distinctively known from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the 1926s Coco Chanel Vogue cover and Princess Diana’s Serpentine revenge dress, but there is a whole lot more to why the LBD has stuck around for such a long time.

From the Victorian era, when wearing black was a symbolism of mourning, to the scandalous 1884 portrait reveal of Madame X in a low-cut black dress, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that really began paving the way for the LBD to make its stance. During the supermodel era, Victoria Beckham, Linda Evangelista and Kate Moss really had an influence in encouraging the LBD to be for the “everyday women, for every day, in every way”.

When writing the Little Black Dress ‘fashion bible’, Fox shared she came to realise “there are simply no rules” when wearing the dress.

During the #MeToo movement, we saw the likes of Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep and Emma Watson grab their LBD for the BAFTAs Award Ceremony; to stand for courage, power and bravery. “You should feel safe and simultaneously...brave”, Fox exclaimed with passion.

There is no denying the LBD is a must-have wardrobe staple, but do we have closet space for leopard print?

Leopard Print

Historically representing Kings, power and superiority, the leopard print has created its own narrative and has made its mark in the Western culture. In the 1920s, we saw how Christian Dior inspired women to reclaim this print by wearing large leopard print jackets. By the 1940s leopard print became apparent through even bigger and bolder evening attire. Post-war, Morton explained how leopard print transitioned from “classy to seductive”, and even more throughout the mid-50s during the rise in Hollywood movies.

The most iconic leopard print was graced by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s. Nearing the late 60s, the fashion world took on a whole new concept of leopard print, introducing a plethora of textures.
Like the LBD, leopard print truly made its presence known in the 1990s. Alexandra McQueen's 1997 collection and Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford for Versace, showed every woman how the leopard print makes you “stand out from the crowd.”

Morton expressed how unlike the LBD, you have to get it right. “It’s like wearing a red lip, once you figure out how to apply it, you can keep wearing it - and it will soon become you”, because after all, “leopards have a purr, and so do we.”

Morton went on to explain how this once rare and exotically prized print has been adapted into today’s generation, and how it is still seen as a representation of both “regality and empowerment”. We are continuously seeing fashion designers incorporate this print into their collections, from this year’s AW18 collection; Karl Lagerfeld's, Tom Ford and Diane Von Furstenberg.