The Leopard Print in Film

While leopard prints are to fashion cliches what Wildean aphorisms are to the intro of novels, they are still among the most memorable ensembles worn by actresses in film. From jackets and dresses to pillbox hats and purses, the leopard print has always been the staple of all female archetypes in film.

Mrs. Robinson wilds out on Benjamin in her leopard print jacket
Mrs. Robinson wilds out on Benjamin in her leopard print jacket
Ann Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson, The Graduate: The ultimate femme fatale, the original milf would, of course, wear a leopard print for her first rendez-vous with Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who has yet to be de-virginized.
Jane Wyman as Helen St. James, The Lost Weekend: The innocence and naïveté of Helen St. James as the initially oblivious girlfriend of an alcoholic failed writer named Don Birnam (Ray Milland) seems antithetical to the type of woman who usually wears the leopard print. However, its purpose is not to represent her so much as her relationship with Don and its full circle nature.
The leopard coat signals the meet-cute between Helen and Don in The Lost Weekend
The leopard coat signals the meet-cute between Helen and Don in The Lost Weekend
Kim Novak, Bell, Book and Candle: As Gillian Holroyd, Novak perfects an aura of a golden-hearted witch living in Greenwich Village. Her love for her next door neighbor, Shep (James Stewart, who always makes a great leading man for her) causes her to become vulnerable and lose her powers. But this doesn’t mean she still can’t look chic while losing them.
Novak as Gillian, a witch living in Greenwich Village
Novak as Gillian, a witch living in Greenwich Village
Audrey Hepburn, Charade: Although every role Hepburn ever took on seemed to be iconic, her leopard skin pillbox hat (see also: the Bob Dylan song of the same name) in Charade was by far one of her most notable costuming choices.
Audrey as Regina Lampert in Charade
Audrey as Regina Lampert in Charade
Carole Lombard, Twentieth Century: Perfecting the screwball comedy as only Lombard could, her zany portrayal of Mildred Plotka–a lingerie model turned theater actress–is only heightened by the appearance of a leopard print.
Lombard as Plotka in Twentieth Century
Lombard as Plotka in Twentieth Century
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada: In one of her best incarnations of a badass bitch, Streep owns the role of Miranda Priestly (a.k.a. Anna Wintour) by wearing a leopard print that avoids cliche by being paired with a striped pattern. You couldn’t expect someone who hates florals for spring to be that basic could you?
Where's my Starbucks?
Where’s my Starbucks?
Marilyn Monroe, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: As the prototypical “dumb blonde,” Lorelei Lee (Monroe) still knows fashion. Which naturally means she’s prone to accessorizing in leopard.
As blonde bombshell Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
As blonde bombshell Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl: Based on the life of Fanny Brice, Barbra Streisand plays the awkward yet somehow beautiful comedienne with tenderness and ease. Her rise from nobody to star naturally calls for a leopard print jacket.
A true star wears leopard
A true star wears leopard
Doris Day, Pillow Talk: Once again, even virtuous girls wear leopard print. As the third movie in which Doris Day and Rock Hudson starred together, it makes sense that the costume designer would take a bolder (by 1959 standards) approach to dressing Day. Plus, we all knew Hudson was probably more into the leopard print than what was underneath it.
Day as Jan Morrow, an interior designer who has to share a party line with her neighbor, Brad (Hudson)
Day as Jan Morrow, an interior designer who has to share a party line with her neighbor, Brad (Hudson)
Sophia Loren as Yasmin Azir in Arabesque: Considering Arabesque is a thriller with quite a bit of intrigue and subterfuge, it doesn’t make much sense that Loren would wear something as non-subtle as a leopard print hat. But hey, she’s Italian. Bombast is to be expected.
Oh so alluring as the mistress of a man plotting against the prime minister of England
Oh so alluring as the mistress of a man plotting against the prime minister of England
While the leopard print has existed in many films and will continue to do so no matter what new fashion trends come and go, the above instances will always be among the most classic.