Ever since Musidora slinked across the silver screen in her black zentai in 1915, the catsuit has become somewhat of a cinema (and later television) fashion standard. Every Apache criminal, jewel thief, secret agent, masked superheroine, motorcycle badass and space cadet worth her salt seems to own a minimum of one, if not in black, then in white or at the very least, silver. Call it what you like – a bodysuit, bodystocking, speedsuit, jumpsuit, unitard or onesie – the catsuit has infiltrated a vast spectrum of film, television and literary genres, including but not limited to sci-fi, spy-fi, crime, horror, mystery and adventure. The 1960s were an especially catsuit-friendly time, and many of the decade’s sleek, sultry creations paved the way for today’s more complex lyrcra, leather and latex masterpieces. Here are our ten favorite catsuits of the Swinging Sixties:
10 Batgirl (Batman, 1967-68)
‘How can Batgirl be the best anything when Catwoman is around?’ the Countess of Criminality once queried. She may have had a point, but I thought I’d at least give Yvonne Craig’s purple and yellow unitard an honorable mention here.
9 Zoe Heriot (Doctor Who, 1968-69)
Even a girl next door can pull off a silver catsuit with the right headband and fringe, as Wendy Padbury so charmingly demonstrated in her role as Zoe Heriot, a brilliant, young astrophysicist who made her home in a 21st century space wheel.
8 Honey West (Honey West, 1965-66)
Oh, if I could only get my hands on a pair of those little patent leather booties! But it’s the black skintight catsuit, handgun and beautymark combo that makes Anne Francis’s fabulously feline private detective, Honey West, such a visual delight.
7 Barbarella (Barbarella, 1968)
Okay, perhaps Jane Fonda’s plastic-breasted bodystockings don’t qualify exactly as catsuits, but one can’t really be too picky when one is dealing with iconic sixties sci-fi sex goddesses.
6 Rebecca (The Girl on a Motorcycle, 1968)
How did Marianne Faithfull escape her unhappy marriage? Why, on a 1967 Electra Glide, of course! And what did she wear to the happy occasion? A leather catsuit, bien sûr! (Did I mention Alain Delon was waiting for the woman in a bed in Heidelberg? This was never going to end well.)
5 Cathy Gale (The Avengers, 1962-64)
When it comes to leather, I must say, no one wore it quite like Honor Blackman. Her fetishistic catsuits reportedly took four hours to fit before filming, but the labor was well worth it. Along with her keen intellect, physical prowess, and cool, confident air, the British agent’s leather ensembles and ‘kinky boots’ eventually secured her cult status.
4 Cora Peterson (Fantastic Voyage, 1966)
Raquel Welch in a white catsuit, taking a submarine voyage inside a Soviet defector’s innards? Yes, please.
3 Modesty Blaise (Modesty Blaise, 1966)
It wasn’t easy leaving my beloved Monica Vitti behind at number three, but alas, there are different variables I must consider when compiling such lists – something more substantial than, ‘She reminds me of my mom in the 1960s.’ For more on Vitti and Blaise, please read my article, Get the Look: Modesty Blaise.
2 Catwoman (Batman, 1966-68)
Catsuits are scientifically designed for catwomen, after all. I’ll let the Marchioness of Misdemeanors do the rest of the work for me here: ‘No Best Dressed list is complete without the addition of the Queen of Criminals, the Princess of Plunder, yours untruly.’ – The Catwoman (Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill, 1967).
1 Emma Peel (The Avengers, 1965-68)
What do you do when you need to inject a bit of ‘man appeal’ (i.e. M. Appeal, i.e. Emma Peel) into your newly American-purchased, big budget, transatlantic magnum opus? Well, you bring in Diana Rigg for a start. You then stick her in an avant-garde catsuit, hand her a massive gun and release her into the wild.
(Never going to end well.)