Print Mixing With Animal Prints: SIA Leisure Lady With Ocelots
Terri at Meadowtree Style is the curator for this round of Style Imitating Art (SIA), and she selected an extremely compelling commentary on colonialism, Leisure Lady With Ocelots by Yinka Shonibare, created in 2001. This work offers a lot to unpack on the topics of race, class, and globalism, but even when you interact with it at a surface level, it powerfully commands your attention with the juxtaposition of a woman in a traditional British style (though not fabric) of dress and leashed wild cats. Terri describes Shonibare's work as a "comment on the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe" and shares additional information about the artist in this post.
Setting aside the deeper significance of this artwork, I was inspired to consider the print mix opportunities of combining big cat prints with other prints (geometric, floral, etc.). I came up with quite a few possibilities from my closet (which I will share below), but when I saw the weather forecast of 90 F for the day I would wear this outfit, I decided on a sleeveless blouse with an all-over cheetah print (to represent the ocelots) and a pair of ballet flats with an organic zigzag print (to represent the dress). I couldn't resist adding a beaded necklace with bronze lion charms for another dose of big cat fun. Whether this print mix "works" to your eye or not, I thought it had a lot of potential because the pieces related reasonably well in color, sharing shades of orange/coral/rust and dark grey/black.
I initially thought I'd wear black ankle pants, but I decided that since I'd just done a black pants outfit for the last SIA that I should try something else...and settled quickly on these dark grey wide leg crops. The dark grey color is a nice linking piece for the ballet flats (with a couple different shades of grey in the print) and the top (which has a dark blue-grey background). I added a white/ivory short cardigan to bring some lightness to the look. I think this blouse + cardigan + crops combo makes for an interesting silhouette. Not necessarily a figure-flattering one, but I do find it pleasing to look at, especially with the cardigan's top button closed so that it creates diagonal lines across the front...which I simply couldn't help noticing echoes the shape created by the three leashes branching out in a triangular manner from the woman's hand to the cats' collars.
The inspiration piece definitely put my mind into a maximal space when it came to adding jewelry to the look. I started with the lion charm necklace as my short, close-to-the-neck element and worked my way down from there: a necklace with beads that remind me of leopard print (made by a friend over 25 years ago), my DIY orange/sandstone seed bead/chain necklace, a set of 10 ivory/gunmetal/black seed bead strands (from Fire Mountain Gems), and a gold tassel necklace. Wearing two multi-strand seed bead necklaces was a bit of a stretch even for me, but the artwork seemed to call for extra, if not outright excess. In retrospect, I should have worn the crystal (faux diamond) tennis necklace my mom sent me from her unworn jewelry stash...it would have been a great way to represent the sparkly collars on the ocelots. Oh well, no one can fault me as having too little going on in this neckmess!
For my bracelet stack, I combined DIY black bead bracelets, a DIY orange-rust bead bracelet, a gold bead bracelet (from an Amazon set), and a DIY crackle/black bead bracelet. No paper beads this time!
I wore a pair of cream pearl earrings (from my mom's stash) to keep at least one element of this outfit simple. My hair was at peak crazy waviness the day I wore this outfit, and I can't deny that my hair (which my husband calls my "lion's mane") held back with a gold glittery headband feels in keeping with the "wildness held in check" of the leashed ocelots. Of course, the ocelots have gloriously sleek heads instead of a shaggy head like me...which is why my husband doesn't call it my "ocelot head," haha.
Speaking of big cats, one thing I did find surprising about this artwork was the presence of ocelots specifically instead of another type of cat...because I vaguely remembered learning when I lived in Austin, TX that ocelots live in South and Central America with some living across the border into the US (including Texas). And when I look up the range map for ocelots, it confirms my memory. So there aren't any wild ocelots in Africa...very interesting! I had made the assumption based on the woman's dress and the artist's British-Nigerian roots that Europe (Britain)/Africa would be the emphasis of the work, but it turns out that the interrelationships among disparate geographies/cultures in this piece are even more complex than they initially appeared to me.
