I consistently tell that we should look at things in context to see the image behind the image, the story behind the story, the overall picture, and what went into making it. Regardless, we’re talking about nature, which is the most magnificent artistic creation, or a song and the emotions or suffering that contributed to making it, or a painting and the muse who inspired it.
This principle applies to fashion as well. Fashion, I’ve always believed, is at the crossroads of culture, social movements, fine arts, literature, cinema, and, why not, politics.
While I’m showing you my recent buy from bonprix, this incredibly summery and comfy zebra print dress, as well as the fall interpretation, let’s have a look at the origins of print and the artists that were influenced by the zebra magic wand. From exotic Africa to fashion history, from Dior to Victor Vasarely, and abstract imagery as a result of the Op-art movement.
While the mystery of why zebras have stripes remains unsolved, one thing is certain: no two zebras are alike. Striping patterns and intensity differ depending on the species and region. Although scientists are still debating the origins and purposes of zebra stripes, recent research has focused on three possibilities: protection from biting insects, thermoregulation, and predator protection. However, none of these assumptions is 100 percent certain.
Zebras aren’t only black and white, despite their appearance. As well as life itself and stories from our pasts and futures. They’re tough, lively creatures who are, in juxtaposition, tenacious and playful, social and aloof, resilient and vulnerable. These are qualities I believe everyone can rely on. Although living in a herd can be challenging, they find safety in numbers. They are team players and community builders, I might add.
White with black stripes or black with white stripes? This is one of the most often asked zebra questions. Zebras are known for their white coats with black (and occasionally brown) stripes. Because most zebras’ stripes end on their belly and on the inner of their legs, the remainder of their body is white. Some zebras, however, are born with genetic abnormalities that cause them to be completely black with white stripes, or entirely dark with the striped pattern on only a portion of their coats. Zebras have black skin beneath their coat, as it turns out. So it all depends on your perspective! As in real life, you can get different insights from different angles.
When zebras are gathered together, a lion or leopard may find it difficult to choose out one zebra to chase?
A zebra is a zebra to any of us, right? Yet they are different. Plains, mountains, and Grevy’s zebras are the three separate species. The stripes of different zebra species vary in width, from thin to wide. In fact, the farther south you go on the African lowlands, the wider the zebras’ stripes become.
The Grevy’s zebra has the thinnest stripes, which stretch all the way down to their white belly; the stripes on the hindquarters are vertical until they reach above the hind legs.
Vertical stripes on the neck and chest transition to wider and fewer horizontal bars on the haunches of a mountain zebra. It has a gridiron pattern on the rump and a dark stripe across the length of the belly on the white underside.
The plains zebra is the most prevalent and smallest of the three species of zebra. Some subspecies have a unique stripe pattern, with brownish “shadow” stripes running between the black stripes on their coat.
See? In the end, the zebra’s environment is quite colourful!
But when did the zebra exceed the borders of the wild and arrive in our space?
Animal skins have been used for warmth and protection since ancient times, but they also had a mystical meaning; it was thought that the animal prints gave the wearer the animal’s strength. The power symbolism has survived into modern times, but in a modified form. For one thing, they are often expensive and considered exotic, and therefore serve as a sign of wealth and rank. Animal pattern rugs were used by kings and queens to display their social position.
During the 1930s, there was a surge in demand for animal prints. Tarzan the Apeman, one of the most popular films of the time, was released in 1932. The animal print costume was worn by MGM’s Johnny Weissmuller as “Tarzan” and Maureen O’Sullivan as “Jane.” It drew the attention of the public as well as of the industry. The audience thought it was adventurous, thrilling, and appealing. On the other hand, animal print apparel has become increasingly popular among manufacturers and designers.
In Bettie Page’s Jungle in the early 1940s, Bettie charmed a big audience. Men may have been unhappy with women’s growing autonomy, so the concept of women as sexual predators was prevalent at the time.
Then there were the 1950s. When Christian Dior, the very well known couturier, revealed himself to be a fan of animal prints.
The 1960s hippy movement ushered in a whole new era for animal print. Prints have become more exotic and “in your face.” Unlike the stylish and polished style of the 1950s, the new design emphasized “the concept of being wild and free. New colours were being introduced, and existing ones were being pushed to their extremes.
With the 1970s came punk music, and punk rock brought punk rock style with it. Animal print lingerie and stockings were frequently worn under their tattered and torn apparel, giving 1970s fashion a trashy vibe. Animal print was out of a sudden omnipresent. The animal print trend was seen on jumpsuits, underwear, shoes, and all sort of accessories.
Animal print became a go-to luxury aesthetic in the 1980s, and it came in more designs than ever before. Leopard and cheetah were all the rage in previous decades, notably during Dior’s reign. However, zebra and snakeskin have now been added to the mix. From outerwear and furniture to underwear and artwork, there’s something for everyone. Dresses with full skirts, blouses with full sleeves, skirts with full sleeves, shoes with full soles, and more made a statement.
Animal print in today’s fashion is diverse. It is imbued with aspects from art and draws influence from all past decades, perfecting creativity on a self-reflective tone.
And just like that, we’re on our way to art.
In art, staying on the topic, the most representative and edifying work is Zebra by Victor Vasarely.
Victor Vasarely, now widely regarded as one of the forefathers of the optical illusion movement known as “Op Art,” first developed what he called “Optical Kinetism” in his studies of checkerboards, harlequins, zebras, tigers, prisoners, and Martians in the 1930s. A movement that has had such an impact on contemporary art in the twenty-first century.
Within the confines of these identifiable topics, the artist constructed his signature opposing shapes and patterns shown in dizzying waves and undulations in varied natural settings that appeared to fool the human eye.
One of his most renowned pieces, the two zebras playfully linked together in what resembles an embrace, was completed in 1937. If we take a quick glance above, we can see how the debut of animal print in fashion was perfectly timed.
Vasarely used the unusual zebra stripe pattern to work in a way that emphasized what was possible when one noticed some of nature’s bizarre patterns. Even if the backdrop colour is different when the artist replicated this work in 1965 using a negative variant, the same effect happens. Both of these pieces are among the most well-known black-and-white paintings ever created.
Zebra is a study of form, contrasts, and optical illusions. Vasarely appears to have chosen the appropriate animal to symbolise in one of the early Op-art pieces.
Returning to fashion, animal motifs have a psychological connotation is widely seen as sexy, and as a result, it is frequently found on apparel intended to entice others. Animal prints, for example, are frequently seen in erotic lingerie. A person dressed in animal print makes a confident statement and displays a desire to stand out. With their multicoloured patterns and irregular motifs, these eye-catching prints grab the viewer’s attention. In high fashion, they have a reputation for being timeless and classy, whereas in popular fashion, they have a reputation for being cheap and trashy. Where do you stand?
Animal patterns have been a signature for fashion designers like Dominico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, as well as Roberto Cavalli. The diva character of the celebrities they are known for dressing is enhanced by these prints.
The influence of animal prints extended beyond the arts and fashion industry to politics.
It asks if the usage of genuine leather and animal fur has had an impact on the popularity of animal prints among consumers. The trading of endangered species is prohibited under international law. Animal rights activists and groups have encouraged wearing fabric printed with animal patterns rather than genuine pelts to raise awareness of the plight of animals slaughtered for the use of their skins.
Assessing fashion and iconic characters through the lens of cultural theory, with a focus on symbolism, art, and anthropological references. Making connections between diverse things and thinking extensively about a particular topic is what my reflections entail.