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Costume designer Mary Vogt on Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catsuit

Inspirational figures get personal and share a passion with us in AnOther Thing I Wanted to Tell You

Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns, 1992
Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns, 1992

It’s been exactly two decades since Michelle Pfeiffer purred and miaowed her way through Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, clad in nothing but a black latex bodysuit and red lipstick. It’s Anne Hathaway’s turn this week, as she hits the screens as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s final chapter of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises...

“We knew we wanted it to be black and sexy and tight and shiny. Latex is as black and sexy and tight as you can get. When Bob Ringwood and I first designed the costume, it was for another actress. She had to drop out and Michelle came in, at the last minute. Michelle moves beautifully, and she was just a perfect fit for that costume. Because you can see everything – and the latex makes it look very fluid, and Michelle just has a beautiful, fluid way of working – she’s very athletic, so she gave it a modern look. It was difficult to wear – we had to cover Michelle with baby powder before she got into the suit. We made a body cast of her, and the costume was made on the body cast. We were afraid that it would rip, because she had these cat claws, and because it’s latex, once it ripped it’s over, you can’t repair it. So we had to make about 40 cat-suits, but actually it never ripped, it was very strong.

"Michelle just has a beautiful, fluid way of working – she’s very athletic, so she gave it a modern look"

Tim Burton came up with the idea for the stitches. He had this vision of the calico cat – with its stitches starting to come apart. Bob Ringwood and I were like, stitches? On latex? How do we do that? So we sculpted stitches in cast and glued them on. It looked terrible! So we decided to brush her in silicon, this thick liquid. After she had the costume on, we painted the silicon on her with big sponge brushes. So she’s dripping all over the place. But silicon, because it’s so shiny, when it was lit all you saw was the shine. And since she was moving around at night, it looked really fluid. That costume is all about the light – and of course, all about Michelle. At the end of the day, you’re helping the actor create the character. Whether they come from another planet or down the block, if it’s cavemen or contemporary, you have to go with what the actor’s personality is, they have to feel comfortable.”

It’s been exactly two decades since Michelle Pfeiffer purred and miaowed her way through Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, clad in nothing but a black latex bodysuit and red lipstick. It’s Anne Hathaway’s turn this week, as she hits the screens as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s final chapter of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. To celebrate the release, AnOther spoke to Hollywood costume designer Mary Vogt, who was responsible for creating and stitching Pfeiffer into that iconic catsuit 20 years ago (the secret was lots of baby powder). Vogt’s costume will be on display at the V&A’s glittering Hollywood Costume exhibition in October, alongside over 100 show-stopping designs from screen history, from Dorothy’s blue-and-white gingham pinafore to Holly Golightly’s little black Givenchy dress.

AnOther would like to send their thoughts to those affected by the shooting earlier today in Denver.

Text by Hannah Lack

Hannah Lack is Literary Editor for AnOther Magazine, Managing Editor for Another Man and Arts & Culture Editor for Dazed.

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