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

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

From the very very first problem in 1953, Playboy’s publisher Hugh Hefner desired to distinguish it through the sex that is sleazy kept beneath the newsstand countertop and offered in brown paper bags. He once explained which he opt for bunny whilst the magazine’s mascot “because associated with funny intimate connotation,” but dressed him in a tuxedo “to include the thought of elegance.” 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 editorial that is introductory. Also JFK read it.

Likewise, as he started their very very very first Playboy Club in Chicago in 1960, Hefner emphasized respectability above raunchiness—a preference commonly noted by writers reflecting on their legacy after their death at age 91 a week ago. The Playboy Club ended up being a supper club, perhaps not just a intercourse club; jackets and ties had been needed. Though only guys 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 supplied by the kind of Nat King Cole, Steve Martin, Aretha Franklin, Billy Crystal, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

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

Similar to the groups by themselves, the mag whoever title they shared, additionally the guy whom created all of it, 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. Nevertheless 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 suit that is skimpy promised revelations that never ever came; her cuddly demeanor concealed the Bunnies’ intensive training, strict disciplinary policies, and astronomical paychecks. And when feminists remain arguing over perhaps the Bunny suit had been constricting or liberating, it is since it had been made to be both.


In accordance with Kevin Jones, the curator regarding the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum, Hefner originally wanted the club’s waitresses to put on short, 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 was her concept to dress the waitresses as distaff variations associated with the magazine’s logo that is masculine. The bunny became a Bunny, as well as a symbol came to be (and quickly patented—a first for a ongoing solution uniform).

The very first prototype—a satin one-piece used over a prefab Merry Widow corset and paired with bunny ears and a fluffy tail—looked too just like a swimwear. A couple of snips for the 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 lacing that is criss-cross the top of the leg, stated Jones, who has got a Bunny suit in their museum’s collection. Although the laces had been solely decorative—they couldn’t be untied or loosened—they revealed that a great deal more epidermis, and recommended the tantalizing chance for a wardrobe breakdown. A rosette title label during the right hipbone and dyed-to-match satin pumps completed the ensemble. Nonetheless it ended single ukrainian women up being the addition of the tuxedo that is man’s, bow tie, and cuffs in 1961 that forced 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 tame—a destination for flirting for the most part. Therefore had been the Bunnies. The spouse of 1 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; fundamentally, there is a lot more than 30 Playboy-branded groups global, 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 waistline . and lifted them right into a phallic breast that is brassiere—each such as the big bullet regarding the front bumper of the Cadillac. Long black stockings, long stockings, up almost towards the waistline for each part, also to the rear, in the bend associated with the will, as though ejected tenderly through the human anatomy, ended up being the puff of chastity, just a little white ball of a bunny’s end which bobbed because they wandered.

It absolutely was a flattering if constricting design; Lownes observed that “the costumes took girls with also typical numbers making them seem like that they had amazing numbers.” Their remark is telling; not totally all Bunnies had been bombshells. The , 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 trendy silhouette regarding the 1960s ended up being boyish, not curvy. Shapeless changes and ballet flats might have been extremely popular regarding the runway, but within the club, it had been perpetually 1953: hourglass numbers, bullet bras, and three-inch heels. Really the only concessions to fashion had been the Bunnies’ bouffant hairstyles, topped with artfully ears that are angled.

A team of Playboy Bunnies line up for assessment by Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy mag, within the room that is main of Playboy Mansion in Chicago. Hefner is inspecting the brand new improved fabric when it comes to costumes. (Bettmann / Getty Pictures)

Early visitors to your Playboy Club picked through to its dynamic that is heady of and nice

Newsweek called it “a Disneyland for grownups.” Properly, the dress rule for feminine workers had been just like strict and step-by-step because the entertainment park’s famously rigid standards that are sartorial. Every thing ended up being 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 polish, jewelry, 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 accountable for buying their very own (tax-deductible) satin pumps and achieving them dyed to suit their matches and ears, which arrived in 12 colors that are different. “Our set is truly telling since it’s totally spattered with spilled products,” Jones stated associated with costume within the FIDM Museum. “They should have been changed a great deal.” Dirty shoes, laddered stockings, as well as other infractions incurred demerits, that could result in a Bunny being fined as well as fired.

Not even close to being exploited, the Bunnies “were really well protected women,” Jones said. They might happen attention candy, nonetheless they were supposed to be (literally) untouchable. Bouncers kept tipsy keyholders from groping or grabbing tails. (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 forbidden from dating clients, entertainers, or any C-suite degree Playboy employees. They didn’t require sugar daddies, anyway—they made more in recommendations in a single evening than the usual salesgirl at Bloomingdale’s might make in 2 months, in accordance with 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 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 in-house wardrobe mistress telling her that “just about everybody stuffs” while shoving a whole 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 people were taught to perform a few elegant, abnormal techniques like the “Bunny Dip” and also the “Bunny Crouch” that permitted them to just simply take instructions and serve products without ever bending in the waistline. Though their cleavage had been offered through to a satin platter, Bunnies were cinched in and covered up through the upper body down, using sheer Danskin that is black pantyhose flesh-toned Danskin tights, in accordance with Jones.

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