“I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess, a queen from Wakanda maybe,” said Serena Williams, referring to her black catsuit that she wore on court at this year’s French Open.
Now that the French Tennis Federation has introduced some new rules, one of which includes “respecting the game and the place” by not playing in body-tight suits, there understandably is much outrage. According to Williams, the body-hugging suit that has been designed by Nike helps her with her blood clots, that she had much trouble with during her pregnancy.
Ever since their inception during 1960s, catsuits have been propagated as a symbol of seduction with it hugging each and every curve of the body. The image of Catwoman sauntering down on the screen has been frozen and being perceived as an elusive, mysterious figure with super flexible glutes. However, Hollywood’s version also translates a catsuit as empowered clothing. The women who slither their way into a catsuit are strong, commanding and self-sufficient.
How the catsuit came into being
One designer dressed the capital of fashion, Paris, in the 1960s–André Courrèges. Five years before Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon in 1969, Courrèges was ready with a space-savvy, stark white catsuit. But the much-talked about outfit really took off in 1964, when the French designer launched his Space Age collection.
Ironically, the sexy image associated with catsuits these days was initially meant to prosper the idea of a de-sexed, disciplined, monochrome woman. Courrèges identified women as a series of flat planes rather than curvaceous. The designer’s creation was comfortable and allowed enough room for mobility to move fast. Moreover, his arrestingly sharp cuts looked as if it was designed using a slide ruler and cut out with a scalpel.
By 1967, fantasy TV had adopted the catsuit as its own and both Catwoman and Batgirl were increasingly seen donning the patent leather suits, designed to exude power and confidence of the liberated female.
However, the most memorable catsuit wearer was Emma Peel, superheroine of The Avengers (1961–69) series. Her cut-out suit was a wetsuit-inspired creation that influenced designers all over the world.
With the return to natural fabrics, catsuits took a back seat in the ’70s. However, they made a brief appearances in the ’90s as rappers like Missy Elliott and Dee-Lite’s Lady Miss Kier brought them back in psychedelic designs, often paired with platform shoes.