Design for Avenging: Sisters Under The Skin

1960s, avengers, avengerswear, David Gittings, diana rigg, emma peel, frederick starke, honor blackman, Inspirational Images, jean varon, john bates, meriel mccooey, Meriel McCooey, Paul Blanche, Selincourt, sunday times magazine, the avengers
Diana Rigg in buckled snakeskin coat made by Paul Blanche.

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.

In short snakeskin blazer made by Paul Blanche and ribbed sheer nylon stockings.
Leather jumpsuit with clasps made by Paul Blanche.
Black and white bunny coat made by Selincourt. All designed by John Bates.

Rigg Outs

1960s, alun hughes, avengers, avengerswear, Bata, Dannimac, diana rigg, Don Silverstein, edward mann, emma peel, old england, Selincourt, Sirela, the avengers, Thomas of Mayfair, Vintage Editorials, Woman's Own
Cotton pique raincoat in cream with top seaming by Dannimac, £8 19s. 6d. Matching barrow boy cap by Edward Mann, who make all hats for the series. Exotic watch on wide patent strap, by Old England about £5. Beige stretch stockings with single stripe by Echo 9s. 11d.

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.

Photographed by Don Silverstein.

Scanned from Woman’s Own, January 14th 1967.

Designed by 25-year-old theatrical designer Alun Hughes, an action dress in Celon jersey; sizes 10-16, also in natural/yellow/orange stripes, about 9gns. by Thomas of Mayfair. Hair by Allan McKeown of Here and There. Bata are making Diana’s Avenger shoes.
Fighting catsuit, with stretch an movement in navy crimplene with mustard side-stripes Echo are making these up-not only for fighters, more for apres-skiers- for 8gns. Selincourt are making Avenger furs; suede and leather togs come from Sirela.
“I love this,” says Diana Rigg. “It’s the kind of thing I wear in ‘real life’. All the new Avenger things are.” Stunningly simple crepe dress and jacket by Alun Hughes for Thomas of Mayfair, sizes 10-16, about 12gns. Larger-than-life watch by Old England, about £5.
‘Litting-nothing’ dress, epitomizing the new Avenger fashion thinking. “No gimmicks,” says Alun Hughes, “just elegant, modern clothes to counter-balance an Emma Peel-type life. Girls on the move can’t be bothered with bits and pieces..” By Thomas of Mayfair, about 8gns.

Landscape in Leather

1960s, Adrian George, elton john, Gervase, Jim O'Connor, Julian Cottrell, Mensday, menswear, mr freedom, ossie clark, patrick procktor, Tommy Roberts, Vogue
Simply sky, cloud, tree and grass sewn on the back of a brief bright jacket, pilot shape, all leather, buttoned both sides, worn with high-waisted trousers, sky blue silk shirt.

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.

Photographed by Julian Cottrell-Adrian George.

Scanned from Vogue, September 1968.

How to look 1970

19 magazine, 1960s, 1970s, Illustrations, michael roberts, way in

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.

Illustrated by Michael Roberts.

Scanned from 19 Magazine, September 1969.

Love Forty

1960s, Berkertex, Daniel Hechter, Foale and Tuffin, George Malyard, Graham Smith, helmut newton, Inspirational Images, Ken Lane, Malyard, Marlborough, mary quant, Queen magazine, Rayne, Vintage Editorials
White crepe dress by Berkertex. Jewelled snood by Graham Smith.

The clothes of the Thirties were capricious, narcissistic and extravagant — the jazz of the Twenties turning soft, like swing – but with the wartime Forties they necessarily became austere and functional.

To compensate, the details kept their extravagance – shirred waists, sweetheart necks, floppy sleeves, Veronica Lake hair.

On this and the following pages we have a minor Forties revival – minor because these clothes are strictly 1968, when women want to dress both practically and frivolously.

I do not endorse this copy, because I would not agree about the clothes of the Thirties being ‘narcissistic’, but I do endorse the photos and the clothes.

Photographed by Helmut Newton.

Scanned from Queen, July 31st 1968.

Red crepe dress by Foale and Tuffin. Hat by Malyard.
Red wool crepe dress by Foale and Tuffin. Gilt snake bracelets by Ken Lane.
Black crepe dress by Daniel Hechter for Bagatel. Beret by Malyard. Shoes by Rayne.
Grey crepe dress by Harriet.
Black checked beige crepe dress with bloused sleeveless top, by Marlborough. Black beret by Mary Quant for Kangol.

Penelope Tree by Avedon

1960s, avedon, Hair and make-up, Inspirational Images, Make-up, penelope tree, Vogue

Penelope Tree, nineteen, daughter of Mr Ronald and the Hon. Marietta Tree – the look of a dreamy Petrouchka. “I am all make-up,” she once said: she sees her face as a canvas, brushing on colour to strange, beguiling, sometimes extraordinary effect. While the effect on other people can be startling, she remains totally serene. Her imaginative face-painting began when she was thirteen. “I did it first to get attention, now I don’t notice it.” With a bright acquisitive mind that absorb countries, people, books, her heroes are Mailer and Nabokov, aesthetics and politics her life, and she takes a beautiful picture. This one, with bird feather eyes, by Avedon.

Photographed by Richard Avedon.

Scanned from Beauty in Vogue, 1969.

Maudie James in Ossie Clark

1960s, barry lategan, celia birtwell, hair, Inspirational Images, maudie james, ossie clark, quorum, vidal sassoon, Vogue

Maudie James in an Ossie Clark for Quorum silk chiffon dress with print by Celia Birtwell.

