I would be lying if I were to say that the news of Pat Butcher’s imminent death didn’t mildly upset me. While I must confess to not having watched EastEnders for years, there was once a time (i.e. the mid-90s) when a gravelly “Roy’s my fam’ly now, Frank” formed the pinnacle of my weekly viewing habits. And surely only some sort of dry lunch would deny that she’s a very stylish lady. However, it appears that said ‘dry lunch’ seems to reside not only, as expected, at The Sun (“famed for her chandelier earrings and garish outfits”), but even worse, at The Guardian: “drag-queen-with-glaucoma-falling-into-Nelson-Mandela’s-wardrobe.” GASP! Not for me, this butchering of Pat’s style credentials. (I’m also fairly partial to drag queens and Nelson Mandela but that’s another story.) I am firmly in the pro-Pat camp; I once tried to out-Pat Pat by wearing a maximum of 7 types of leopard print in one outfit, a personal record that I fully intend to beat someday. And when I was recently asked to undertake some market research for ‘fashion-forward’ consumers (*cough, brush imaginary dust from shoulder*), I surprised myself by quoting La Butcher as a favourite style icon of mine not once or twice, but repeatedly throughout the interview. And who can blame me?
While lacking the gaunt cheekbones of Dot Cotton or the saucepot National Treasure status of the much-missed Peggy Mitchell, Pat has functioned as a stylistic lynchpin of the nation’s favourite soap (soz, Corrie fans) since she entered the show in 1986.
The Holy Trinity of Easties’ ladies past and present. Dot Cotton: surely ripe for a Burberry campaign, Mr. Bailey?
It’s no secret that Pat’s love of leopard is shared with a plethora of oft-called ‘cheeky’ Italian brands of the Moschino/Dolce/Cavalli-ilk. Animal print functions as oxygen for some designers: Dolce & Gabbana have made such a signature of leopard print that it’s entered the brand’s DNA, and and having been to the Cavalli press showroom in Milan I can guarantee you that leopard pheromones are liberally pumped through the air-conditioning to encourage just that right amount of savagery and sex.* And what more would you expect from the man who can get an A-lister into animal print faster than Frank can accuse us of taking him for some kind of pilchard?
*This is not strictly true. But there was A LOT of leopard print.
Can’t afford the clothes? Go for the accessories: Prada bag and hi-tops; Leopard tassel loafers from Office
Can’t afford the accessories? Go for the nails: My own leopard manicure; minx found here; nails by Illustrated Nail
As an early homage to Pat, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a compendium of the best in big cat fashions. Let’s be thankful these leopards never lost their spots.
Whose feline is it anyway? Josephine Baker avec cheetah; Joan Blondell found here; Marian Nixon in 1925
Leopard Ladies: Veruschka from Fashion’s Most Wanted; Jacqueline Logan found at Ethers Tragic; Gene Tierney from Vintage Gal
The original Walk on the Wild Side: the ever-charming Cary ‘nobody tawks like that’ Grant and Katharine Hepburn star in Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The cat’s whiskers: 1920s leopard girl from Vintage Marlene; Dolores del Rio found here; Carole Lombard found here
Cat who got the cream: Dior in the 50s; Anne Bancroft in The Graduate found at Sally Lou Vintage
Paws for thought: Rene Gruau illustration; Suzy Parker on cover of Life in 1951 found at Villainously Vintage; Rene Gruau illustration
Welcome to the Jungle: Peggy Moffitt and other models; Carole Lombard at Golden Girl of the West; Balmain capri pants from 1951
And if that’s not enough, check out some wildly synthetic looks from 1959 at the beginning of this Pathé newsreel. Roar.
On that bombshell, as with Pat, this is my goodbye to 2011. Happy Holidays!