A fake leopard print
Elsie de Wolfe
The origins of false leopard prints, like zebra prints, are impossible to pinpoint, but we can credit the designer who popularized them. The design history consensus is that Elsie de Wolfe, interior designer in the early 20th century, made the idea of imitation leopard prints an avant-garde necessity.
De Wolfe's Villa Trianon has leopard pillows in a romantic interior.
De Wolfe gets a lot of credit for many ideas. She is sometimes called the first interior designer, but that's probably a name she gave herself. Before she was a designer she was an actress and she knew something about publicity. In the 1920s she began tossing fur-covered pillows and footstools into her interiors, but when actual furs proved expensive she commissioned printed copies.
Ava Gardner in a leopard print bathing suit,
Leopard prints---wild cat prints---came to symbolize a certain animal-like sexuality
Which is why they serve the uses of irony so well.
Did Elsie de Wolfe invent them?
Here's Welsh patchwork from 1830 with a faux-leopard print in the corners.
See the whole piece at the Victoria and Albert Museum:http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O136397/bed-cover-unknown/
And click here and scroll down to see a page from an English sample book, about 1775, in the collection of the American Textile History Museum:
Gotta Have It!
An ad from Sears.