Down the Rabbit Hole: The Surprising Tale regarding the Bunny Suit

Like Hugh Hefner himself, Playboy’s iconic costume had been a mixture of provocative and traditional.

From the very first problem in 1953, Playboy’s publisher Hugh Hefner sought to differentiate it through the sex that is sleazy kept underneath the newsstand countertop and offered in brown paper bags. He once explained he decided on a bunny while the magazine’s mascot “because of this funny intimate connotation,” but dressed him in a tuxedo “to include the thought of elegance.” The models was nude, nevertheless the articles had been compiled by acclaimed authors 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 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 his death at age 91 week that is last. The Playboy Club ended up being a dinner club, perhaps not just an intercourse club; coats and ties had been needed. Though only males might be members—or “keyholders,” in Playboy parlance—they could bring guests that are female. The buffet offered crab feet and filet mignon, and activity had been provided by the kind of Nat King Cole, Steve Martin, Aretha Franklin, Billy Crystal, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Probably the most iconic symbols regarding the Playboy Club had been its waitstaff: a throng of females known, and dressed, as Bunnies.

Just like the clubs on their own, the mag whoever title they shared, together with man who created the whole thing, the clothes used by the Playboy Bunnies had been a mixture of old-fashioned and provocative. Since its first, the Bunny suit—a strapless bodysuit paired with bunny ears and a fluffy tail—has become a cartoonish clichй of female sex, serving as being a artistic punchline in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Legally Blonde, Mean Girls, The home Bunny, and a bunch of other rom-coms. Nevertheless the Bunny’s erotic attraction had been just as much of a tease given that 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. And when feminists continue to be arguing over if the Bunny suit was constricting or liberating, it is as it had been built to be both.

Based on 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 had been dating the organization’s promotions director, Victor Lownes—pointed out that every 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 associated with magazine’s logo that is masculine. The bunny became a Bunny, plus a icon 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 scissors raised the leg 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, who’s got 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 significantly more skin, and recommended the possibility that is tantalizing of wardrobe breakdown. A rosette title label at the right hipbone and dyed-to-match satin pumps finished the ensemble. However it had been the addition of a tuxedo that is man’s, 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 1 keyholder declared the normal Bunny to be “so darn nice and respectable, you’d even allow your sibling marry her.” Nevertheless, the mixture of overpriced cocktails and underdressed waitresses became a formula that is winning. Groups multiplied like rabbits; sooner or later, there is significantly more than 30 Playboy-branded groups global, in addition to gambling enterprises and resorts.

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

a Gay-Nineties rig which exaggerated their sides, bound their waist . and lifted them in to a phallic breast that is brassiere—each just like the big bullet in the front bumper of the Cadillac. Long black stockings, long stockings, up almost towards the waistline for each part, also to the trunk, from the curve associated with the will, as though ejected tenderly through the human anatomy, had been the puff of chastity, just a little ball that is white of 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 making them appear to be that they had amazing numbers.” Their remark is telling; only a few Bunnies had been bombshells. The , maybe not one other means around.

From day one, “the suit had been a throwback,” Jones told me—to the 1950s if not 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 regarding the runway, but in 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 examination by Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy mag, when you look at the primary space of this Playboy Mansion in Chicago. Hefner is inspecting the newest improved fabric for the costumes. (Bettmann / Getty Images)

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

Newsweek called it “a Disneyland for adults.” Accordingly, the dress rule for feminine workers ended up being in the same way strict and step-by-step while the enjoyment park’s famously rigid sartorial criteria. Everything had been spelled call at careful information in a Bunny Manual and enforced by way of a Bunny mom, whom inspected each Bunny from mind to toe before her shift. Makeup products and fat had been closely supervised. Nail enamel, jewelry ukrainian brides at, and eyeglasses had been strictly forbidden, though hairpieces had been motivated. Cuffs and collars needed to be starched and spotless; the bunny logo design cufflinks had to “kiss,” or face one another. Bunnies had been in charge of purchasing their particular (tax-deductible) satin pumps and achieving them colored to complement their matches and ears, which came in 12 colors that are different. “Our set is truly telling because it’s totally spattered with spilled drinks,” 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 trigger a Bunny being fined and even fired.

Not even close to being exploited, the Bunnies “were really well protected women,” Jones told me. They may have now been attention candy, nevertheless they had been supposed to be (literally) untouchable. Bouncers kept tipsy keyholders from groping or tails that are grabbing. (the yarn that is original had been changed by fire-retardant fake fur by 1969 because “customers had been constantly attempting 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 clients, entertainers, or any C-suite degree Playboy workers. They didn’t require sugar daddies, anyway—they made more in guidelines in one single evening compared to a salesgirl at Bloomingdale’s might make in 2 months, in accordance with Scott.

Indeed, the Bunnies’ bare, buxom image had been constantly an impression. The suit just came 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 cleansing bag down the front side of her suit.) Bunnies are not 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 would have managed to get uncomfortable. Alternatively, these were taught to perform a few elegant, abnormal techniques for instance the “Bunny Dip” plus the “Bunny Crouch” that permitted them to just just take purchases and provide products without ever bending in the waist. Though their cleavage had been served 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.