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Strapped to the drainpipe: Emma Peel and the vinyl catsuit

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In 1965 Diana Rigg, aka Mrs Emma Peel, burst onto English television screens in the ‘spy-fi’ series The Avengers (Roy Baker, 1965) wearing, amongst other things, a skin-tight black vinyl catsuit. Her costumes offered a visual excess which reinforced the effects of the series’ highly stylized mise-en-scène. This visual excess was also played out in public life, where Mrs Peel’s clothes were available in retail outlets, and Diana Rigg as exemplary modern woman wore some of the styles both as public obligation and private pleasure. This article outlines the way the catsuit, as worn by Mrs Peel, is part of a technological nexus: its fabrication, its implicit and imminent activity and its sexual narrative. In her catsuit Mrs Peel represents and manifests the modern technological body, and this clothed body became central to conflict in The Avengers’ narrative. But despite being strapped to a drainpipe or bound into a catsuit Mrs Peel was always firmly in control.

Keywords: British television; Diana Rigg; The Avengers; catsuit; costume

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Sydney

Publication date: 2011-02-16

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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