Sorry for the protracted absence over the past month. I realise I’m not the only one, but I have been experiencing serious fatigue from the events of the past year and I think the loss of Diana Rigg was some kind of final straw for me. I could see I was almost at the point of burning out and decided to take my foot off the pedal for a bit. But I get itchy fingers if I don’t scan for a while so I am gently starting up again, although it’s unlikely to be the same frequency as before. I’ve enjoyed the downtime too much and need to be careful with my mental health – as do we all!
I hope you’re all hanging in there ok, and that at the very least my archive has been of some distraction and enjoyment to you.
Biba cosmetics advert scanned from Honey, October 1971.
I was mainly scanning this spread because I’ve just listed a Zandra Rhodes dress which I think must be from the same collection over on Etsy, but thought I might as well put them here too – especially because of that iconic Bill Gibb photo (used for the cover of Iain R. Webb’s definitive book about Gibb, seemingly fetching a pretty penny on Amazon these days). These top-stitched jerseys were a signature look for her in this period and mine also has the Piero de Monzi label. Marc Bolan had a top version in various colours and levels of frilly extravagance.
(If you’re interested in the Zandra Rhodes dress, click here to view it on Etsy.)
On Thursday evening at 8 o’clock The Avengers comes back. Viewers in London, Scotland and the South will see it, other channels will have to wait until October 2. The new show lacks one vital element. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale, that female gauleiter with a heart of gold, has left television for films and the arms of James Bond.
She is replaced by rangy, redheaded Diana Rigg, an actress already blooded for knock-about violence in shows like King Lear and The Devils with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She plays the new Avenger woman Emma Peel, who is described by A.B.C. television as “the youthful widow of an ace test pilot, daughter of a wealthy shipowner, and an internationally educated symbol of the jet-age female”.
A strong-arm widow, born with such disadvantages, couldn’t fail to be an interesting autumn draw, but the new girl will find it hard work to oust the memory of Cathy Gale from the spot she kicked out for herself in these shows. For, as Cathy Gale, Honor Blackman was mesmeric. Male viewers turned to pulp in their armchairs as she hurled opponent after opponent through plate glass windows, and their TV dinners turned to dust as she half-nelsoned men twice her size.
Women were fascinated too, but for different reasons. They sat glued to their sets wondering what it was she had, that they hadn’t. Her slightly sinister but wholly fathomable allure had little to do with her natural assets ; her toughness, the purring reassurance of her voice, her earthiness ; her blonde hair and wide mouth. Cathy Gale’s real appeal was firmly laced into the shiny black leather of her fighting suits.
The black leather fighting suits she wore, now generally referred to as ‘kinky clothes’ were designed by Frederick Starke. They proved such a success both here and in the U.S.A., where the last series was sold, that the American business men controlling the sales insisted that these clothes should be retained for the next series. This was a mistake. Fashion moves much faster than most business men, and the feeling for black leather was on the wane, long before the last episode was off the screen. But A.B.C. agreed to the American conditions, and Emma was togged up in black leather and boots, looking just like Cathy Gale in a long red wig.
Before the new series was half-way through, the planners realised that some fairly startling changes were taking place in the fashion world. Skirts were getting shorter and women appeared to be crossing their thighs, not their knees. Leather was out. All sorts of animal skins, from snakes to zebras, were in. And op and pop art were having an explosive effect on textile design.
This series is the first to be made on film instead of videotape, which means it could be running in different countries all over the world for the next five to ten years. It would be pushed to keep its con-temporary smack with a limping gimmick like black leather. At this point, with half their film in the bag, A.B.C. called in fashion co-ordinator Anne Trehearne, an ex-fashion editor of Queen magazine, and asked designer John Bates of Jean Varon to plan a new wardrobe for Emma Peel to wear during the last 14 episodes. John Bates is the man who made the now famous daisy dress which 25 red-faced debutantes wore to the same ball.
Designing a wardrobe for a preconceived image is no easy task, but he succeeded in doing this and more besides. His clothes are 100 per cent. modern. He has shortened the skirts (in spite of tough opposition in certain quarters at A.B.C.), re-designed the black leather fighting outfits into modern, one-piece jump-suits, introduced tailored snakeskin and a whole range of op art furs.
In all there are 35 garments with complementary accessories. And for the first time the whole collection will be sold in the shops. (Frederick Starke did sell some of Cathy Gale’s wardrobe, but only selected items.) Over 12 well-known manufacturers, like Edward Rayne, Paul Blanche and Kangol, are co-operating with John Bates at Jean Varon and are making the shoes, the skin coats and the berets under licence; Echo are even making the amusing ribbed sheer nylon stockings. They will all be in the shops in October.
