Catsuits and bodysuits in popular media

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Juan-José Moréno (Fernand Herrmann) confronts Irma Vep (Musidora) in Les Vampires episode "Hypnotic Eyes".

Catsuits are a recurring costume for fictional characters in various media, as well as for entertainers, especially for use in musical performances. They are sometimes referred to as "bodysuits", especially in reference to a full-body suit worn by a man (although bodysuit usually refers to a legless garment); catsuit is typically used only in reference to women.[1][2]

The catsuit has been identified as a film-maker's costume of choice for stealth.[3] In films like Irma Vep, Les Vampires and Heroic Trio, crime and catsuits are featured together, as well as its major original use in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief.[3][4]

A trend of bodysuits was observed by film reviewer Alan Farrell in his book High Cheekbones, Pouty Lips, Tight Jeans, and a number of occurrences of the garb in films were mentioned - Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux, Milla Jovovich in the fourth and fifth film of the Resident Evil franchise, Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix, Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Kate Beckinsale in Underworld, and Raquel Welch in Fantastic Voyage.[5] The trend of leather and vinyl catsuits were identified as an attempt to redefine the gender role of women through films.[6] Theresa L. Geller described the catsuit as a part of the Hollywood tough chic paradigm in an article published in the journal Frontiers.[7] That view was shared by Sherrie A. Inness in her book Action Chicks, which also included computer games and professional wrestling in that paradigm.[8] The Action Heroine's Handbook describes the catsuit as one of the three options of the first rule of thumb described in the book: "Dress to accentuate your best physical assets".[9] Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture by Sherrie A. Inness describes catsuits as an iconic garb of female TV and film characters.[10]

Movies and television series[edit]

Notable uses of catsuits or similar full-body garments include:

Music videos[edit]

Notable uses of catsuits or similar full-body garments include:

Video and computer games[edit]

Notable uses of catsuits or similar full-body garments include:

Post-modern thesis[edit]

In a post-modern thesis on the superhero genre Michael Lecker wrote, "In the superhero genre, clothes do the talking through semiotics, which [Roland] Barthes discusses in depth in his work: The 'first, literal message serves as a support for a second meaning, of a generally affective or ideological order' (Roland Barthes[43]). The cat suits that adorn the feline hybrid characters in this genre are firstly illustrating their connection to felines. On the ideological level, the costumes signify the attributes that our society has projected onto cats and that the characters embody."[44] In another post-modern thesis on sadomasochism in cinema Andrea Beckmann wrote, "Cinematic SM is twisted into the non-consenting, violent realm of the unhinged that we know it is not. Fetishism is used as an excuse for a bit of titillatory semi-nudity, or to identify the villain – the man in black leather. Horror films, in particular, will happily throw in a leather catsuit or a gratuitous bondage scene to spice up a mediocre script (M Olley, Pam Hogg: Warrior Queen of the Catwalk[45])."[46]


