Along the Rabbit Hole: The Surprising Tale for the Bunny Suit

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

From the very first problem in 1953, Playboy’s publisher Hugh Hefner desired to tell apart it through the sex that is sleazy saved underneath the newsstand counter and offered in brown paper bags. He once explained in a tuxedo “to include the notion of sophistication. he opt for bunny since the magazine’s mascot “because of this funny intimate connotation,” but dressed him” The models might have been nude, nevertheless the articles had been authored 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 widely noted by authors reflecting on their legacy following their death at age 91 week that is last. The Playboy Club had been a dinner club, maybe perhaps not an intercourse club; jackets and ties had been needed. Though only guys 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 had been given by famous brands Nat King Cole, Steve Martin, Aretha Franklin, Billy Crystal, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Probably one of the most iconic symbols associated with the Playboy Club ended up being its waitstaff: a throng of females understood, and dressed, as Bunnies.

Just like the clubs themselves, the mag whoever title they shared, in addition to guy who 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. However the Bunny’s allure that is erotic just as much of a tease while 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. Of course feminists are nevertheless arguing over perhaps the Bunny suit had been liberating or constricting, it is given that it was built to be both.

In accordance with Kevin Jones, the curator associated with 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 levels will be not practical for serving products and cigarettes that are lighting. It absolutely was her concept to dress the waitresses as distaff variations for the magazine’s logo that is masculine. The bunny became a Bunny, and a symbol came to be (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 rabbit ears and a fluffy tail—looked too just like a swimwear. A couple of snips of this leg was raised by the scissors opening, elongating the feet, accentuating the crotch, and getting rid of any resemblance to swimwear. Hefner himself insisted on incorporating the criss-cross lacing at the top of the leg, stated Jones, that has a Bunny suit in their museum’s collection. Although the laces had been purely decorative—they couldn’t be untied or loosened—they revealed that a great deal more epidermis, and proposed the tantalizing potential for a wardrobe breakdown. A rosette title label during the hipbone that is right dyed-to-match satin pumps finished the ensemble. Nonetheless it ended up being the addition of the man’s tuxedo collar, bow tie, and cuffs in 1961 that pushed the Bunny suit into pop-culture legend.

“Everybody has this concept that the club had been extremely intimately liberated,” Jones said. The truth is, it had been pretty place that is tame—a flirting for the most part. Therefore had been the Bunnies. The spouse of just one keyholder declared the typical Bunny to be “so darn nice and respectable, you’d even let your bro marry her.” However, the mixture of overpriced cocktails and underdressed waitresses became a formula that is winning. Groups multiplied like rabbits; ultimately, there is a lot more than 30 clubs that are playboy-branded, in addition to gambling enterprises and resorts.

In the 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 as a phallic brassiere—each breast seemed such as the big bullet in the front bumper of a Cadillac. Long black stockings, long stockings, up almost towards the waistline for each side, and also to the rear, regarding the bend associated with will, just as if ejected tenderly through the human body, had been the puff of chastity, just a little white ball of the bunny’s end which bobbed because they strolled.

It absolutely was a flattering if constricting design; Lownes observed that “the costumes took girls with also typical numbers and made them seem like that they had amazing numbers.” Their remark is telling; not totally all Bunnies had been bombshells. The , perhaps maybe not one other means around.

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

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

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

Newsweek called it “a Disneyland for grownups.” Accordingly, the gown rule for feminine workers had been just like strict and step-by-step while the enjoyment park’s famously rigid sartorial requirements. Every thing was spelled call at careful information in a Bunny handbook and enforced with a Bunny mom, whom inspected each Bunny from mind to toe before her shift. Weight and makeup had been closely supervised. Nail enamel, jewelry, and eyeglasses had been strictly forbidden, though hairpieces were motivated. Cuffs and collars needed to be starched and spotless; the rabbit logo design cufflinks had to “kiss,” or face one another. Bunnies had been in charge of buying their very own (tax-deductible) satin pumps and achieving them colored to match their suits and ears, which arrived in 12 colors that are different. “Our set is actually telling given that it’s totally spattered with spilled products,” Jones stated regarding the costume when you look at the FIDM Museum. “They will need to have been changed a great deal.” Dirty shoes, laddered stockings, and other infractions incurred demerits, which may result in a Bunny being fined and even fired.

Not even close to being exploited, the Bunnies “were really well protected women,” Jones said. They may have now been attention candy, nevertheless they had been supposed to be (literally) untouchable. Bouncers kept tipsy keyholders from groping or getting tails. (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 into the Bunny Years.) Touching a Bunny ended up being grounds for expulsion. And Bunnies had been strictly prohibited from dating customers, entertainers, or any C-suite degree Playboy employees. They didn’t require sugar daddies, anyway—they made more in guidelines in one single evening than a salesgirl at Bloomingdale’s will make in 2 days, based on Scott.

Certainly, the Bunnies’ bare, buxom image had been constantly an impression. The suit just arrived in 2 cup sizes: 34D and 36D. But those cups had been loaded with pouches to facilitate stuffing. (In “A Bunny’s Tale,” her 1963 exposй for Show magazine, 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 cleansing bag down the front side of her suit.) Bunnies weren’t permitted to fold 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 managed to get uncomfortable. Rather, these were taught to perform a few elegant, abnormal techniques for instance the “Bunny Dip” plus the “Bunny Crouch” that permitted them to simply simply simply take purchases and provide drinks 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, using sheer Danskin that is black pantyhose flesh-toned Danskin tights, based on Jones.