A fly is a covering that conceals the mechanism that allows a garment to open, such as buttons or a zip. Look down and you’ll most likely find a fly on your trousers that conceals the zip or buttons. Flies are also common on overcoats and can be found on such as the Chesterfield, Crombie coat, covert coat or Balmacaan. And sometimes a fly is present on the front of a shirt.
A fly-front shirt means that the buttons down the front are covered by a fold of cloth under the front. The typical fly front has a stitching line down the front to hold fly in place, as seen in Figure 1.
Though a fly front that hides the buttons is elegant, the stitching line on this basic type of fly front is not. It’s serviceable on the front of trousers or on an overcoat where the stitching blends in, but on a shirt the stitching is more noticeable. And such a front is not symmetrical. This method of constructing a fly front on a shirt is best used for casual shirts. James Bond does not wear this style.
James Bond’s fly-front shirts always have a raised placket to hide that line and give the shirt a symmetrical front. This style can be called a hidden-button placket, a covered placket or concealed placket. James Bond first wears this style of fly front on his Frank Foster shirts in Live and Let Die, and he wears these shirts with his suits and sports coat. Moore always hides this decorative placket under a tie when fully dressed.
Frank Foster’s placket in Live and Let Die has one line of stitching down the middle, which allows it to flare out. A hidden line of stitching under the fold of the placket holds the fly in place. This is demonstrated in Figure 2.
Though any kind of shirt can be made with a fly front, it is most commonly found on dress shirts (a.k.a. Tuxedo shirts) for black tie. Though it is not improper for buttons to show on the front of a shirt for black tie, studs are a traditional dressier alternative to buttons to show something less mechanical on the shirt’s front. Since the 1960s, the fly front has been another alternative to showing buttons on the front of a shirt and can be a part of the traditional pleated or marcella shirts. Or, Daniel Craig demonstrates in Casino Royale (pictured top), a basic shirt made in a fancy white-on-white fabric can be made into something more special for black tie with a fly front. Such a shirt needs a proper collar (spread or point) and double or cocktail cuffs. The fly-front shirt for black tie saw the most popularilty in the 1980s, but it is still an elegant alternative to the more traditional button or stud plackets.
James Bond has worn three fly-front shirts for black tie. Two are pleated shirts: one from Sulka in GoldenEye and one from Turnbull & Asser in Die Another Day. Bond’s most recent fly-front shirt is a plain white waffle-weave shirt from Turnbull & Asser in Casino Royale with a fly front.
The shirts in GoldenEye and Casino Royale have plackets stitched 3/8-inch from each edge, and like on the Frank Foster shirt there is stitching under the placket to hold the fly in place. This is demonstrated in Figure 3.
The dress shirt in Die Another Day does not appear to have any stitching on the placket. It is likely held together with a hidden stitch under the placket along with some fusing, since Turnbull & Asser uses fusing in their placket construction.