A catsuit is a close-fitting one-piece garment that covers the torso and the legs, and frequently the arms. They are usually made from stretchable material, such as lycra, chiffon, spandex (after 1959), leather, latex, PVC, or velour, and frequently close using a zipper at the front or back.
Catsuits, which date from at least the 1940s, can be worn by both men and women, and, despite the name, do not generally have feline characteristics.
Catsuits were occasionally worn as a high fashion item at various times from the 1960s to the 1990s. During the 1970s and 1980s they were worn for aerobics and disco dancing. Around 1980 disco dance catsuits briefly became a street fashion item in the UK.
Athletes in sports such as speed skating, bobsled, winter triathlon, ski-racing, cycling and gymnastics wear garments that are similar to catsuits, but which are specifically geared to the needs of the sport involved. Also similar in appearance are wetsuits and drysuits used by scuba divers, and the speedsuits used by competitive swimmers before the more extreme forms of the suit were banned. Also, in tennis Serena Williams once wore a black catsuit during the 2002 US Open.
Some people consider catsuits to be a fetish item. Catsuits for fetish use are often made of latex or PVC where such a catsuit is typically highly shiny, tight fitting and may be (but is not exclusively) worn with a corset over the top of the suit. Other materials such as lycra, shiny wet look, or velvet are options for fetish wear too, with some lycra materials having animal print designs. Catsuits can have zips on the front or rear for access, with some having zips on the shoulders. Additional zips can be placed in specific areas for access, if required. Typically a fetish catsuit will not have gloves or feet. Feet, if present, are typically form fitting like socks and the gloves will have individual fingers. Typically gloves and socks can be worn as additional accessories to a catsuit to give a whole body look, with some opting to add a hood as an option too. Hoods can also be incorporated in to the catsuit. Rarely will a catsuit incorporate boot or shoe, although it is possible. An option instead of gloves might be bondage mittens, which might have a D-ring at the top, and such catsuits can be used as straitjackets in the context of bondage. More extreme options for catsuits have incorporated monoglove instead of sleeves and they can also be used for bondage. Catsuits may also have incorporated corset and/or neck corset, although these are typically added as accessories to complete a look.
A zentai is a fetish garment, usually made of spandex, being a catsuit with both feet gloves and a hood which totally encloses the wearer. The name zentai comes from the Japanese word for "whole body".
In popular culture
The catsuit is often worn in movies, television, music videos and computer games.
- An iconic use of catsuits in popular media was on the British television show The Avengers, where Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) wore tight leather catsuits; leather was chosen because it lit well in studio lighting and did not split during action scenes.
- Shirley Bassey wore a sleeveless chiffon catsuit for a gatefold album photograph, and in concert.
- Cher has also worn catsuits in concert.
- In comics and their spin-off movies, catsuits are often worn by superheroes of both sexes. One well-known icon is Catwoman, the villainess/anti-heroine of the Batman series, who has worn a number of different styles of catsuit in her numerous film, comic book and cartoon adaptations. A heroine in the Batman series, Batgirl, also wore catsuits.
- The character of Jade in the Wrong Number novel from R.L. Stine's Fear Street series has an affinity for wearing catsuits.
- In popular culture, dominatrixes are often portrayed as wearing catsuits, to the extent that it has become their stereotypical costume.
- "Catsuit – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- "The Catsuit « THE BASSEY BLOG". Shirleybassey.wordpress.com. 20 January 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- Beth Hardie. "Celebrity catsuit queens – Mirror.co.uk's top 10". Daily Mirror. UK. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- Media related to Catsuits at Wikimedia Commons