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THE BIG DEAL

Animal prints leave their mark on fall fashion

Be careful not to wear too much, because a little goes a long way.

September 27, 2009|Melissa Magsaysay

This season's retail scene looks like something out of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" with animal prints ruling as a major trend for fall. Prints inspired by exotic pelts (real and faux) are everywhere in bags, shoes, hats and dresses and at varying price points, making the look accessible for most budgets.

But beware: As with any bold trend, wear it sparingly. To avoid looking as if an animal has crawled onto your back and slumped over, introduce these prints slowly and subtly into your wardrobe.

Accessories are the easiest approach and there are plenty of brands making pieces that are more "cocktail chic" than "safari."

Coach has animal prints of all kinds splashed throughout the fall collection. A leopard print bag made in sequins is especially eye-catching and can be all the accessory you need. The line's zebra print peep-toe pumps have more graphic appeal than a leopard or cheetah print. Jimmy Choo's Witty flat comes in a brightly colored cheetah print patent leather this season, infusing an '80s vibe into the trend. For day, pair these accessories with solid neutrals such as black ankle-length pants and a simple cashmere cardigan -- very Audrey Hepburn. For evening, an animal print minaudiere from Kotur looks striking against a black cocktail dress or even a satin tux jacket and slim pants.

When it comes to wearing animal prints on clothes, keep it tame by knowing which parts of your body to accentuate and, most important, when to stop. A loud print will draw attention to whatever part it's covering so place it in an area of your body you like. For the daring, the First Date dress from Simone by Katie Nehra says sophisticated sex kitten. The all-over print can be a lot for most bodies, so add a black belt to break it up and balance the overall look by throwing a crisp black blazer or cropped denim jacket on top. Rachel Roy's take on animal print is a little less literal. She's blurred a cheetah print and added purple and green tones to the fabric. You have to look twice to pinpoint the animal pattern, making this dress right for right now, but still relevant come spring. And if all you want is really just a touch of pattern, Alice + Olivia makes ultra-soft animal print scarves that add some edge to a basic V-neck, slim jeans and ankle boots.

Animal prints are a trend that should not be paired with other current trends -- meaning don't mix animal prints with shoulder pads or distressed denim. Keep it simple, balanced and chic, dressing with muses such as Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot in mind, for a look that's quirky, sexy and glamorous, not over-the-top, obvious and -- well -- wild.

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melissa.magsaysay@latimes.com

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