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Catsuit

Catsuit

Formfitting stretch body suits known as catsuits were the ultimate in slinky style and casual comfort for women during the 1960s. The all-in-one garment was typically either zipped or buttoned at the front, from the navel to the neck, and was often worn with boots. Catsuits first took off in 1964 when the French designer André Courreges (1923) introduced his Space Age collection. Intended to capture the public imagination inspired by the space program, Courreges' designs included futuristic plastic goggles, silver moon boots, and astronaut helmets. But the centerpiece of his women's line was the knitted, long-sleeved, one-piece catsuit. Made out of synthetic, or man-made, material and so named because of its slinky fit, it became one of the signature women's garments of the 1960s. Other designers, most notably Pierre Cardin (1922), also began creating bodysuits that drew on Courreges' futuristic design.

Comic book heroes Superman and Batman had worn variations on the catsuit for years, of course, so it was no great leap when female superheroines began turning up in them. In the United States the television series Batman provided a weekly forum for catsuit style, beginning in 1967. Catwoman and Batgirl each sported patent leather bodysuits designed to emphasize the power and confidence of the newly liberated female. But perhaps the most famous catsuit wearer of all was the British TV super-heroine Emma Peel of the series The Avengers (196169). As portrayed by actress Diana Rigg (1938), Mrs. Peel epitomized the swinging 1960s vixen in her cutout black leather catsuit, created for her by the program's costumers John Bates and Alun Hughes. After Rigg wore a wetsuit-type catsuit on the show, designers everywhere copied the sleek look.

Catsuits fell out of favor in the 1970s with the return of more natural fabrics. The look briefly returned in the 1990s, as rappers like Missy Elliott and Dee-Lite's Lady Miss Kier brought back the catsuit in psychedelic patterns, often paired with platform shoes.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Connikie, Yvonne. Fashions of a Decade: The 1960s. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

Powe-Temperley, Kitty. 20th Century Fashions: The 60s. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 1999.

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