Both the clothes and the series are now saleable properties. It will be interesting to see which proves the biggest draw to interested buyers the striking new clothes or the shiny new girl.
Photographed by David Gittings.
Story by Meriel McCooey.
Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, September 26th 1965.
Where do I begin? You don’t need another rundown of her incredible career and life. You don’t need to be told what a breathtaking actor she was. I think I just need to express what she meant to me, except I’m not even sure I can do that adequately.
Her strength and confidence was, and continues to be, instructive to me as a woman in search of strength and confidence. I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if Diana Rigg hadn’t been the person she was and portrayed women in the way she did. I quite literally wouldn’t be where I am because she piqued my interest in John Bates and his work. I wrote my degree dissertation on Emma Peel and began my love affair with British boutique clothing, which in turn started my business and gave me my ridiculous eBay username. I first met my partner at the launch of Richard Lester’s monograph on John Bates, twelve years ago next month.
I was fortunate enough to see her in Mother Courage and Her Children and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, thanks to an adventurous Theatre Studies A-level teacher, and later in Suddenly Last Summer and All About My Mother. I travelled up to Sheffield for the former, and briefly met her afterwards. I couldn’t really have translated all that she meant to me into anything coherent, so I just got her autograph and told her I thought she was amazing or something (I don’t remember). She smiled kindly and said thank you. I don’t know, I probably hoped she might adopt me. But she didn’t.
There is profound sadness in her no longer being in the world but always joy in her body of work. Which I shall enjoy revisiting. And I shall make an effort to rescan a lot of my archive for the new era in my life. Thanks to her, as always. Because I always come back to, what would Emma Peel do? And without Diana, there’s no Emma.
Today is a feature on the Avengerswear range designed by Alun Hughes (who took over from John Bates for the colour episodes). Tomorrow will be John Bates Avengerswear. Enjoy!
The Avengers are back! And the fashion world’s buzzing with the great news of Diana Rigg’s new wardrobe. Here’s the low-down: ABC Television have seen to it that all Diana’s clothes can be bought, budget-priced, from big stores up and down the country. And you’re the first to see them in their true colours. Suzanne Grey has picked these five top-sellers, photographed exclusively for Woman’s Own readers.
The RCA’s School of Fashion is a great forcing ground for young designers. This year’s show proved the point again, with looks both space-age and romantic, the best in fashion for men… the man in the landscape is Gervase, pop singer with new release, “Pepper Grinder”. And the man responsible for the leather landscape, Jim O’Connor, made a gold lurex evening suit that could outshine Elvis Presley; a memorable droopy satin dressing gown and pyjamas silk-screened in rainbow colours with the words “there will never be another you”.
I would walk over hot coals for that jacket. Jim O’Connor would go on to design for Tommy Roberts’s Mr Freedom boutique and created the legendary winged boots (as worn by Elton John) amongst many other iconic designs.
There’s not a huge amount out there about Gervase Griffiths, what there is mainly relates to his time with Patrick Procktor and those creative circles (see here where there is also a connection to Ossie Clark), but here’s a link to the aforementioned Pepper Grinder which is all the baroque psychedelic whimsy you would expect from 1968.
Before you write off last year’s wardrobe as being out of date, or get depressed because you have nothing to wear and no money to spend … take a few minutes off and let your imagination wander like we did here. For instance, have you ever thought of:
Cutting down the sleeves of shirts and dresses to the new elbow length, adding old lace cuffs and collars and, perhaps, a heart pocket or two?
Adding a stunning button trim right down the sleeves of sweaters, cardigans and plain dresses?
Cutting up pieces of odd fabric and making patchwork pockets, shoulder insets and long scarves?
Ripping off existing collars and cuffs and replacing them with a lovely floral print with tie or scarf to match?
Adding a fake fur trim to the inside of cuffs, collars, pocket flaps and front openings to give a luxurious new look to a tired jacket or coat?
Adding fake fur pockets, shoulder yokes, collars and cuffs?
Cutting down trousers that are too short to four inches below the top of your boots? (test the length first so you don’t cut them too short).
Knitting yourself a long, long scarf and fringing the ends, or buying a long length of material and doing likewise?
Wearing your trousers inside your boots to promote a sleeky, sporty look?
Wearing a Sam Browne belt? (Available from Way In or Army Surplus Stores.)
Plaiting your hair and winding it around your ears, or wearing it in a plaited bun at the nape of your neck.
There are endless possibilities. All it takes is a bit of patience and some rummaging around.