I came across this series of photos ages ago, and there’s something about the sheer volume of them which entertains me greatly. She looks like she’s having a jolly good time, larking around with the random chaps she has been thrown together with in the studio. I think they were mainly promotional photos for her outfits so, other than costume designer Alun Hughes, I guess the guys were just there for slightly unhinged, eccentric, Avengerland good measure…
Plus rogue bottom-spanking photo with unidentified gentleman…
I was aghast to read recently that Old England was being ‘relaunched’ as a brand. This isn’t entirely surprising, given my usual reaction to such endeavours, but I was particularly cheesed off because I was still awaiting my very own original Old England timepiece. Ever since I knew about their collaboration with The Avengers, in the Alun Hughes-era rather than John Bates, I have been wanting one of my very own. I have extremely skinny wrists, and I either need something very delicate and barely there or I need some ridiculously big statement. Old England watches are perfect for the latter…
So imagine my delight when I peered into a cabinet in a delightfully ramshackle antiques shop in Bexhill and spied this acid green confection. A wind and a few gentle shakes by the shop owner got it started after goodness knows how many years in the cabinet. It’s missing one of the strap bars across the back, but for £10 how could I say no?
I’m frequently wittering on about Emma Peel, John Bates, Avengerswear…blah blah. But I have continuously forgotten to scan and post this fabulous double page spread from Vogue (October 1968) of a range of knitwear ‘inspired’ by Linda Thorson’s Tara King character and produced by Ballantyne. I’ve never heard of any Tara Avengerswear gear before or since, perhaps because her wardrobe was pretty dreary half of the time – thanks Alun Hughes, and it’s always struck me as rather sad that she didn’t get her own ‘range’. Even Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale had a range designed by British couturier Frederick Starke!
So it’s awfully nice to know she at least had her own line of cashmere knits. Hurrah!
p.s I am terrible at identifying models, but I love love love her hair.
I alluded, in an earlier post, to having recently acquired an original Avengerswear piece. Now before you go getting too excited on my behalf (cos, you know, I imagine you would…..), it’s not a John Bates one. That remains my holy grail of collecting. And one day…..oh yes, one day it will be mine. I may be 73 and probably long since sold all my other pieces but it will happen.
Anyway, back to the piece I do own. In the first colour season of The Avengers, Alun Hughes took over from John Bates as costume designer. Well strictly speaking Bates was never the costume designer per se, he simply provided Mrs Peel with a fully equipped working mod-girl wardrobe. Which would be used in various ways by the designer and whoever else happened to be making such decisions. Which explains why so many fabulous outfits, in which Diana Rigg was heavily photographed for publicity, made only brief appearances – if at all.
The colour episodes had been intended to be designed in a similar ‘working wardrobe’ manner by Pierre Cardin, who was already creating Steed’s very elegant suits [Shocking! A Frenchman designing our beloved Avengers? Whatever next??], but he was unable to complete the task and Hughes was brought on board as designer instead. I know little about the man, but it would seem he actually was a costume designer rather than a fashion designer like Bates or Cardin. I like his work considerably less, and the Emmapeelers were a disaster made in camel-toe hell, but he did create a few very beautiful pieces for her. When he wasn’t using beige or mustard colours that is. Bleurgh.
As with Bates, and Frederick Starke before him, an Avengerswear range of clothes was produced and licensed out to different manufacturers and shops. Unlike Bates, whose Avengerswear collection was largely complete replicas of the Mrs Peel-worn originals, Hughes’ designs were used as templates for a wider range of colours and styles. Most items were produced in different colourways to the one seen on screen, again unlike Bates who was largely working in black and white anyway, and it would also seem that some items were produced in different lengths.
This stunning moire patterned velvet dress is clearly the same design as the one she wears in Return Of The Cybernauts. Emma’s is black (or perhaps dark green, it’s difficult to tell with the early colour television) and a mini. Mine is purple and a maxi length. Nevertheless, it’s my first – and possibly only piece of Hughes’ Avengerswear and I feel very honoured to now have it in my possession.