Catwoman Costume History
Catwoman has had more radical costume changes than almost any other hero or villain. While a superheroine will have a few dramatic changes during the course of their career, they are mostly subtle changes brought on by the different artist. Selina Kyle has more often than not updated her entire outfit.
Catwoman made her first appearance in the 1940 issue of Batman #1 and was known simply as the Cat. It is not until Batman #3 that she first wears a costume. Yes, you are looking at the picture on the right correctly. The first attempt at a Catwoman costume was a furry, purple cat mask with an outfit out of a Flash Gordon comic.
In 1947 Selina Kyle officially took on the name Catwoman and was wearing a costume appropriate for a comic book superhero or villain. She donned a purple dress with a green cape. Capes were all the rage back then. The dress may have been more appropriate for a party than a burglary but it finally gave readers an image to represent her alter ego. The best upgrade to the costume was a cat mask similar to what would be used in future versions of Catwoman’s costumes.
It would cover most of her face, have cat ears on top, and allow her long hair to flow behind her. Like any good superheroine costume she had the boots with high heels. Let’s pretend the heels let her dig into structures as she leapt from building to building. Later renditions would add a choker, perhaps to bring on the illusion of a cat collar. This dress would occasionally be substituted for a bodysuit, which would be more inline with future updates.
This costume would make a comeback from 1983-1986. As was the norm in later comics, more skin would be exposed. The dress had a lower neckline and showed a lot more of her legs. The boots did become longer and her gloves left her fingers free. Apparently, fingerprint technology is not available in Gotham City.
A rule instituted by the Comic Code Authority about the portrayal of female characters in comics forced Catwoman out of the Batman story lines from 1954 to 1966. While Catwoman was banned from comics, Julie Newman was playing Catwoman as flesh and blood on the Batman television series. In the television show Selina’s costume was a form fitting, sparkly black catsuit. At the time more people watched the television show than read Batman comics, so when Catwoman returned in a 1967 issue of Batman #197 her outfit had another makeover.
This time around her costume was closer to the sexy, form-fitting outfit Julie Newmar was wearing on television. However, in colorful comic book fashion they made her suit green. I have never met a green cat, even on St. Patrick’s Day, but this is the color they chose. Perhaps they were hoping for a Riddler and Catwoman team-up. Also the texture makes it looks like she belongs in a Namor comic from Marvel rather than a Batman title. The mask was not as dominant and more fashioned after a masquerade mask than the fuller cat masks previously used.
1969 - 1974
The late 60s and early 70s were not good times for the wardrobes of female DC characters. Everybody has those pictures from the past that they would rather not see surface. Comic book characters are no different. In the 1969 issue of Batman #210 Catwoman went under another dramatic costume change. Although a big improvement from the green suit, there was not a lot to this costume related to a cat. They did add a tail.
We can pretend it was to improve her balance rather than something that might get in the way when fighting for her life. She had long leather gloves that would be similar in design to future costumes and giving her cat claws. That is where the feline appearance ends. Her black bodysuit resembles a one-piece bathing suit with a small Dracula stand up collar. Her masquerade mask turned red and got even bigger. To remain decent in public they had her wear some white leggings and go-go boots. This is the first time audiences would see Catwoman with short hair.
While previous versions of Catwoman’s costumes have had varying degrees of resembling a cat, from 1986 to 1933 there could be no doubt what Selina Kyle was supposed to be. She wore a tight, gray bodysuit that hid less than her previous outfits and a cowl with cat ears and whiskers. Don’t worry the tail is back. She also wore ankle boots and long gloves with sharp claws.
With a few exceptions this concept would be the basis of future costumes our feline antagonist would wear. It also most resembles the outfit worn by actresses in movies and television, along with cartoons and video games.
