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Practical Cats: Reflections on the Catwoman Costume

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“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
     – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

At some point when DC Comics was still trying to sell their new direction Catwoman comic, they introduced the idea that the goggled costume which debuted at the same time was “more practical” than its predecessors.  Obviously the person putting this forth had never worn a body stocking, leotard, or pantyhose, because there’s nothing difficult about putting on form-fitting garments You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.after you’ve done it twice.  And that’s in the real world. In Catwoman #1, the comic where the Jim Balent costume debuted, Selina manages to get out of her costume and slip into a towel to impersonate the wife of the man she was robbing, then re-costume and slip away with the jewels as soon as he returns to the party and before he can realize his wife is already out there mingling with the guests.  That certainly seems like it must be an easy process to get in and out of costume, but more important, it illustrates the appeal of Catwoman: the hot cat burglar.  The episode is sexy, it’s brazen, and it’s fun.  That’s half the appeal of Catwoman: men want her, women want to be her.  The illicit fun of being bad—not too bad, not evil, just bad enough for thrills—that’s the woman’s half of the equation.

The men’s half is where the practicality idea really goes off the rails. Because even if we accepted the idea that the Jim Balent Catwoman suit was harder to get in and out of, does it deliver benefits that more than make up for the extra trouble? 

Answer: Hell yes.

I was talking to a friend recently about possible Catwoman costumes in Christopher Nolan’s next Batman installment The Dark Knight Rises, and he immediately brought up his ideal for the hot cat burglar: Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment.  “If I was Connery I’d have passed out from blood loss,” he said.  “There wouldn’t be any left to power my brain, that’s for certain.”The rest of the city fights Batman, I fight 1/5 of Batman

And that’s the value of the Balent costume that transcends any notion of practicality.  The rest of the world has to deal with Batman. 100%. Bat. Man. Bruce Wayne, most dangerous man in the world, devotes his life and his fortune to protecting his city and fighting the criminals who prey upon it… Batman.

Selina only has to contend with 1/5 of Batman. She gets Bruce’s brain on auxiliary power, what’s left to maintain breathing and blood pressure while the rest of him battles the spectacle of a vibrant and beautiful woman poured into skin-tight purple, black thigh boots, silver claws shimmering in the moonlight, a holstered whip at the ready, and eyes you’ll dream about forever, teasing playfully from behind an enigmatic mask.

That, on a Gotham City rooftop, is practical.

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About Chris Dee

  • Also of interest: A survey of all the Catwoman costumes in other media – television, movies, etc – with an eye to how Anne Hathaway may appear in The Dark Knight Rises, check out The Dressing of Cats in my WordPress blog