One easy way to avoid animal print overkill is to introduce it to plain outfits by way of smart accessories.
Try changing your spots with Christopher Kane's cashmere mittens (£135, www.matchesfashion.com), or a leopard print scarf. They're a high-fashion hero piece with a heritage: American artist Stephen Sprouse designed a blown-up and cartoonish leopard print for Louis Vuitton in 2007 and the caramel splodges became a cult classic, slung around the necks of A-listers and the fashion pack alike and much copied on the high street. The classic Vuitton version is still available (£715, 020 7399 4050) and as classy as ever, but it is joined this season by acidic bright tiger prints at Mulberry and rich violet-indigo hues from Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent (£650, www.net-a-porter.com).
This season, the belt is key to any look: it should be narrow and fastened at waist height over cardigans and sweater dresses, with the end looped under the strap in a loose knot. And there are plenty of animal styles to choose from in everything from leather to Boden's strokable calfskin (£23.20, www.boden.co.uk).
Nothing captures the imagination like an animal print coat – from Mrs Robinson to Bet Lynch, safari-spotted outerwear renders a woman modern and vivacious yet classically elegant. The trick is to get the proportions right. Longer lengths are best kept minimally styled – collarless, for example, and in wool or gabardine, rather than faux fur. The line should be simple and fitted, perhaps with a Fifties-esque nipped waist or swing detail.
Short jackets can be more daring – this is the place to introduce some fuzz, if that's your bag. Banish leopard print's naff associations with barmaids and working men's clubs: a faux fur jacket or chubbie can be dressed up for a bit of vintage glamour or down for latter-day grunge (jacket £120, French Connection, www.frenchconnection.com). Similarly, sweaters and cardigans are sturdy separates that mean you can invest in this trend without overhauling your entire wardrobe (jumper £220, D&G, www.my-wardrobe.com; cardigan £145, APC, www.net-a-porter.com). Make sure, though, that if you choose an animal print pelt to keep you warm all winter, you wear it in isolation. Don't go overboard with this trend – one layer is quite enough.
On your shoulder
Printed bags aren't just for the beach; they also work well with a dour winter wardrobe to add a bit of much-needed pizzazz. The latest batch of must-have Mulberry bags arrives in stores at the beginning of December, and what a bright prospect they are. Following on from autumn's hallucinogenic fluoro prints, they feature a bleached but vibrant tiger print in pink on white and come in favourite styles the Bayswater and the Alexa (£795, 020 7491 3900). Or there are clutches available almost everywhere on the high street ("Perfect for the party season!" is the advice from most of the fashion oracles), from Zara's roomy envelope clutch to Topshop's slouchy baguette style. Or slip the latter's compact mirror (£14, www.topshop. com) into your bag to add some grrr to the daily grind.
On your feet
What could be more charming, slapping through the urban slush, than Lanvin's leopard trainers (£425, www.brownsfashion.com)? They take some of the femme fatale out of animal print and inject a bit of fun. If you're after something more feminine, though, Stella McCartney's grey leopard heels are a good option (and with this eco-designer, you can be doubly sure no leopards were hurt in the making of these shoes), or New Look's ballet pumps (£16.99, www.newlook.com) are an excellent everyday choice to liven up your skinny jeans.
On the tiles
A party perennial, animal print is ideal for making a festive statement, and works across the spectrum from high-camp glamour to lo-fi elegance. Zara's skater dress (£69.99, www.zara.com) is a young and girlish option, while Project D's asymmetrically draped zebra print number (£210, www.my-wardrobe.com) would work well for a more formal cocktail party – with pared-down accessories, of course. This turquoise silk top by Joie (£175, www.matches fashion.com) is a gentler way of doing statement bright prints, teamed with black trousers and flats.