Will the new "Avengers" star's catsuit make moviegoers meow?

This summer may be short on $200 million action movies, but it’s flush with fabulous movie fashions. There’s the chocolate brown suede coat Gwyneth Paltrow wears in A Perfect Murder and the sleek wardrobe Gillian Anderson unveils in The X-Files. And while Jennifer Lopez‘s performance earned her Out of Sight reviews, the real feast for the eyes is the leather jacket she wears in the second half of the movie. But the best clothes encounter—the ’90s version of the catsuit worn by Uma Thurman in The Avengers—doesn’t arrive until August.

Worn by Diana Rigg during her stint on the British TV series, the getup embodied Emma Peel’s smart, efficient, thoroughly modern manner—and served as a playful contrast to the Savile Row suits worn by the more Edwardian-flavored Steed (Patrick Macnee). When it came time to reinvent this symbol of female empowerment—not to mention sex appeal—Oscar-winning costumer Anthony Powell made a surprising discovery. “Emma is best remembered for [the catsuit],” says Powell, who did Glenn Close‘s attire in 101 Dalmatians. “But she only wore it on the show a few times because they didn’t have stretch leather then.” The minute Rigg did action scenes, it would split, and replacements put a dent in the wardrobe budget.

Powell’s biggest challenge was designing an outfit that recalled the one worn by the petite Rigg but flattered Thurman, who’s six feet tall. A meeting with the actress gave him the inspiration he needed. “After we chatted about the film,” he recalls, “she calmly asked, ‘This catsuit, just exactly where would this hang in Emma’s closet?’ I fell on the floor with laughter. That’s what we get from considering that catsuit from a man’s point of view! That comment gave me the clue on how to dress her.”

Powell came up with a costume made of stretch jersey with a patent finish, giving the ensemble a crocodile effect. The belt rides low on the hips. Complete with oxidized zippers, the suit is paired with black boots that lace up the back. Avengers producer Jerry Weintraub boasts, “It’s every 16-year-old’s fantasy.” And every movie studio’s dream: Warner Bros. reports posters of Thurman in her catsuit are being peeled off the walls. How purrfect.

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