So! Pattern mixing with animal prints! I know some people are all "leopard print is a solid neutral, you can wear it with absolutely anything" and do go pretty wild (ahem) with it. While that's how I relate to neutral cat print shoes, I don't feel the same way about cat print clothing or scarves. I get it that the colors are neutral, but in an expanse that large, I am not sold on combining a classic leopard print (etc.) with red and white stripes or red and white gingham or red and blue plaid or any other print that doesn't share colors with the cat print!
I like this set of print mix pointers for beginners that includes the ubiquitous "treat leopard as a solid color"...but look at the examples she shows: a warm brown/black leopard print worn with black polka dots on a white background or a black/white houndstooth print. These are not just random prints she's combining with the leopard print. So perhaps the caveat for those of us who are unprepared to go totally off the chain with our animal print mixes is to "choose prints with a common color" as listed as the second tip.
Here are some animal print mixes drawn from pieces in my closet. Let's see what we think!
Floral print dress + leopard print ballet flats: the pieces are unified by a tightly matched color scheme (black and olive); the pieces will be visually separated by bare legs (a "solid neutral" for most of us).
Wild floral print dress + blue tiger print scarf: both the light blue and cobalt blue of the scarf are present in the dress and they share a bright intensity of color; I think the blue border on the scarf will help visually separate the two prints even though the scarf will lie directly on the dress (if worn around the neck).
Pink floral skirt + brown/pink/red leopard scarf: the pink and red are the shared colors of the two pieces, and I always see brown in that skirt as well; the prints can be visually separated by a solid top (I vote cream or red).
Black botanical print + brown/black/ivory leopard scarf: this one is a little trickier for me, but I think the black, white, and gold colors in the skirt align well enough to the scarf colors (though I would be tempted to wear the scarf as a braided necklace to lessen the impact of the leopard print); again, you can visually separate the prints with a solid top (I would try picking up the teal or rust-burgundy from the skirt).
Green/pink floral print skirt + salmon leopard print scarf: both prints contain a bright warm pink color and have black detailing; again the prints can be separated by a solid top (black is an obvious choice). Are we seeing a theme with the skirt + scarf combos? I just love a skirt/pants + scarf print mix!
Brown plaid sneakers + green/brown leopard print scarf: brown is the unifying color in this combination; we can put an entire outfit's worth of visual separation between these prints.
Grey/black polka dot skirt + grey leopard print scarf: I was curious how these pieces would look together as the grey colors appear to have differing undertones (to my eye, the skirt has more blue in the grey and the scarf has more tan/taupe in it), but I think it would work quite well; again, you can visually separate the prints (I am thinking a jewel tone top like an emerald green, ruby red, or sapphire blue).
Brown/orange/teal floral print skirt + cream/rust leopard print scarf: all the colors of the scarf (cream, rust, and black) are also present in the skirt; both pieces are made from a thin chiffon-like fabric, creating a further point of connection; again, you can visually separate the prints with a solid top (picking up that teal again is hard to resist, but wouldn't black be an elegant option?).
Today's Rabbit Imitating Art selection is a big bunny with an even bigger impact! Working with the splotchy pattern of the ocelot fur, the rust-red color in the dress print, and the "leisure lady" concept, I thought this loafing red broken pattern Rex doe with a luxurious dewlap was a great fit. Doesn't she look marvelously disapproving with that facial expression and her ears laid back flat? Is she judging me, the ocelots, the dress, colonialism...or all of the above? (Back laid ears can mean that a rabbit is angry/frightened, but if the rest of the body is relaxed, as hers is, the bunny probably is just resting/sleepy.)
Try as I might, I absolutely could NOT convince our disapproving rabbit to go anywhere near those ocelots! This is a very wise decision because ocelots are carnivorous hunters who will eat rabbits.
To see other outfit interpretations of this artwork, check out the review on Meadowtree Style.
Additional reading on animal print mixing:
Do you like to wear big cat prints or other animal prints? Do you combine your animal prints with other prints? Do you have a print mix tip to share?
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