Can older women wear animal prints?
Do animal prints say 'cougar' on women over 35?
Animal prints say "cougar" – or leopard or zebra or python – regardless of a person's age. That is simply what they represent.
But your question has more to do with the semiotics of these prints, the association our culture sometimes makes between mature women clad in animal motifs and a predatory breed of sexuality that favours younger men. Frankly, it's hogwash. Just apply discretion and consider animal-print accessories: spotted boots, scarf, handbag or belt versus, say, a striped cat suit. This applies to everyone, not just women older than Shakira (who happens to be 35).
In the fashion world (and owing largely to Tyra Banks), the word "fierce" has become so overused that it now has the ferocity of a declawed kitty. But that's fine. When you accent with animal prints, you're letting people know you're on trend, but not necessarily on the prowl.
Amy Verner is The Globe and Mail's Paris-based style reporter. Have a fashion question? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.