  1. ^ Bodysuit,
  2. ^ Catsuit,
  3. ^ a b Paula Deitz, "Origins of Casual Style", The New York Times Magazine, 1989-08-20
  4. ^ "Danger clad in a catsuit", The Age
  5. ^ Alan Farrell, High Cheekbones, Pouty Lips, Tight Jeans, page 15,, 2007, ISBN 1-4303-0434-0
  6. ^ Elyce Rae Helford, Fantasy Girls, page 6, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, ISBN 0-8476-9834-3
  7. ^ Geller, Theresa L. (2004). "Queering Hollywood's tough chick: the subversions of sex, race, and nation in "The Long Kiss Goodnight" and "The Matrix". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. University of Nebraska Press via JSTOR. 25 (3): 8–34. doi:10.1353/fro.2004.0062. JSTOR 3347316. S2CID 144565961.
  8. ^ Sherrie A. Inness, Action Chicks, page 72, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, ISBN 1-4039-6403-3
  9. ^ Jennifer Worick, Joe Borgenicht and Larry Jost, The Action Heroine's Handbook, page 73, Quirk Books, 2003, ISBN 1-931686-68-8
  10. ^ Sherrie A. Inness, Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture, page 72, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, ISBN 1-4039-6403-3
  11. ^ Philip French (2006-02-19). "Other films: The Forest for the Trees | Casanova | The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes | Pavee Lackeen | Aeon Flux | Feed | McLibel | The River | From the Observer | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  12. ^ a b c d e "28 sexy skintight outfits from 5 decades of sci-fi film and TV". blastr. May 11, 2010. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
  13. ^ Carter, Kelly (2002-07-24). "For Knowles, Foxxy is her acting destiny". Usatoday.Com. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  14. ^ Nick Morrison, "Catsuits? I'd rather wear nothing at all.", The Northern Echo, 2004-06-16
  15. ^ Dennis Fischer, "The Avengers", St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture
  16. ^ a b Bill Osgerby and Anna Gough-Yates, Action TV, page 225, Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0-415-22620-1
  17. ^ Dave Thompson, "Black and white and blue: adult cinema from the Victorian age to the VCR", ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-791-2, p.215
  18. ^ Valerie Steele, Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, page 80, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005, ISBN 0-684-31394-4
  19. ^ Dave Rogers, The Complete Avengers, page 89, Boxtree, 1989
  20. ^ Gillian Freeman, The Undergrowth of Literature, page 5, Nelson, 1967
  21. ^ "Every Woman Wants a Harley Quinn Costume For Halloween". Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  22. ^ "- YouTube". YouTube.
  23. ^ [1] Archived July 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Efrat Tseëlon, Masquerade and Identities, page 74, Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0-415-25106-0
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Collider. Archived from the original on 2015-07-02. Retrieved 2012-10-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "- YouTube". YouTube.
  27. ^ "- YouTube". YouTube.
  28. ^ James Chapman, "Inside the Tardis: the worlds of Doctor Who : a cultural history", I.B.Tauris, 2006, ISBN 1-84511-163-X, p.57
  29. ^ Temple Drake and David Kerekes, Headpress Guide to the Counter Culture, Headpress, 2004, ISBN 1-900486-35-0
  30. ^ Jami Bernard, The X List: The National Society of Film Critics' Movies that Turn Us On, page 151, Da Capo, 2005, ISBN 0-306-81445-5
  31. ^ Paul Tatara, "'Irma Vep' puts stake in the heart of current cinema", CNN, 1997-06-12
  32. ^ Stacy Gillis, The Matrix Trilogy, page 120-121, Wallflower Press, 2005, ISBN 1-904764-32-0
  33. ^ Laura Avery, Newsmakers 2004 (Sub Part 4), page 353, Gale Research, 2000, ISBN 0-7876-6806-0
  34. ^ Merle Ginsberg, "Sugar and Spice"[dead link], W (on High Beam), 200-12-01
  35. ^ Sarah Street, Costume and Cinema, page 94, Wallflower Press, 2001, ISBN 1-903364-18-3
  36. ^ Susan Carpenter, "'Matrix' magic maker", Los Angeles Times, 2003-05-15
  37. ^ Kym Barret biography, Future Design Days
  38. ^ Michele Orecklin, "In the Future, Black's Back". Time. 2003-05-12.
  39. ^ "STOCK IMAGE, THE REBEL [Br 1961] MARGIT SAAD AND TONY HANCOCK Date: 1…". Archived from the original on 29 June 2013.
  40. ^ Liz Ohanesian, Rare Underworld Movie Props and Costumes Up for Auction, LA Weekly, 2009-02-04
  41. ^ Carol Clerk, Madonnastyle, page 132, Omnibus Press, 2002, ISBN 0-7119-8874-9
  42. ^ James R. Blandford, Britney, page 60, Omnibus Press, 2002, ISBN 0-7119-9419-6
  43. ^ Roland Barthes, The Fashion System (Trans. Matthew Ward and Richard Howard), page 28, Hill and Wang, 1983
  44. ^ Michael Lecker, Treacherous, deviant, and submissive: female sexuality represented in the character Catwoman[permanent dead link], Bowling Green State University
  45. ^ T. Woodward (Ed.), The Best of Skin Two, page 19, Richard Kasak, 1993
  46. ^ Andrea Beckmann, Deconstructing myths: the social construction of "sadomasochism" versus "subjugated knowledges" of practitioners of consensual "SM", University of Lincolnshire and Humberside

Further reading[edit]

  • Meredith Levande, "Women, Pop Music, and Pornography", Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, Fall 2008, Vol. 8, No. 1, Pages 293-321
  • Valerie Steele, Fetish: Fashion, Sex & Power, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-19-509044-4