Along the Rabbit Hole: The Surprising Tale of this Bunny Suit

Along the Rabbit Hole: The Surprising Tale of this Bunny Suit

Like Hugh Hefner himself, Playboy’s costume that is iconic a blend of provocative and traditional.

From the first problem in 1953, Playboy’s publisher Hugh Hefner desired to differentiate it through the sleazy intercourse publications saved beneath the newsstand countertop and offered in brown paper bags. He once explained in a tuxedo “to add the thought of elegance. which he opt for bunny because the magazine’s mascot “because regarding the humorous intimate connotation,” but dressed him” The models was nude, nevertheless the articles had been published by acclaimed writers like Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Kerouac, and Vladimir Nabokov and covered highbrow topics including “Picasso, Nietzsche, and jazz,” to quote Hefner’s editorial that is introductory. Also JFK read it.

Likewise, as he started their very very first Playboy Club in Chicago in 1960, Hefner emphasized respectability above raunchiness—a preference commonly noted by authors reflecting on their legacy after their death at age 91 week that is last. The Playboy Club ended up being a dinner club, perhaps perhaps not a sex club; coats and ties had been required. Though only males might be members—or “keyholders,” in Playboy parlance—they could bring feminine visitors. The buffet offered crab feet and filet mignon, and activity had been given by the kind of Nat King Cole, Steve Martin, Aretha Franklin, Billy Crystal, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

One of the more iconic symbols associated with the Playboy Club ended up being its waitstaff: a throng of females known, and dressed, as Bunnies.

Similar to the groups by themselves, the mag whoever title they shared, plus the guy whom created the whole thing, the clothes donned by the Playboy Bunnies had been a mixture of old-fashioned and provocative. The Bunny suit—a strapless bodysuit paired with rabbit ears and a fluffy tail—has become a cartoonish clichй of female sexuality, serving as a visual punchline in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Legally Blonde, Mean Girls, The House Bunny, and a host of other rom-coms since its debut. Nevertheless the Bunny’s erotic attraction had been just as much of a tease because the stuffing that so frequently filled out of the D-cups of her costume. Her suit that is skimpy promised revelations that never ever came; her cuddly demeanor concealed the Bunnies’ circuit training, strict disciplinary policies, and astronomical paychecks. If feminists are nevertheless arguing over if the Bunny suit had been liberating or constricting, it is as it had been made to be both.

Relating to Kevin Jones, the curator associated with Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum, Hefner initially wanted the club’s waitresses to put on quick, frilly nighties inspired because of the Ziegfeld Follies girls—the intercourse symbols of their youth. But, as recounted in Kathryn Leigh Scott’s memoir The Bunny Years, Playmate Ilse Taurins—who ended up being dating the business’s promotions director, Victor Lownes—pointed out that every those flimsy levels will be not practical for serving drinks and cigarettes that are lighting. It absolutely was her idea to dress the waitresses as distaff variations associated with the magazine’s logo that is masculine. The bunny became a Bunny, plus a symbol came to be (and quickly patented—a first for the ongoing solution uniform).

The prototype—a that is first one-piece used over a prefab Merry Widow corset and paired with bunny ears and a fluffy tail—looked too just like a swimsuit. A couple of snips associated with the leg was raised by the scissors opening, elongating the feet, accentuating the crotch, and eliminating any resemblance to swimwear. Hefner himself insisted on including the lacing that is criss-cross the top of the leg, stated Jones, who may have a Bunny suit inside the museum’s collection. Although the laces had been solely decorative—they couldn’t be untied or loosened—they revealed that far more epidermis, and advised the possibility that is tantalizing of wardrobe breakdown. A rosette name label during the right hipbone and dyed-to-match satin pumps finished the outfit. However it ended up being the addition of a tuxedo that is man’s, bow tie, and cuffs in 1961 that pressed the Bunny suit into pop-culture legend.

“Everybody has this concept that the club ended up being extremely intimately liberated,” Jones said. In fact, it had been pretty tame—a destination for flirting for the most part. Therefore were the Bunnies. The spouse of just one keyholder declared the normal Bunny to be “so darn nice and respectable, you’d even allow your bro marry her.” Nonetheless, the mixture of overpriced cocktails and underdressed waitresses became a winning formula. Groups multiplied like rabbits; sooner or later, there is significantly more than 30 Playboy-branded groups global, in addition to casinos and resorts.

