The new Batgirl was introduced in Detective Comics #359 in the fall of 1966, as part of the Batman craze that followed the success of the campy TV series. Within the year, the character would make the transition to the small screen as well, played by Yvonne Craig.
Unlike the previous batwomen, this Batgirl was not romantically attracted to either Batman or Robin. She did not become a caped crusader in order to win their affections, but because it was thrilling in its own right. As she makes her debut in the story, we are introduced to Barbara Gordon, Ph.D., a somewhat mousy (though clearly gorgeous) librarian, who has designed a Batman-like costume for a masquerade party being thrown by the police department, of which her father is the commissioner.
Naturally, before she reaches the party, she is drawn into a life of crime-fighting by the most slender thread of coincidence. Realizing that kicking the crap out of thugs and preventing kidnappings and murders beats spending her evenings amongst dusty old books, Barbara invests in some Bat-themed hardware and saves Batman and Robin’s collective bacon from a criminal known as the Killer Moth.
In the end, of course, Batman pooh-poohs the necessity of her timely intervention. However, Barbara is not deterred, and, spurred on by positive fan-mail, she soon stalks the night again as Batgirl.
As is clear in her first appearance, Batgirl wore a black bodystocking with yellow accessories and a dark-blue cape. Over time, however, her costume was left “open for color” more and more until it was thought to be light gray like Batman’s. At least it didn’t end up being blue, as is more often the case. The red purse soon disappeared, but the motorcycle remained a common motif for the character.
The version of Batgirl seen on the third season of the TV series was much more colorful and sparkly, with a color scheme of purples and yellows, but the basic design elements of the costume were very similar.
The costume suited the bright palette used in the campy production. It was never imported into the comics, as often happens when there’s a potential for cross-marketing.
(Above: a 1967 demo reel for the Batgirl character made for network executives, inspired by the above comic book story. Posted to YouTube by madjester13.)
Ultimately, Barbara Gordon retired her Batgirl identity after being crippled by the insane criminal Alan Moore, and subsequently became Oracle, the wheelchair-bound mastermind of the book Birds of Prey. A new version of Batgirl has since come and gone.