Illustrating ‘The New Hair Colour Story’ with hair by Christopher of Vidal Sassoon.

Photographed by Barry Lategan.

Scanned from Beauty in Vogue, 1969.

Avengerswear, elsewhere.

1960s, avengers, avengerswear, diana rigg, emma peel, jean varon, john bates, the avengers

Watching Circus of Fear, a very enjoyable B-movie from 1966 with Christopher Lee and Leo Genn, I noted that the luscious Margaret Lee was briefly seen wearing a piece of John Bates-designed Avengerswear.

Margaret Lee with Maurice Kauffman who, funnily enough, was Honor Blackman’s husband.

This black and white crepe catsuit was worn by Diana Rigg in The Avengers and modelled by Jean Shrimpton (with stunt man Ray Austin) for Vogue in 1965. It was, like all the Avengerswear, available to buy from the shops but these pieces are so rare and I have yet to find this catsuit in all my years of searching.

Dangerous black and white crepe fighting suit by Jean Varon Avengers Collection. Made by Simon Ellis, 13gns. Photographed by David Bailey. Vogue, October 1965.

I am now extremely curious to know whether this was something from Ms Lee’s own wardrobe which she bought herself, or whether the wardrobe supervisor (Charles Guerin) found it – oblivious to the fact that it was already a costume tie-in, or simply hoping that no one would notice. Or an even wilder theory is that it was the actual costume worn by Diana Rigg and already in circulation as a hireable costume. I suppose we may never know, but I thought it worth preserving for posterity.

Avengers collection promo, c. 1965. Scanned from John Bates: British Fashion Designer: The Sensational Years, 1963-1968

For the prettiest Christmas Eves

1960s, christmas, Honey Magazine, Vintage Adverts

Scanned from Honey, December 1969.

WHAT KIND OF GIRL ARE YOU?

19 magazine, 1960s, alistair cowin, annacat, biba, bus stop, celia birtwell, Daniel Hechter, Foale and Tuffin, fulham road clothes shop, guy and elizabeth, hung on you, Inspirational Images, jean varon, john bates, Lawrence Corner, lee bender, liberty, liberty's, lilley and skinner, Maxwell Croft, ossie clark, Pierre D'Alby, quorum, ravel, Roger Nelson, Ronald Keith, sally levison, Stephanie Farrow, Susan Handbags, sylvia ayton, wallis, Weathergay, zandra rhodes
Cancer: Long Victorian styled dress with high neck in coffee cotton lace trimmed with white, by Annacat, 25gns.

Whether you believe in star signs or not, this lovely editorial is certainly fun to browse. Pretty happy with my Cancerian Annacat dress, modelled by Stephanie Farrow, but greatly envy the Aries and Scorpio threads.

(Also, please don’t shout at me about the furs. I don’t like them either but it would be weird to leave out Leo and Aquarius. Just pretend they’re fake…)

Photographed by Guy and Elizabeth

Scanned from 19 Magazine, January 1969.

Leo: Red fox knee length coat by Maxwell Croft, 259gns. Red wig from Beyond The Fringe.
Virgo: White jersey dress with brown snakeskin shoulders and belt by Sylvia Ayton and Zandra Rhodes, approx 8gns. Mottled chiffon scarf from Liberty. Brown leather boots by Lilley and Skinner, £6 19s. 6d.
Libra: Long brown crepe dresswith medieval claret-coloured velvet sleeves by Roger Nelson at 94, 9gns.
Scorpio: Metallic blue leather jacket with zip front by Ossie Clark for Quorum, 25gns. Chiffon scarf by Biba, 18s. Red jersey trousers by Wallis, £3 19s 11d. Leather boots by Lilley and Skinner.
Sagittarius: Fake horse jacket with leather elbows and trim, by Daniel Hechter for Weathergay 15gns. Herringbone trousers by Alistair Cowin at Grade One, £3 19s. 6d. Beige ribbed sweater 4½gns. Matching beret, 39s 11d. Both by Sally Levison Originals.
Capricorn: Beige rayon crepe trouser suit by Foale and Tuffin, 20½gns. Pink chiffon scarf by Biba, 18s 9d. Brown leather brogues by Ronald Keith, 6gns.
Aquarius: Maxi fur coat by Barbara Warner for Fab Furs, 150gns. Black hat by Biba, 25s. Worn underneath, black maxi jersey dress with snakeskin waistband by Sylvia Ayton and Zandra Rhodes, approx 8gns.
Pisces: Beautifully cut white raincoat by Foale and Tuffin, 16½gns. Boots to order by Ravel Studio, 19gns.
Aries: Brown suede fringed waistcoat, £7, with matching printed moccasins, £2. From Hung On You. Deep red satin blouse by Biba, £2 15s 6d. Brown cord trousers by Alistair Cowin at Grade One, 5gns. Narrow headscarf by Celia Birtwell for Quorum, 1gn.
Taurus: Blue rayon georgette, high-waisted dress with baby ribbon trim by John Bates for Jean Varon, 13gns.
Gemini: Green army surplus hat, 9s. 9d., and beige jacket, 11s. 9d., both from Lawrence Corner. Beige gabardine knickerbocker suit, by Pierre D’Alby, 14gns. Brown stockings from Mary Davies, 35s. Brown leather brogues by Ronald Keith, 6gns. Shetland Fair Isle beret, 25s. and scarf, 29s. 11d. by Lee Bender at Bus Stop. Leather shoulder bag by Susan Handbags, 7gns.