The Immaculate Avengers

Honor Blackman, television's original black-leather girl, has a completely new leather wardrobe as Cathy Gale in The Avengers on Saturdays. It has been designed for her by London fashion designer Frederick Starke, who says that Honor started the most tremendous boom the industry has ever known when she first wore leather nearly a year ago.

In her new wardrobe are two black leather fighting suits made up of knee-length breeches laced at the sides where they meet her long boots, and two long-sleeved tops, one waist length, one hip-length.

Then there is a Tabard set. It is like an old-fashioned butcher's apron, slit up the sides to the hips and worn with a sweater and long shorts - plus, of course, the boots. She has one of these sets in black leather and another in gold lamé with matching gold lamé boots.

A black leather coat, lined with fierce-looking civet cat, completes the genuine leather wardrobe. But the leather-look doesn't end there. A new material, jersey backed but looking exactly like leather on the right side, has been evolved for Honor by Frederick Starke. She has a floor-length evening dress in this simulated leather, and a cloak to wear with it in wool but face in the leather fabric.

"There is more stretch in the material," said Mr. Starke, "We might use it for the trousers in the future. Leather doesn't give much and with Cathy being thrown about and throwing people about it could split." He explained: "I read a few of the scripts and found out what kind of person Cathy Gale is meant to be. I thought of her as a female James Bond, alias Secret Agent 007. She does a great deal of fighting so the clothes had to be practical.

"Cathy is meant to be a fashionable woman. There are occasions when she will need simpler clothes. She has two basic suits and a pinafore dress. She can wear anything so long as it isn't fluffy. She is a beautiful girl with a lovely figure, but an unusual bone structure makes her difficult to fit."

The problem with Honor's 36-24-37 figure, apparently, is that she has big bones with broad shoulders, but is so slim from front to back "that she almost disappears." It was Patrick Macnee, Steed in The Avengers, who had the idea originally that his assistant Cathy would look good in leather.

He said: "It started off in the simplest sort of way. I love leather and it's tough and hard-wearing. Then it won popularity because such a hard tough material on a soft, white skin obviously has a stunning effect." Patrick has strong ideas on clothes. He chooses all his own clothes for The Avengers.

"They should reflect personality. Steed's things are light and flipperty-gibbet. I use the Edwardian look - it's different. I have a number of peculiar likes and dislikes. They mean a lot but I can't give reasons for them. I've chosen my clothes on my own instinct completely."

Patrick described some of the clothes from his new wardrobe: "Blazer - I have two, one white one black. They are in a rough material, hessian or hopsack. You might call them my Chinese Admiral jackets. I saw one in 'The Tatler,' a cross between the military and the casual. I don't normally wear formal clothes - I lived in California for some time and I'm more at home in sweaters and cardigans. But these clothes are fun in the part.

"Then there's my country suit - landed gentry type. I'm a chap with a comfortable income who wanders round his estates with a gun somewhere in Hertfordshire in that outfit. The jacket has a blue, brown and black check, the waistcoat's green, and I wear a curly-brimmed brown bowler with it.

"My overcoat - that's in a heavy oatmeal broadcloth, flared and with a velvet collar. It's like an old coach-and-four driver's coat. My grey worsted suit is my favourite. It's waisted. I love exceptionally wide cuffs. No good reason - except that I can wear enormous cuff-links.

"The pin-striped suit has been out of fashion for years, but I noticed Angus Ogilvy was wearing one just before his wedding. They're fun to wear. My umbrella - nothing special about that - except that it must have a knobbly handle. I detest smooth handles. That's terrible important."

Any challengers for the role of "best dressed couple on television."?

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