A Catwoman Comic
In 1993 Catwoman got her very own title. With it she also received some updates to her costume. The color of her bodysuit reverted back to a purple color. The older version of her mask was also used. The whiskers were removed and it allowed her long hair to flow outside in the wind once again. The razor sharp claws were more prominent and the boots were now thigh high. They also removed the TAIL. Yea!!!
2001 and Beyond
Catwoman received another major overhaul for the new century. She now officially wears a full-body leather outfit. How tight this outfit is depends on the artist as well as if she wished leave it zipped up or down making it a low cut outfit. Guess which one artists prefer. Her mask with cat ears now covers over her eyes and up. She sports some huge goggles that make me think of old time pilots that flew planes with open cockpits. Catwoman still has the boots and clawed gloves but has added a buckled belt to her ensemble.
In the mid to late 90s Catwoman had a lot of different costumes that should be mentioned but were not worn long enough to warrant an entire section. Near the end of her first series Selina wore an outfit that was more of a biker babe than comic book character. Black leather pants and jacket along with a tight black bodice. She did wear a small mask to give the appearance of a secret identity. At one point she even donned an Iron Man…I mean…Iron Woman… I mean… a technologically armored suit.
The purple spandex suit had so many changes done to it that one style never stayed around for any length of time. Sometimes her hair was exposed and sometimes it wasn’t. Her whiskers made an appearance every now and then. The tail even made it back at times. Why does that thing keep coming back? WHY!!!
Real Life Interpretations
There have been more real life interpretations of Catwoman than any other female comic book character.
The Adam West Batman Television series only lasted 3 season. However, within those three seasons they shot 120 episodes and one movie. They also had three different gorgeous women take on the role of Catwoman.
Julie Newmar (1966-1967): She was the first woman to play Catwoman in the flesh. She did such a purrrfect job that many fans rank her as the best actress to have ever taken on the role. Her ability to effortlessly blend playfully funny, sexy, and cruel was able to enchant viewers every time she stepped onto the screen. Her Catwoman outfit can now be found on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Lee Meriwether (1966 / T.V. Movie): When they decided to film the television movie Julie Newmar had already booked another project. The job went to Lee Meriwether, who having only played Catwoman once, did not have the opportunity to cement herself in the minds of fans. She did return to play Lisa Carson in two episodes of the television show. Lisa was a love interest for Bruce Wayne and at the end of her story arc she offers him Milk and Cookies. This was a nice nod for viewers of the show.
Eartha Kitt (1967-1968): When Julie Newmar left the television show, Eartha Kitt climbed on board. She would play Catwoman for 5 episodes. She was the least favorite woman to play Catwoman against Adam West’s Batman. Better knows as a singer than an actress this should come as no surprise. Never the less, it was a bold step to bring diversity to television in the late 1960s.
Catwoman has appeared in two Batman franchises and her own film. She is one of the most popular of the Dark Knight’s villains to make live action appearances. It is hard to beat the Joker but she does put up a good fight.
Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns / 1992) Leave it to Tim Burton to not only capture the essence of Catwoman but also make it his own. Michelle Pfeiffer filled out this leather bodysuit and cracked that whip to ensnare moviegoers. Her performance even made us forget about the zippers/stitches all over her costume.
Halle Berry (Catwoman / 1999) By far the worst interpretation of Catwoman ever. After the title they decided to throw everything else out the window. Halle Berry herself said it’s “..a piece of shit, God-awful movie” and heroically accepted her Razzie for worst actress.
Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises / 2012) Anne Hathaway was never called Catwoman in the movie. Her named was Selina Kyle and was only referenced as a cat burglar or “The Cat”. This fits with her comic book origins, before taking on the name Catwoman. Either way, she filled out the costume nicely and tried her hardest not to have her dialogue understood, just like her co-stars Batman and Bane.
Catwoman has proven to be a popular costume for both single women on the prowl and couples who want to dress up as Batman and Catwoman.
Fans and models have also love to add their personal touches to the character.
Google Images (Images appeared on several sites and was unsure of original)