A catsuit is a one-piece form-fitting garment that covers the torso and the legs, and frequently the arms. They are usually made from stretchable material, such as lycra, chiffon, spandex (after 1959), latex, or velour, but may use less elastic materials, such as leather or PVC. Catsuits frequently close using a zipper at the front or back, or are pulled on over the neck opening.
Catsuits are most commonly worn by women, but are also worn by men. A catsuit is regarded as outerwear, but not normally street wear.
Catsuits first made an appearance around the 1940s, and were occasionally worn as a fashion item at various times from the 1960s to the 1990s. During the 1970s and 1980s they were worn for aerobics and disco dancing. Around 1980 disco dance catsuits briefly became a street fashion item in the United Kingdom.
Athletes in sports such as speed skating, bobsled, winter triathlon, ski-racing, cycling and gymnastics wear garments similar to catsuits, but which are specifically geared to the needs of the sport involved. Also similar in appearance are wetsuits and drysuits used by scuba divers, and the speedsuits used by competitive swimmers before the more extreme forms of the suit were banned. Also, in tennis Serena Williams once wore a black catsuit during the 2002 US Open.
On stage, American singer Lady Miss Kier often wore catsuits. Unitards and bodysuits worn by dancers, circus performers, pop singers and magicians are similar to catsuits.
Some people consider catsuits to be a fetish item. Catsuits for fetish use are often made of latex or PVC where such a catsuit is typically highly shiny, tight fitting and may be (but is not exclusively) worn with a corset over the top of the suit. Other materials such as lycra, shiny wet look, or velvet are options for fetish wear too, with some lycra materials having animal print designs. Catsuits can have zippers on the front or rear for access, with some having zippers on the shoulders. Additional zippers can be placed in specific areas for access, if required. Typically a fetish catsuit will not have gloves or feet. Feet, if present, are typically form fitting like socks and the gloves will have individual fingers. Typically gloves and socks can be worn as additional accessories to a catsuit to give a whole body look, with some opting to add a hood as an option too. Hoods can also be incorporated into the catsuit. Rarely will a catsuit incorporate boots or shoes, although it is possible. An option instead of gloves might be bondage mittens, which might have a D-ring at the top, and such catsuits can be used as straitjackets in the context of bondage. More extreme options for catsuits have incorporated monoglove instead of sleeves and they can also be used for bondage. Catsuits may also have incorporated corset and/or neck corset, although these are typically added as accessories to complete a look.
A zentai is a garment, usually made of spandex, being a catsuit with both feet gloves and a hood which totally encloses the wearer. The name zentai comes from the Japanese word for "whole body".
The catsuit is often worn in movies, television, music videos and computer games.In comics and their spin-off movies, catsuits are often worn by superheroes of both sexes. One well-known icon is Catwoman, the villainess/anti-heroine of the Batman series, and a heroine in the Batman series, Batgirl, also wore catsuits.
Scarlett Johansson wears a catsuit playing Natasha Romanoff, a fictional Marvel Comics superhero, the Black Widow, in a number of films, beginning with Iron Man 2 (2010), then Marvel's The Avengers (2012), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).
The lead female characters of the Underworld film series and The Matrix wore catsuits.
Female villains and heroines in spy films may wear catsuits, such as the Baroness and Scarlett in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
An iconic use of catsuits in popular media was on the British television show The Avengers, where Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) wore tight leather catsuits; leather was chosen because it lit well in studio lighting and did not split during action scenes.
Shirley Bassey wore a sleeveless chiffon catsuit for a gatefold album photograph, and in concert.
Cher has also worn catsuits in concert.
The character of Jade in the Wrong Number novel from R. L. Stine's Fear Street series has an affinity for wearing catsuits.
In popular culture, catsuits have become the stereotypical costume of dominatrixes.