Prints and optical illusions. Animal prints and camouflage

This is continuation of the series. You can find previous posts by tag Prints and optical illusions.

Background and foreground colors, level of contrast play the same role for animal prints as for any other print: darker colors are more slimming, contrast is widening.  But animal prints also have one very different and very distinct characteristic they inherited from animal coloring they were copied from. They are blurring and flattening. And more close to the classic design from mother nature more blurring and flattening the print is. The reason for that is that most animals have protective coloration. Pray tries to be not seen by predators, predators try to be invisible for their pray until it’s too late. Bottom line: hiding themselves helps animals survive. And even if zebra stripes or leopard spots look very distinct and contrasting when we are looking right at them, they still have the same quality: they distort, blur and hide, but this effect shows itself only from some distance.

Leopard is here

Leopard is here


Say hello to big guy )

Camouflage prints have the same quality because that’s why they were designed in the first place (zoologists and entomologists did a great work during WW2 and after to help the military to create classic camouflages).  So when we are wearing fashion versions we are prone to the camouflage effects – distorting, flattening and blurring. If a fashion version has a lot of grays in urban environment the effect could be quite noticeable especially when the light is poor.

Impressive, isn't it?

Impressive, isn’t it? (it’s one of new US camouflages)

So in my opinion animal prints are your worst enemies when you want to highlight shape, because they add a little blur, flatten. This can also can be used to erase some lamps and bumps, but it usually needs some “frame” to avoid shapelessness. Animal print tunic or dress plus dark jacket or coat could be very efficient in hiding pregnancy.

Leopard dress from Asos. Totally shapeless, you can't even tell where is body and where are sleeves

Leopard dress from Asos. Totally shapeless, you can’t even tell where is body and where are sleeves

Same dress from Asos in black, no you can see some shape

Same dress from Asos in black, no you can see some shape and tell where is what

One more thing about such prints worth mentioning: in semitransparent tights animal prints can look like some sort of skin disease.

Emm... not the best look

Emm… not the best look

But very bright and contrasting print can look good if styled right.

Photo from HK leggings blog, I think she looks seriously cool

Photo from HK leggings blog, I think she looks seriously cool

It’s usually safer to use animal prints  in small items (accessories and shoes).

Camouflage is always about fashion statement or some quirk, some sarcasm.* So I think this is the case when print illusions are less important than its sartorial message. But I would say that in tops, especially if jersey is involved it looks not so good.

My personal preference for animal and camouflage (I don’t take it serious): silk and very loose fit with dark belt and only top or skirt, not dress. And not classical coloring (except zebra), because I have neutral-to-cool coloring, so most classic colorways are too warm for me. I’m not the biggest fan of animal prints to tell the truth, because they are very demanding and it’s very easy to look bad or vulgar in them, but if you manage to master them, they could be gorgeous. I would say they usually look their best paired with bright casual or very neutral classical clothes and a lot of bare skin is great no-no. Another option: very classic and upscale item (like super-conservative coat).

Fabulous example how to wear leopard print from Sartorialist blog

This classical coat doesn't look boring because of the print, but print doesn't make it tacky, because it's so classic. Perfect!

This classical coat doesn’t look boring because of the print, but the print doesn’t make it tacky, because it’s so classic. Perfect!

Camouflage could be also worn seriously as a sign of non-conformism or like a social statement, but I’m too far from all such movements to give advise about how to wear it that way. **

*There are of cause cases when such items are bought from army or specialty stores because they  are relatively cheap, quite comfortable and durable, but I think vast majority of people (all that hunters, strike ball players, agricultural workers, campers and many others) who buy and use camouflage like this don’t really care how they look when they are wearing it.

** Although I’m pretty positive that shirt and pants from the same set and army boots in the city are totally uncool unless you are tall, super fit and serving your country 🙂

2 thoughts on “Prints and optical illusions. Animal prints and camouflage

  1. K-Line

    I love this post M. It corresponds to my latest post wherein I say some of the same things (though not as specifically or articulately!) about my latest Nettie body suit in leopard print. I love that it calls attention and hides things at the same time. Now you’ve given me something to think about!


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