As I’ve mentioned countless times on this blog, I grew up in a rural, conservative town in the South. How I managed to emerge from that upbringing as a liberal vegetarian nerd-face is beyond me. I think it might’ve had something to do with cool parents, lots of books, and British tv, but I could just as easily be an alien. Despite my broad structural differences from the land of my birth (which I still love to pieces, by the way), there are some things about me that I think of as super Southern, or at least that linger in my brain from my formative years. See my love of grits, boiled peanuts, watermelon, hush puppies, and mac and cheese; my affection for muddy rivers and large, open spaces; my affinity for heat and humidity; and my occasional use of the term “y’all.
Something about me that is decidedly un-Southern? My love of animal prints. Growing up, women who wore them were the same ones people at the hair dresser called “bleach blondes” and then were vomitously nice to at church bar-b-ques or t-ball games. Leopard print was especially risque, and I remember the way that the few women who wore it got the side-eye from more than one matron or young pearl-clutcher-in-training.
I’ve never been one to toss around negative words for women and their sexuality (you know the ones…). Vague concepts of feminism (or maybe just not being a total d-bag?) got implanted in my brain at an early age, and I was always massively uncomfortable with the way both men and women (but especially women) treated those ladies who didn’t fit in with the often rigid expectations of their gender. Since becoming a real-life adult and leaving that small town behind, I’ve embraced the idea that animal prints aren’t just for women who threaten the staid and serious members of the prayer meeting committee. While I’m no Andrea, who can rock the leopard like no one else I know, I consider myself a serious devotee of the animal print, and wearing it often leaves me with this silent thrill of solidarity with those women from my youth, whose sense of style and adventure ended them up on the wrong side of the cultural law.
In Chicago, no one looks twice at a woman in a head-to-toe leopard print, even when her dress is too big (like here!) and especially when mega-blondes (like this one and this one) are at her side. Andrea and I strolled through Randolph Market and giggled over breakfast and I never once got a suspicious glare from booth tenders or lemonade girls. Whether that’s a sign of the times or the region, I can’t be sure. But I can say that I probably won’t ever stop feeling the tiniest bit rebellious when I wear a dress like this…but I probably won’t be bleaching my hair, either. :)
Mega thanks to Andrea for photos!! And if you’re on Instagram, hit us up at @sartoriography and @andreakerbuski