Beware of fashion traps if you plan to walk on the wild side this fall. Nature used sense in dressing her creatures, designing their coats to blend gracefully with the habitat. If she had intended leopards to be spotted from 50 yards away, she would have gussied them up in hot pink. Jungle wildness is fine in evening wear, but animal patterns need to be curbed when they take to the street and go to the office.
Here then, are some ways to avoid the pitfalls:
* Don't even think of wearing anything fuzzy enough to have made it as a toy animal. The message this year is pattern and design, not fluff. If you want to bring leopard spots or zebra stripes to your wardrobe look for them in smooth finishes in suedes, velours or silks. Fuzzy Tony the Tiger fake fur coats roar fashion victim.
* Don't send mixed messages. Think of nature's patterns as jewelry. If you wear a cheetah print belt, pass on the jangling gold chains and dangle earrings. Those were last year.
* Be wary of snakes. Many designers have translated anaconda, rattler and python patterns in sequins and stretch. Intellectually, the designs are beautiful, but a tad too Crocodile Dundee for comfort.
* Avoid any animal patterns borrowed from domesticated creatures or pets. Yes, we know they're fakes, but try to explain a doggie Dalmatian print coat to a 5-year-old. Haven't these people ever heard of Cruella DeVille? Pony and cow patterns are too close to home too.
* Don't take on more than you can tame. A dramatic leopard or tiger stole may seem like a great accessory; however, if you can't handle it with authority you're likely to look as sorry as one of the early Christians wrestling beasts in the arena.
* Don't be catty. So what if she looks more like Sheena than Cindy; the first woman in the office to show her spots deserves a hand.