Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sneak chic: John Steed's ladies

While James Bond's lady friends (and lady enemies) may have sported some iconic looks, whether you prefer Ursula Andress in a white bikini as Honey Rider, Lotte Lenya wielding knifetipped shoes as Rosa Klebb or Lois Maxwell in a succession of Moneypenny suits, to me the ladies of The Avengers have the better wardrobes every time. (My personal favourite Bond girl outfit is a little mint green shift dress worn by Akiko Wakabayashi in You Only Live Twice. You can see it here. The chiffon overlay and neat brooch on one shoulder make a very simple dress quite stylish.)

Cathy Gale: Hell for Leather
People always think of Diana Rigg in a leather catsuit as Emma Peel, but Honor Blackman wore it first as Cathy Gale. In fact she wore an awful lot of leather, perhaps because Gale was given lines originally written for a male character, making her more of an action heroine than other females on telly. Because of this catsuits, leather trouser and waistcoat ensembles and garments that allowed her to move and fight freely were necessary. Leather became a big part of her signature look, and for the 1963 series of The Avengers Cathy Gale even had a 'leather' evening gown. (It was actually leather-look synthetic on a jersey backing.)

When not clad in leather, Cathy Gale's outfits tended to be simple, with restrained suits and neat pinafore dresses. Not all of her 'active' clothing was leather, and the stuff that wasn't was frequently things like tabards with high splits: very simple, scoop necked and unadorned, ready for fighting in!

Classic garment: it has to be those 'boots, boots, kinky boots' that she released a record about!

Emma Peel: Fighting Fit
Despite the perception of Emma Peel as a leather catsuit queen, Diana Rigg actually disliked the leather clothing so much she brought about a major wardrobe change. Emma's signature garment is the jersey jumpsuit, usually with stripes, with a belt slung low at hip level. These came to be marketed as 'Emmapeelers'. Like Cathy's wardrobe they were great for moving in. Unlike Cathy Gale, Emma Peel would step out in mini-dresses, with nary a modesty-defending pair of trousers in sight. The Avengers started to be filmed in colour during Diana Rigg's time as Emma Peel, and Emma's wardrobe is bursting with Sixties shades. Cobalt blue, purple, mustard and bright pink are ones that really stick in my mind.

Diana Rigg did wear one notorious outfit in her time as Emma Peel: black corset and knickers, fishnets and boots, accessorised with a studded collar and snake, as Emma became 'Queen of sin' to infiltrate The Hellfire Club. This outfit was one of the reasons why that particular episode, 'A Touch of Brimstone', wasn't broadcast in the US when the series was originally shown.

Classic garment: the Emmapeeler. Miss Peelpants scanned in a fantastic advert for Emmapeelers on her blog - see it here.

The one comment I will make on Joanna Lumley as Purdey is having that haircut as a teen in the 1980s was a MAJOR MISTAKE on my part. Just sayin'.

1 comment :

  1. I love Emma and Cathy (and Purdey too). As you say the original girls' outfits were all about freedom of movement and ManAPPEAL - Purdey was supposedly a former dancer I think, and wore flowy 70s things, but which also allowed for lots of karate kicks! Those shows were such great fun, and I loved Steed to bits. xxx

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