The ‘Cat Lady’ Cliché is Over Thanks to New Feline Fashion
BRIANNE WILLS successfully skirted the stigma associated with being a cat person until 2014, when she and her journalist husband and their two rescues settled into a new home in Brooklyn. With her spouse frequently traveling, she was left at home with Tuck and Liza. “People would say, ‘You have two cats?’ and I could just hear the pity in their voices,” recalled Ms. Wills, a photographer.
Spurred on by her critics’ ignorance, she created Girls and Their Cats, a website and Instagram account dedicated to cool cats both human and feline. Her portraits of chefs and economists and artists posing with their pets share a bright, clean aesthetic and all but scratch out the cliché of the sad and lonely “crazy cat lady” and her furry sidekick (or three).
As people like Ms. Wills upend that stereotype, the fashion world is busy fetishizing felines. Designer Karl Lagerfeld has made his siamese cat Choupette a star, and Vogue contributor Grace Coddington often illustrates her cats Pumpkin and Blanket. Ms. Coddington has channeled her kitty love into a new capsule collection with Louis Vuitton—items on which the traditional LV logo mingles with her playful drawings.
Thanks to other luxury items such as Balenciaga’s leather handbags festooned with images of kittens, Gucci’s exuberant cat-appliqué sweater and Van Cleef & Arpels’s latest cat pin, made of yellow gold, onyx and tiger’s-eye, it is wholly possible to wear one’s love for cats on one’s sleeve and remain chic.
‘ This new unapologetic cat lady coincides with the rise of #metoo. ’
Still, in fashion as in life, a little feline can go a long way. A single bag or top is an advisable first step. If you opt to go full-body cat, consider a less literal iteration, such as Marni’s cat-face print jacket or skirt, whose jade-colored fabric is a nearly abstract pattern of whiskers and yellow cat eyes. “The last thing you want to look like is one of those ‘cat lady’ Halloween costumes with hundreds of stuffed animals affixed to a bodysuit,” said Jessica Matlin, beauty director of Harper’s Bazaar and co-host of the beauty podcast Fat Mascara.
Even if you don’t live with a cat, break out the lint roller before you leave the house. “Wear the cat but don’t be covered in actual cat,” said fashion designer Ilana Kohn, who cohabits with three felines.
Rarely, it seems, have cats possessed such cachet. While in ancient times they symbolized femininity, sexuality and motherhood, with Christianity’s rise, they came to be seen as agents of evil. This new breed of unapologetic cat lady that the fashion world is championing intersects, coincidentally or not, with the resurgence of feminism associated with the #metoo movement.
“The shame has lifted,” said Kerry Diamond, keeper of a rescue named Dusty and co-founder of Cherry Bombe, a media company devoted to women in the food world. “Now there’s this incredible rise of feline pride.”
MEOW MIX / Our Favorites of the Litter
Clockwise from top left: Bag, $1,150, Balenciaga, 212-206-0872; Louis Vuitton & Grace Coddington Pajama Top, $1,870, and Pants, $1,730, louisvuitton.com; Coat, $3,340,Marni.com; Cat pin, $5,650, vancleefarpels.com