In their 1963 guide The Presidential Papers, Norman Mailer described the Bunny suit thusly:

a Gay-Nineties rig which exaggerated their sides, bound their waistline . and lifted them in to a phallic breast that is brassiere—each such as the big bullet from the front bumper of the Cadillac. Long black stockings, long stockings, up almost towards the waistline for each part, also to the rear, regarding the bend associated with might, just as if ejected tenderly through the human body, had been the puff of chastity, just a little ball that is white of bunny’s end which bobbed because they stepped.

It had been a flattering if constricting design; Lownes observed that “the costumes took girls with also normal numbers and made them appear to be they’d amazing numbers.” Their remark is telling; only a few Bunnies had been bombshells. The , perhaps perhaps not one other means around.

From time one, “the suit was a throwback,” Jones told me—to the 1950s if you don’t the Gay Nineties. The trendy silhouette associated with 1960s ended up being boyish, not curvy. Shapeless shifts and ballet flats might have been very popular in the runway, but in the club, it absolutely was perpetually 1953: hourglass numbers, bullet bras, and heels that are three-inch. Really the only concessions to fashion had been the Bunnies’ bouffant hairstyles, topped with artfully angled ears.

A small grouping of Playboy Bunnies line up for assessment by Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy magazine, within the primary room associated with the Playboy Mansion in Chicago. Hefner is inspecting the newest enhanced fabric when it comes to costumes. (Bettmann / Getty Pictures)

Early site visitors into the Playboy Club picked through to its dynamic that is heady of and nice

Newsweek called it “a Disneyland for grownups.” Accordingly, the dress rule for feminine workers ended up being in the same way strict and step-by-step because the enjoyment park’s famously rigid sartorial requirements. Everything ended up being spelled call at careful information in a Bunny handbook and enforced by a Bunny mom, whom inspected each Bunny from mind to toe before her shift. Makeup products and weight were closely supervised. Nail enamel, jewelry, and eyeglasses were strictly forbidden, though hairpieces had been encouraged. Cuffs and collars must be starched and spotless; the bunny logo design cufflinks had to “kiss,” or face one another. Bunnies had been in charge of purchasing their very own (tax-deductible) satin pumps and achieving them colored to complement their suits and ears, which arrived in 12 various colors. “Our set is truly telling given that it’s entirely spattered with spilled products,” Jones stated regarding the costume when you look at the FIDM Museum. “They should have been changed a great deal.” Dirty shoes, laddered stockings, as well as other infractions incurred demerits, which may result in a Bunny being fined and sometimes even fired.

Definately not being exploited, the Bunnies “were really well protected women that are young” Jones said. They might have already been attention candy, nonetheless they had been supposed to be (literally) untouchable. Bouncers kept tipsy keyholders from groping or tails that are grabbing. (the initial yarn tails had been changed by fire-retardant fake fur by 1969 because “customers had been constantly attempting to light them,” Bunny Alice Nichols recalled when you look at the Bunny Years.) Touching a Bunny ended up being grounds for expulsion. And Bunnies had been strictly forbidden from dating clients, entertainers, or any C-suite degree Playboy workers. They didn’t require sugar daddies, anyway—they made more in guidelines within one than a salesgirl at Bloomingdale’s could make in two weeks, according to Scott night.

Certainly, the Bunnies’ bare, buxom image ended up being constantly an impression. The suit just arrived in 2 cup sizes: 34D and 36D. But those cups had been built with pouches to facilitate stuffing. (In “A Bunny’s Tale,” her 1963 exposй for Show mag, undercover Bunny Gloria Steinem recalled the club’s wardrobe that is in-house telling her that “just about everybody things” while shoving a complete plastic dry cleaning bag along the front side of her suit.) Bunnies are not permitted to flex ahead, lest their assets (or stuffing) spill down in a display that is tawdry whatever the case, the suit’s tight, boned bodice will have caused it to be uncomfortable. Rather, they certainly were taught to perform a few elegant, abnormal techniques for instance the “Bunny Dip” plus the “Bunny Crouch” that permitted them to just simply take sales and provide products without ever bending during the waistline. Though their cleavage had been offered through to a satin platter, Bunnies had been cinched in and covered up from the chest down, using sheer black colored Danskin pantyhose over flesh-toned Danskin tights, based on Jones.

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