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

Like Hugh Hefner himself, Playboy’s iconic costume ended up being a mixture of provocative and traditional.

From the very first problem in 1953, Playboy’s publisher Hugh Hefner desired to differentiate it through the sleazy intercourse publications saved underneath the newsstand countertop and offered in brown paper bags. He once explained in a tuxedo “to add the concept of elegance. which he opt for bunny because the magazine’s mascot “because regarding the funny intimate connotation,” but dressed him” The models might have been 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 basic editorial. Also JFK read it.

Likewise, as he launched his 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 the other day. The Playboy Club had been a dinner club, perhaps not really a intercourse club; coats and ties had been needed. Though only males could possibly be members—or “keyholders,” in Playboy parlance—they could bring guests that are female. The buffet offered legs that are crab filet mignon, and activity ended up being supplied by famous brands Nat King Cole, Steve Martin, Aretha Franklin, Billy Crystal, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

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

Just like the groups on their own, the mag whoever title they shared, while the guy whom created the whole thing, the clothes donned by the Playboy Bunnies had been a mixture of provocative and conventional. 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. However the Bunny’s erotic allure ended up being just as much of a tease since the stuffing that so frequently filled out of the D-cups of her costume. Her skimpy suit promised further 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 whether or not the Bunny suit had been constricting or liberating, it is as it had been made to be both.

Based on Kevin Jones, the curator regarding the 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 had been dating the business’s promotions director, Victor Lownes—pointed out that most those flimsy layers will be not practical for serving products and light cigarettes. It absolutely was her concept to dress the waitresses as distaff variations associated with the magazine’s masculine logo design. The rabbit became a Bunny, plus a symbol was created (and quickly patented—a first for the ongoing solution uniform).

The prototype—a that is first one-piece used more than a prefab Merry Widow corset and paired with bunny ears and a fluffy tail—looked too just like a swimsuit. A couple of snips for the scissors raised the leg opening, elongating the feet, accentuating the crotch, and eliminating any resemblance to swimwear. Hefner himself insisted on including the criss-cross lacing at the top the leg, stated Jones, who may have a Bunny suit in the museum’s collection. Although the laces had been solely decorative—they couldn’t be untied or loosened—they revealed that a lot more epidermis, and proposed the tantalizing chance of a wardrobe breakdown. A rosette title label during the right hipbone and dyed-to-match satin pumps finished the ensemble. Nonetheless 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 had been extremely intimately liberated,” Jones said. In fact, it had been pretty tame—a destination for flirting at most of the. So had been the Bunnies. The spouse of just one keyholder declared the typical 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 formula that is winning. Groups multiplied like rabbits; sooner or later, there is a lot more than 30 clubs that are playboy-branded, in addition to gambling enterprises and resorts.

The presidential Papers, Norman Mailer described the Bunny suit thusly in his 1963 book

a Gay-Nineties rig which exaggerated their sides, bound their waist . and lifted them as a phallic brassiere—each breast looked just like the big bullet from the front bumper of a Cadillac. Long black stockings, long stockings, up almost into the waistline for each part, also to the rear, in the bend associated with the might, as though ejected tenderly through the human anatomy, had been the puff of chastity, just a little white ball of the bunny’s end which bobbed while they wandered.

It had been a flattering if constricting design; Lownes observed that “the costumes took girls with even typical numbers making them appear to be they’d amazing numbers.” Their remark is telling; not totally all Bunnies had been bombshells. The , perhaps maybe not one other means around.

From one, “the suit was a throwback,” Jones told me—to the 1950s if not the Gay Nineties day. The silhouette that is fashionable of 1960s ended up being boyish, not curvy. Shapeless changes and ballet flats might have been very popular regarding the runway, but inside the club, it had been perpetually 1953: hourglass numbers, bullet bras, and heels that are three-inch. Truly the only concessions to fashion had been the Bunnies’ bouffant hairstyles, topped with artfully angled ears.

A team of Playboy Bunnies line up for assessment by Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy magazine, into the main room for the Playboy Mansion in Chicago. Hefner is inspecting the latest enhanced fabric for the costumes. (Bettmann / Getty Pictures)

Early site site visitors towards the Playboy Club picked through to its heady dynamic of naughty and nice

Newsweek called it “a Disneyland for grownups.” Properly, the gown rule for feminine workers ended up being just like strict and step-by-step since the enjoyment park’s famously rigid sartorial requirements. Every thing was 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. Weight and makeup were closely supervised. Nail enamel, jewelry, and eyeglasses had been strictly forbidden, though hairpieces had been motivated. Cuffs and collars must be spotless and starched; 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 colors that are different. “Our set is actually telling since it’s entirely spattered with spilled products,” Jones stated regarding the costume within the FIDM Museum. “They will need to have been changed a great deal.” Dirty shoes, laddered stockings, as well as other infractions incurred demerits, that could induce a Bunny being fined and even fired.

Not even close to being exploited, the Bunnies “were really well protected women that are young” Jones said. They may have now been attention candy, nevertheless they had been meant to be (literally) untouchable. Bouncers kept tipsy keyholders from groping or tails that are grabbing. (the first yarn tails had been changed by fire-retardant fake fur by 1969 because “customers had been constantly wanting to light them,” Bunny Alice Nichols recalled within the Bunny Years.) Touching a Bunny had been grounds for expulsion. And Bunnies had been strictly forbidden from dating customers, entertainers, or any C-suite degree Playboy workers. They didn’t require sugar daddies, anyway—they made more in recommendations in one single evening compared to a salesgirl at Bloomingdale’s will make in 2 weeks, based on Scott.

Certainly, the Bunnies’ bare, buxom image had been always an impression. The suit just arrived in 2 cup sizes: 34D and 36D. But those cups had been designed 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 stuffs” while shoving a complete plastic dry cleansing bag down 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 could have caused it to be uncomfortable. Rather, these were taught to perform a number of elegant, abnormal moves like the “Bunny Dip” plus the Crouch that is“Bunny permitted them to just just 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 through the upper body down, putting on sheer black colored Danskin pantyhose over flesh-toned Danskin tights, in accordance with Jones.