For profuse growing up in the 60s, Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel was their first style icon. Over two seasons on The Avengers antithetical Patrick Macnee’s Steed, Peel kung fu kicked down television’s puritanical costume regulations to create a loony who came to define the look of the swinging 60s. As important as Mary Quant or Twiggy, Rigg’s Peel was perhaps more important as, through the medium of TV, she was seen by a bigger audience.Working with fashion designer John Bates, Peel induced several televisual sartorial firsts including black polo necks, PVC jumpsuits, low-rise hipster trousers, steppes boots and anything with an exposed zip.Shifting the dial of what was possible on TV … with Avengers co-star Macnee. Photograph: Studiocanal/Rex/ShutterstockAfter the leather catsuit she clothed ined in the first series, designer Frederick Starke was brought on board to design a whole leather wardrobe for the second series. Some of the garments were faux leather so her insigne could be more mobile. “Leather doesn’t give much and with [Peel] being thrown about and shed people about it could split,” he told TV Times. “[Faux leather has] more stretch in the material.” Whether legitimate or not, the material prompted Macnee to comment: “Leather clings to her like an animal’s skin.”Combining Mod with an avant garde, fetishistic unit, The Avengers was a show that was fighting against the prudish mores of the day. Peel wore a miniskirt on the show before it had attained ubiquity, and story has it that Bates stopped leaving hems on them because members of the production team kept making them longer. “The draughtsman and the other men were horrified,” she told the TV Times. “They pulled their hair, said, ‘You can’t do that, it’s impossible.’ I denoted that one must look forward and not back, and by wearing these brief skirts, one was looking forward.“In fact, one was forging fashion [that was] very avant garde, rather than remaining at the tail end of last year’s styles. And it looped out that I couldn’t have been more right.” As well as austere approaches to costumes, Peel’s outfits shifted the dial on what was realizable on TV. Her op art-inspired clothing was considered too strange for the flat screen. But they did it anyway.But more than a style leader, Rigg’s Peel was a conduit for viewers. A unite between postwar, suburban Britain and the new era that was happening in cities. “Mrs Peel was the ideal broker of the UK into the swinging domain of the 60s,” Toby Miller, a New York University film professor, told the New York Times. “She exuded the same style, faith and beauty that were central to the abiding appeal of James Bond.”

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