I am often asked how I, Matt Spaiser, would dress James Bond if I were the costume designer of a Bond film. Particularly since I was unhappy with the way Daniel Craig’s suits fit in Skyfall and Spectre, people ask me how I would do things differently. Naturally, I have some definite ideas about how James Bond should dress.
Whenever a correction needs to be made in James Bond, people say to go back to the original source material—Ian Fleming’s work. However, if Bond on film dressed exactly like Bond in the books did, the wardrobe would be very limited and boring, not to mention rather unstylish. I would instead go back to Sean Connery’s Bond films and use him as a template. The approach of complex simplicity where the overall outfits seem simple but the fine details are crucial would be the approach I would follow when dressing Bond. Connery’s Bond’s costume was directly inspired by Fleming’s Bond but director Terence Young refined his wardrobe so he came across as the sophisticated character he is meant to be.
Sourcing the Clothes
I would do my best to dress James Bond again in English bespoke suits to bring Bond back to his origins—he wears bespoke English suits in 12 of the first 14 Bond films. A View to a Kill is the last film that features James Bond wearing English bespoke tailoring. Bond’s creator Ian Fleming was a customer of a bespoke tailor and his character most certainly would have been one too. In Craig’s era, Bond in bespoke still fits with the character. In Casino Royale in 2006, Vesper Lynd looks at Bond’s clothes and says, “by the cut of your suit, you went to Oxford or wherever. Naturally you think human beings dress like that.” She doesn’t think Bond is wearing Brioni (which he is), she thinks he is wearing a bespoke suit from an English tailor.
Bond is also the world’s best-known representative of the United Kingdom and should be dressed by his own country, not an Italian or American company. There are, however, a few problems with getting Bond back in bespoke suits: quantity and cost. Because of greater demands in action scenes since Roger Moore was James Bond, more copies of suits are needed now than they were before. Casino Royale‘s costume designer Lindy Hemming told MI6-HQ.com about the quantities of suits required for filming:
So we would have something like 25 suits for that scene because there’s Bond at the table and he always has to be immaculate and you have to have about five (suits) to inter change for that – no creases in the bum and all that sort of stuff. (laughs). And then there’s a huge fight sequences where he’s falling down the stairs. And then he gets kidnapped and driven away into the night and taken to be tortured and he has his clothes cut off before he gets tortured. So there are about 25 suits that are for him and his different stunt doubles.
Getting 25 copies of just one suit from a bespoke tailor is not feasible for a film production, and that is one reason why Lindy Hemming went to Brioni for the five James Bond films she worked on as costume designer. Brioni could quickly make the suits in a large-scale-production factory. Bespoke tailors have small workshops, not factories. And because bespoke tailors do not produce and sell clothes on the kind of scale that larger brands like Brioni and Tom Ford do, most would not be able to afford to provide bespoke suits free to the film production in exchange for their name in the credits and ability to use James Bond in advertising. Just as Turnbull & Asser charged the Bond films for their shirts, most Savile Row tailors probably have the same pride in their names that they would likely also charge for the Bond films for the suits they make. They would likely need to hire extra temporary staff to produce all the clothes quick enough for the film.
Simon Crompton wrote on his blog Permanent Style that the average Savile Row suit costs £4800, so the average bespoke suit price from English tailors overall would be lower. And the Bond films would likely not be charged the full price when purchasing so many suits. But 25 bespoke suits at a cost of, perhaps, £4000 each would be £100,000, and that is not likely where the Bond producers want so much of their budget to go for only part of one outfit.
I would propose using a combination of bespoke and made-to-measure suits to minimise costs. Bespoke suits could be used for non-action scenes and hero shorts when minimal stress is placed on the suits, whilst for the action scenes Bond and the stuntmen would wear made-to-measure suits, produced in the same manner as all of Bond’s suits are produced now. The bespoke and made-to-measure suits would be made in the same style in the same fabrics with the same details. In action shots and for stuntmen, the improved look and fit of a bespoke suit over a made-to-measure suit would not be noticeable as the action distorts the fit.
The bespoke suits and made-to-measure suits would need to come from the same brand to keep costs as low as possible. If the film production is paying English bespoke tailors to make suits for the hero shorts, Tom Ford will not likely want to provide suits free of charge for the other, less prominent shots. Today, many bespoke tailors offer a made-to-measure service alongside their bespoke service as a way to get customers in the door who are not yet ready or unable to purchase bespoke. While a tailor may charge the Bond production for their bespoke suits, they may be more willing to provide the made-to-measure suits alongside the bespoke free or at a greatly reduced cost.
