I alluded, in an earlier post, to having recently acquired an original Avengerswear piece. Now before you go getting too excited on my behalf (because, you know, I imagine you would…..), it’s not a John Bates one. That remains my holy grail of collecting…
In the first colour season of The Avengers, Alun Hughes took over from John Bates as costume designer. Although strictly speaking Bates was never the costume designer per se, he simply provided Mrs Peel with a fully equipped working mod-girl wardrobe. Which would be used in various ways by the designer and whoever else happened to be making such decisions. Explaining why so many fabulous outfits, in which Diana Rigg was heavily photographed for publicity, made only brief appearances – if at all.
The colour episodes had been intended to be designed in a similar ‘working wardrobe’ manner by Pierre Cardin, who was already creating Steed’s very elegant suits [Shocking! A Frenchman designing our beloved Avengers? Whatever next??], but he was unable to complete the task and Hughes was brought on board as designer instead. Unfortunately I know very little about the man himself, but it would seem he actually was a costume designer rather than a fashion designer like Bates or Cardin. With the new colour format, and the strong overseas interest in the show, Hughes had new challenges to those of Bates with the black and white. He attacked it with gusto, using vivid colours, prints and playing with new synthetic fabrics. There’s also the varied influences, reflecting the ever-changing fashion scene of the time. We still have space-age cut-outs and skin tight gear, but also feathers and psychedelic silks. The look is more way-out, and more feminine than ever. He also invented the Emmapeeler, which was a more ‘Pop’ take on the leather and pvc catsuits of the earlier series.
As with Bates, and Frederick Starke before him, an Avengerswear range of clothes was produced and licensed out to different manufacturers and shops. Unlike Bates, whose Avengerswear collection was largely complete replicas of the Mrs Peel-worn originals, Hughes’ designs were used as templates for a wider range of colours and styles. Most items were produced in different colourways to the one seen on screen, again unlike Bates who was largely working in black and white anyway, and it would also seem that some items were produced in different lengths.
This stunning moire patterned velvet dress is clearly the same design as the one she wears in Return Of The Cybernauts. Emma’s is black (or perhaps dark green, it’s difficult to tell with early colour television) and a mini. Mine is purple and a maxi length. Nevertheless, it’s my first – and possibly only piece of Hughes’ Avengerswear and I feel very honoured to now have it in my possession.