The Immaculate Avengers 

17 February 2016 tbs.pm/8543

Honor Blackman’s second series as Dr Cathy Gale in ABC Weekend’s hit show The Avengers was eagerly awaited, not only by the salesforce at ABC who were fighting off advertisers desperate to feature in the commercial breaks but also by fans, viewers and fashionistas. The clothes worn in the first series had been plain and functional, but as the second series progressed they became more startling – and began to influence fashions in the street. ABC promised a new look for the characters for the third series, and the TVTimes published 1 November 1963 rushes to examine what both protagonists would be wearing.

 

Honor Blackman, television’s original black leather girl, has a completely new leather wardrobe as Cathy Gale in The Avengers on Saturdays. It has been designed for her by London fashion designer Frederick Starke, who says that Honor started “the most tremendous boom the industry is ever known” when she first wore leather nearly a year ago.

In her new wardrobe are two black leather fighting suits made up of knee-length breeches laced at the sides where they meet her long boots, and two long-sleeved tops, one waist-length, one hip-length.

Then there is a Tabard set. It is like an old-fashioned butcher’s apron, slit up the sides to the hips and worn with a sweater and long shorts – plus, of course, the boots. She has one of the sets in black leather and another in gold lamé with matching gold lamé boots.

A black leather coat, lined with fierce-looking civet cat, completes the genuine leather wardrobe. But the leather-look doesn’t end there. A new material, jersey backed but looking exactly like leather on the right side, has been evolved for Honor by Frederick Starke. She has a floor-length evening dress in this simulated leather, and a cloak to wear with it in wool but faced in the leather fabric.

“There is more stretch in the material,” says Mr Starke. “We might use it for the trousers in future. Leather doesn’t give much and with Cathy being thrown about and throwing people about, it could split.” He explained “I read a few of the scripts and found out what kind of person Cathy Gale is meant to be. I thought of her as a female James Bond, alias Secret Agent 007. She does a great deal of fighting so the clothes have to be practical.

Avengers 03-11-63 p01“Cathy is meant to be a fashionable woman. There are occasions when she will need simpler clothes. She has two basic suits and pinafore dress. She can wear anything so long as it isn’t fluffy. She is a beautiful girl with a lovely figure, but an unusual bone structure makes her difficult to fit.”

The problem with Honor’s 36-24-37 figure, apparently, is that she has big bones with broad shoulders, but is so slim from front to back “that she almost disappears.” It was Patrick Macnee, Steed in The Avengers, who had the idea originally that his assistant, Cathy, would look good in leather.

He said: “It started off in the simplest sort of way. I love leather and it’s tough and hard-wearing. Then it won popularity because such a hard, tough material on a soft white skin obviously has a stunning effect.” Patrick has strong ideas on clothes. He chooses all his own clothes for The Avengers.

“They should reflect personality. Steed’s things are light and flipperty-gibbet. I use the Edwardian look – it’s different. I have a number of peculiar likes and dislikes. They mean a lot, but I can’t give reasons for them. I’ve change my clothes on my own instinct completely.”

Patrick describes some of the clothes from his new wardrobe: “Blazers – I have to one white one black. They are in a rough material, hessian or hopsack. You might call them my Chinese Admiral jackets. I saw one in the ‘Tatler’ – a cross between a military and casual. I don’t normally wear formal clothes – I lived in California for some time and I’m more at home in sweaters and cardigans. But these clothes are fun in the part.

“Then there’s my country soup – landed gentry type. I’m a chap with a comfortable income who wanders round is estates with a gun somewhere in Hertfordshire in that outfit. The jacket has a blue, brown and black check, the waistcoat’s green and I wear a curly-brimmed brown bowler with it.

“My overcoat – that’s in a heavy oatmeal broadcloth, flared, and with a velvet collar. It’s like an old coach-and-four driver’s coat. My grey worsted suit is my favourite. I love the exceptionally wide cuffs. No good reason except that I can wear enormous cuff-links.

“The pin-stripe suit has been out of action for years, but I noticed Angus Ogilvy was wearing one just before his wedding. They’re fun to wear. My umbrella – nothing special about that – except that it must have a knobbly handle. I detest smooth handles. That’s terribly important.”

Any challenges for the role of “best dressed couple on television”?

 

 


  • Related reading: Two Against the Underworld – the Collected Unauthorised Guide to the Avengers Series 1 by Richard McGinlay, Alan Hayes and Alys Hayes is available from Amazon.co.uk and other suppliers. You can read an extract of the book here.
  • The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT) campaigns to end the brutal horror that is fur for clothing. Their website is caft.org.uk/

You Say

1 response to this article

Paul Mason 18 February 2016 at 4:12 am

My Avengers memory starts with Diana Rigg who also donned leather. In the late 1980s or early 90s Channel 4 screened the Honor Blackman episodes.

Patrick McNee and Honor Blackman must have been HORRIFIED when their awful record Kinky Boots surfaced some years ago. Much worse than T.Wogan’s Floral Dance.

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