John Bates

1960s, avengers, avengerswear, David Gittings, diana rigg, emma peel, Inspirational Images, jean varon, john bates, norman eales, Rolf van Brandtzage, the avengers
Scanned from Woman’s Mirror October 30th 1965. Photographed by Norman Eales.

If you follow me on Instagram, you will already have read my tribute to the amazing John Bates, who died on the 5th of June aged 83. Here I have collated a few images of his work designing costumes for Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in her first season in The Avengers, and an accompanying article from Woman’s Mirror, October 1965. I have also updated an earlier post with clearer scans from Woman’s Mirror, May 1966 of a dress which wasn’t officially Avengerswear but being offered as a pattern for readers with a cover photo of Diana in the dress.

“WHEN people say, ‘Oh, she’s the new Avengers girl’ I know that’s not all I am,” says 27-year-old Diana Rigg. “I had a career in the theatre before this and I know I can always go back to it. I hate talking about The Avengers and what I’m like in it and how I differ from Honor Blackman. I would much rather people drew their own conclusions.

“I dread the prospect of all the attachments to being famous. I work here at the studios from seven in the morning until six at night and I feel that should be enough. The thought of being a public personality, opening shops, and not being able to answer the door in my curlers, horrifies me.”

But being the Avengers girl has its advantages. Not the least of them being the prospect of wearing a sizz-ling new wardrobe, designed specially for the series by John Bates of Jean Varon.

“John’s been absolutely smashing,” says Diana. “Like most actresses, I spend a lot of time studying myself for the stage, and so off-stage I tend to the casual. I really have no set ideas about clothes. First of all, John studied my figure, discovered my faults, used them, and made a virtue out of them.

“He’s emphasised my broad shoulders with cutaway necklines. He’s drawn attention to my big hips with hipsters and huge broad belts. I think that this is a far more realistic attitude than designing for some impossible ideal model figure.

“There’s a kind of swinginess about John’s clothes which really makes me move in a special kind of way. And they’re all interchangeable. In different episodes there will be different permutations of the same clothes and ideally, of course, this is just how a woman’s wardrobe should be.

In deference to the American market, which still thinks that leather is the sexiest thing out, Diana has one leather fighting suit. “Of course, leather isn’t sexy at all,” she says, “It’s far too rigid. My other fighting suit is in black, clingy jersey which is far sexier.”

Clingy jersey fighting suits are all very well, but they have to stand up to pretty stiff competition in the shape of some snazzy interchangeables.

In this week’s instalment set in a gloomy Scottish castle, Diana will wear ice-blue lace ensemble with ankle boots, hipster trousers, bare midriff, bra top and modesty jacket. For exploring dungeon and torture chambers, flesh lace catsuit under white chiffon negligee.

There’s no doubt about it. If the clothes are anything to go by, this ABC series of The Avengers is certainly living up to the boast of its associate producer . . “It’s still a kinky show.”

Scanned from John Bates: Fashion Designer by Richard Lester.
Scanned from Television Stars Annual.
Scanned from Woman’s Mirror, 28th May 1966. Photographed by Rolf van Brandtzage.
Scanned from John Bates: Fashion Designer by Richard Lester. Photogrphed by David Gittings.
Scanned from Fashion in the 60s by Barbara Bernard.
Scanned from John Bates: Fashion Designer by Richard Lester. Photogrphed by David Gittings.
Scanned from Fashion in the 60s by Barbara Bernard.
Photographed by David Gittings. Scanned from The Sunday Times Magazine, September 26th 1965.
Scanned from Woman’s Mirror October 30th 1965.