How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson

How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: No, you don’t have to change your spots post 50

  • Shane Watson says leopard print is staggeringly good in some circumstances 
  • However, the UK-based fashion expert, says that there aren’t many of these
  • She explains that there are strict rules surrounding wearing the animal print

As it happens, I’ve only ever owned (not counting accessories) one leopard-print item. 

I bought it several years back — it’s a teddy-bear-fur, three-quarter coat by the label Stand Studio — because the leopard looks ravishing and glossy in just the right shade of honey with chocolate brown markings and, as well as being flattering to the skin, it automatically draws the eye.

When I wear it, I always get at least one admiring remark, and when I leave it lying around, friends try it on and want to borrow it. 

It’s about the buttery soft texture with the print. If it was plain it wouldn’t be the same, and if it was leopard print in a different fabric, the catnip quality would be lost. 

Kate Moss pictured here in a black mini dress with her leopard print coat swung over her shoulder. Shane Watson explains that there are certain situations when a leopard print is perfect

I’m telling you this because, as far as I’m concerned, leopard print is staggeringly good in certain circumstances but not that many. It can add lashings of glamour and purr, but it can also look cheap and tawdry and, on midlifers, ageing. 

We all know the classic leopard pitfalls: you don’t want to look like Bet Lynch behind the bar at the Rovers Return (so beware blouses). You don’t want to look like Brian Eno (so beware sharp-shouldered j­ackets). You don’t want to look like 1980s Rod Stewart (so beware tight trousers).

But it’s more complicated than that. In my opinion, there are strict rules around leopard print for grownups, and only if you stick to them can you safely dabble. 

Do that, though, and it will keep delivering well into your retirement years. Here goes: 

Amanda Holden in a leopard print dress. Shane Watson explains that leopard print is tricky to get right and so advises a block of the print without panels or pleats to distract 

  • The print is all-important. The closer to natural leopard the better. Leopard prints in colours or monochrome are never as chic. 
  • Forget about casual. You can wear leopard casually — a tailored coat over jeans — but avoid casual pieces, such as cardigans, T-shirts, anything in sweatshirt fabric and anything sheer. Think smart and you won’t make any mistakes. 
  • A block of plain leopard works best. Once you get into pockets, panels and pleats, the power of leopard to pack a punch seems to diminish. The simpler it is, the more sophisticated it will look. 
  • The more the better. So a midi dress beats a skirt. Albaray does a good midi dress in a swishy viscose fabric with a collar and b­uttons above the empire line (wear it buttoned up) and soft blouson sleeves (£89, This is the sort of shape that suits leopard print — body skimming rather than tight and feminine without being flouncy. Pop on some boots and you’re all set. Mango has a plain, roundneck midi dress with sheer sleeves (£29.99, com), which is a smart way of lightening a longer-line dress. 


  • Stick to natural browns.
  • Keep it smart. 
  • Try pony-skin pumps.
  • Drape a leopard coat. 
  • A slippery leopard-print bias-cut skirt is a day-to-night staple, and Realisation Par’s is a classic (£180, uk.realisation Wear it with a black roll-neck sweater and boots. If we’re keeping the heating off, this is an easy smart-casual look that’s up there with jeans and a party top. 
  • Work a leopard-print coat. Even if you’re taking it off it’s an instant glamouriser for going out. Wear it over black trousers and a black top, with some snappy gold sandals, and a straightforward outfit is transformed into something a front-row fashion editor would feel comfortable in. Drape it over your shoulders when indoors if it’s not that warm (leopard-print gives you permission to hold on to your coat, because it’s special). For something similar to my Stand Studio coat, try one by Helene Berman (£250,
  • Channel carry-on appeal. A leopard coat, like a leopard bag, works almost as well when you’re carrying it. It’s the dash of leopard that counts and allows you to wear something plainer. (This is an old Kate Moss trick and she was at it again during the recent fashion weeks.) Essentiel Antwerp has an oversize shopper (£145, or Asos does a classic buckle shoulder bag (£22, 
  • The print works best with black or caramel brown, cream or denim; it doesn’t work so well with a mixture of colours or prints. 
  • Try leopard-print shoes in calf-hair texture. I’ve always fancied leopard courts, and a pair with a kitten heel (£173, would be a great dialler-upper of any outfit. Try M&S’s ballet pumps, an instant elevator of cropped trousers (£35, Ankle boots can be fun, too (£180, and a leopard sling-back will jazz up black for the evening (£59.99,

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