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

Linda Thorson for Belle Color

1960s, avengers, linda thorson, the avengers, Vintage Adverts, Vogue

linda thorson belle colour

Scanned by Miss Peelpants from Vogue, April 1969.

Ossie, Ossie, Ossie

1970s, celebrities in vintage, doctor who, doctor who companion fashion, ossie clark

Jenna Coleman

Jenna Coleman: Maintaining the tradition of well-dressed Sixties/Seventies-era Doctor Who companions…

Intriguing times. Three different television starlets wore vintage Ossie Clark to the National Television Awards last night. All three were wrap dresses, all variations on Ossie’s signature design. I find it intriguing because the wrap dress is by no means Ossie’s only style, and none of them featured a Celia Birtwell print: Jenna Coleman and Kelly Brook both wore black crepe and Rachel Wilde wore iridescent satin. The similarities between the three ladies and the three dresses enable us to view Ossie’s designs through very different eyes at the same time.

Rachel Wilde

Rachel Wilde

Both Brook and Wilde were deemed, by the tabloids at least, to have suffered ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and their beautiful dresses garnered them places on ‘worst dressed’ lists. Indeed, the hysteria – a curious mix of lasciviousness and prim puritanism – surrounding Brook’s very visible nipples was bordering on the sinister. For why on earth, one wonders, is a 40-year-old dress causing such ripples of disapproval? In a world where you can – quite frankly – see Kelly Brook’s nipples any time you want by googling her Playboy shoot, and other starlets are wearing skimpier, shorter and more see-through outfits on any night of the year, why is a bit of moss crepe causing such a brouhaha?

It says something about the design genius of Ossie, and of his understanding of sensuality, that an artfully revealing floor length dress (covering all the flesh except a triangle of cleavage and an occasional flash of leg) is somehow being seen as incredibly rude and almost nude. It also says something deeply unpleasant about the unnecessarily bright flash bulbs of the modern press photographer, doesn’t it? Moss crepe is only transparent when you fire a bright light through it, and the bulbs of the Sixties and Seventies would never have caused such an effect. I think it’s pretty much obvious that such wardrobe malfunctions are a creation of the press; Brook’s nipples would not have been visible in person or on the television cameras.

Kelly Brook, and her nipples.

Kelly Brook, and her nipples.

Of course, Ms. Brook is famous for her curves and not exactly averse to a bit of publicity – whatever the cause may be. I’m not saying she did this deliberately from the start, but even if her stylist gently pointed out that there might (just might) be a bit of an issue, then she may well have shrugged it off as nothing to worry about. Which is fine and dandy.

In fact, without realising it, she was really fulfilling Ossie’s original intent. He didn’t like people wearing underwear with his clothes. He designed so that the breasts are supported by the garment itself, and he felt that underwear ruined the line. I don’t think he planned for flashbulbs, but I imagine he would have been delighted by the outrage his designs continue to cause.

Jenna Coleman

Jenna Coleman

Personally, I think the best dressed of the night – never mind the best Ossie – was Jenna Coleman. I don’t know how she underpinned her Ossie, but there are no nipples and no knickers involved. I also think that the way you style your hair and make-up, and the way you hold yourself makes a big difference; Coleman wins on all fronts. It might not be outrageous, rude or shocking, but ultimately I think Ossie would have been the most happy to see this gorgeous, talented young lady wearing his dress in a supremely sophisticated way. Similar dresses, very different styles…

Inspirational Images: Diana Rigg

1960s, diana rigg, emma peel, Inspirational Images, the avengers

Photograph by John Kelly

Scanned by Miss Peelpants as a clipping from an unknown issue of Bravo magazine, late Sixties.

Mensday: Bowlers, brollies and birds

1970s, avengers, Bowler hats, Inspirational Images, Mensday, menswear, minis

Photo by W. E. Carden

“The battle of the sexes in England, land of stiff upper lips and furled umbrellas – a land, in short, of Ladies and Gentlemen. Some are here seen at an Old Comrades Association parade in London’s Hyde Park in the merry month of May, where the keen eye – and camera – of W. E. Carden,  A.R.P.S. noticed this amusing little vignette.”

