I must admit, I was a bit skeptical the very first time I started watching season four of The Avengers many moons ago. Honor Blackman’s Mrs. Gale had already secured her special place inside my leather-sheathed heart, and I couldn’t imagine anybody possibly filling those kinky boots. I had seen plenty of photos of Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel, of course, and undoubtedly found her beautiful and fresh-faced and charming – how could anyone not? But would she deliver the same elegance, poise and éclat as her judo-chopping predecessor? I had my reservations.
I turned on Rigg’s debut episode, The Town of No Return, bit my lip and braced myself. A giant eyelashed eye blinked at me from Mrs. Peel’s front door. Well, I must immediately get myself one of those! I thought before Rigg had even appeared on the screen. My heart raced in giddy anticipation. ‘Good morning, Steed. The door’s open,’ a grand, surprisingly mature voice announced over the intercom. And then, there she was.
She was lunging about, épée in hand, in her fashionable, mid-century penthouse, dressed in a black leather and jersey catsuit, white, black-striped booties and black-and-white leather gloves. ‘Social visit?’ she smirked from behind her fencing mask. There was no question about it. I was riveted.
Ironically, season four now stands as my favorite and most frequently revisited of all The Avengers seasons. And while I could never betray my beloved Mrs. Gale, there is no way even the most diehard Blackman fan could deny the sheer force of nature that is Emma Peel. Here’s how to get this gorgeous avenger’s iconic look:
Mrs. Peel – we’re needed!
1 Flipped Hairdo
Brushed back and teased at the top, this is basically a darker, slightly longer version of Cathy Gale’s signature bob in seasons two and three.
2 Cat Eye Makeup
Mrs. Peel wears very little makeup. The one exception: a pair of subtly painted cat eyes. More Hepburn than Bardot, the eyes are meant to be misleadingly soft and kittenish, belying the lethal lady at work behind them.
3 A Vibrant, Girlish Energy
Diana Rigg was only about 27 when she joined The Avengers in 1965. That’s a good ten years younger than Honor Blackman when she first appeared on the show. And while Mrs. Peel is every bit as sophisticated and capable as her predecessor, there is undoubtedly a lighter, more playful demeanor to her character, which seems to have an effect on almost every aspect of the series from that point on.
4 Posh Speaking Voice
Because articulation is everything.
Your very own line of Avengerswear.
1 The Cathy Gale Suit
One or two leather ensembles for you to slip into, just when you suspect things are about to get a bit hairy.
2 Mod Couture
As a symbol of the modern, young English woman, you’re going to need a sizable collection of miniskirts and dresses, boots of varying lengths and colors, black-and-white optical art ensembles and other 1960s mod pieces.
3 The Emmapeeler
Make your mark with a wide, colorful array of stretch jersey, crimpelene and PVC catsuits. After all, you walk in no other avenger’s shadow!
4 Steed’s Things
A bowler hat here, a pocket watch there, a bamboo-handle umbrella. (Please note that these are mainly to be used as props during photoshoots.)
5 Fancy Dress Costumes
Robin Hood, Oliver Twist, Salome – and the odd BDSM piece for good measure.
Go the Extra Mile
1 Lose Your Husband in the Amazon
2 Install a Cyclops Peephole Into Your Front Door
3 Dabble in the Sciences
4 Become a Martial Arts Master
5 And a Master of the Sword
6 A Toxophilite
7 And a Sharpshooter
8 Take Charge of the Wheel From Time to Time
9 But Never, Ever Underestimate the Power of Man Appeal
10 Make an Entrance