Scanned from Photography Year Book, 1971.

I feel an Avengers episode coming on…

Mary Tamm RIP

1970s, doctor who, doctor who companion fashion, Geek stuff, Mary Tamm, Romana

And so I awoke to the awful news that the glorious Mary Tamm has died, aged 62. Just over a year after Elisabeth Sladen and a few weeks after Caroline John. It gets more sad for me, because each has been that bit more of a favourite of mine. Romana I (indubitably the superior of the two Romanas) was one of my absolute favourites and a very formative and notable style icon for me. Her wardrobe for her sole series as companion is an absolute triumph, and was a perfect reflection of the glamorous and slightly icy character of Romana (the first and finest Time ‘Lady’ of the series). I salute you Mary Tamm (mmmmm), beauty and talent incarnate.

RIP Caroline John

1970s, Caroline John, doctor who, doctor who companion fashion, jon pertwee

One of the worst aspects of growing up watching such a long-running and old programme such as Doctor Who, is that you feel an extra-painful twinge of sadness when one of its stars dies. My first remembered experience of this was my beloved Jon Pertwee way back in 1996, and it doesn’t get any easier with time. I have already waxed lyrical on the character of Liz Shaw, way back when I did my geek-a-thon tribute to all the Who girls, but it’s worth saying again that Caroline as Liz was one of my favourite companions – despite her all-too-brief tenure by the Doctor’s side. She had the best legs in Who, was a notable exception to the screaming, helpless girl template (a condition suffered by so many in that programme) and was the most perfect foil to my favourite Doctor.

Gabrielle Drake in Cosmopolitan, 1973

1970s, avengers, david montgomery, Gabrielle Drake

Dress and hat by Shop O. Shoes by Walter Steiger.

“But I don’t hide the bags under my eyes … I like that slightly haggard look!”

Gabrielle Drake featured in Cosmopolitan, June 1973. Photographed by David Montgomery.

Scanned by Miss Peelpants.

The New Avenger in Lee Bender

annacat, bus stop, chelsea girl, harold ingram, jean varon, joanna lumley, lee bender, murray arbeid, norman hartnell, polly peck, terry de havilland, the avengers, website listings

I have just listed some stunning new pieces over at Vintage-a-Peel, but the real star of the show has got to be this incredible Lee Bender for Bus Stop skirt and halter top set. For it is identical to the one worn by Joanna Lumley in a photocall for The New Avengers in 1976. Deliciously bright and saucy, and the one thing which might distract the world from your pudding-bowl haircut!

Photos and links to other newly listed items follow underneath…

Late Sixties cord jacket (click to view listing)

Murray Arbeid 1980s turquoise cocktail dress (click to view listing)

Terry de Havilland 1970s gold glitter shoes (click to view listing)

Norman Hartnell early 1960s chiffon and soutache evening gown (click to view listing)

Annacat 1960s blue velvet jacket (click to view listing)

Harold Ingram 1970s knitted top (click to view listing)

Polly Peck 1960s white cotton blouse (click to view listing)

Chelsea Girl 1970s stripe jumper (click to view listing)

Tom Bowker for Jean Varon 1970s silver lamé top (click to view listing)

Joanna Lumley in Catherine Buckley, The New Avengers 1976

1970s, catherine buckley, joanna lumley, the avengers


It’s of the greatest frustration to me that nobody has yet bought this beautiful skirt by Catherine Buckley. Made from antique fabrics, patchworked into a maxi skirt, it is a key piece of this designer’s work and a beautiful garment to behold.

I knew she had designed clothes for Joanna Lumley as Purdey in The New Avengers, but it had been so long since I watched the episodes, I didn’t remember many individual outfits. Even so, it was highly unlikely that the super-active Purdey would have been wearing a patchwork maxi skirt. Or so I thought. Seems Ms Buckley designed a split midi version for the episode ‘House of Cards’ which Joanna wears to perfection in an action sequence.

Here are some stills, and here is a link to the skirt. Buckley’s work is rare enough, and these patchwork pieces even rarer.