My friend David Mason at Mason & Sons who produces suits under the moniker Anthony Sinclair—the tailor who make Sean Connery’s James Bond suits—would be a natural choice for making the suits. The firm does excellent bespoke work in both Connery’s style as well as in more modern styles, they use a versatile made-to-measure system, and they have a history with James Bond in owning the Anthony Sinclair name. Another capable choice with history in the Bond series could be Timothy Everest, who tailored bespoke suits for Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz and Dave Bautista for Spectre.
Other English brands who offer both bespoke and made-to-measure include Alfred Dunhill, Gieves & Hawkes, Kilgour, Richard James and Thom Sweeney. Cost and capability may be the primary deciding factors in the brand I would choose to provide Bond’s suits.
If necessary, sticking with Tom Ford would not be the end of the world either. I would actually be more than happy to work with Tom Ford if something with a more proper heritage for James Bond could not be arranged. Tom Ford already has an English aesthetic, and the style and fit could be more classically Bondian than the way Daniel Craig wears their suits.
It would be nice to get Bond back into bespoke shirts from Turnbull & Asser—who made shirts for Sean Connery’s, Pierce Brosnan’s and Daniel Craig’s Bonds—if the budget allows, but if not, bespoke or made-to-measure shirts from the suit provider could be an option as it would most certainly cut costs. The dress shirt (Tuxedo shirt) as the only from Turnbull & Asser, as was done in Die Another Day and Casino Royale, could be an option to get them back into Bond.
Styling the Suits
Lindy Hemming told MI6-HQ.com what she aimed to achieve with the way she dressed Daniel Craig for Casino Royale:
Well we want him to look contemporary but classic, too. These films last a long, long time and people look back at them and so you are trying to create a look that won’t date very quickly.
I would follow this approach in attempting to make Bond look timeless, which was also the approach that was taken in dressing Sean Connery for his Bond films. Most recently this approach was effective in Quantum of Solace, with dressing Bond in classic suits and classic casual clothing inspired by the 1960s. The most important thing in dressing someone is making the person look his best before thinking about fashions. The fit and proportions of the clothes need to be right for the person wearing the clothes. Colours must be chosen based on the person’s complexion.
Then considerations should be made as to how the clothes can reflect current fashions. I would avoid extremes of current fashions, particularly those that do not flatter the person wearing the clothes, but I also would not dress Bond in classic styles that are currently unfashionable, such as a suit that is cut and fitted like what Sean Connery wears in his 1960s Bond films. A suit with a full-cut jacket and high-rise pleated trousers would make James Bond look old-fashioned today, no matter how cool it made Sean Connery look in the 1960s. But the current trend for a shrunken suit does not fit James Bond’s character either. Bond is rarely concerned with being the most flamboyantly fashionable man in the room, even in Roger Moore’s 1970s films.
The fit of the suits in Quantum of Solace is what I would still aim for today, almost a decade after the film premiered. The suit jackets fit close to the body and the trousers have a medium rise with a flat front. I would narrow the lapels slightly to be the same as what Daniel Craig wears in Spectre, which would be more in harmony with current fashions. The lapels in Spectre are narrow, but they don’t look silly. The classic jacket length and medium button stance in Quantum of Solace are still ideal. I would give Bond softer, more natural-looking shoulders than on the Tom Ford suit jackets, along the lines of what Connery’s jackets had. Softer shoulders fit better with both the Bond tradition and with current styles. On the other hand, the Brunello Cucinelli shoulders on the unstructured brown jacket Bond wears in Spectre are too soft, don’t have the right shape or width to flatter Daniel Craig’s build, and look too Italian for James Bond.
For the style of the suit jacket, I would look back to Connery and put Bond back in all button two cuts. The button two suit has been more popular than the button three suit has for some time, though Bond has primarily stuck with the button three since the mid 90s. The button two, show one style (3 roll 2) of Quantum of Solace and Spectre may be classic, but it’s neither classic British nor classic Bond. Double vents in the back of the jacket need to come back to Bond as well because they’ve been the quintessential British style since the late 1960s, they’re currently in fashion, and they give more flattering lines to the jacket than the single vent of the past two Bond films does. I may put a single vent on certain jackets if I felt it was the better choice.
I would put straight pockets on city suits and slanted pockets on the sportier suits and odd jackets. The presence of a ticket pocket depends on the suit. I would put four buttons on all cuffs, as that is the current British standard. There would be no showy longer buttonhole on the end with the button left open. James Bond is not a showy character.
The suit trousers in Quantum of Solace are pretty much what I would put James Bond in today, with a medium rise, flat front, narrow (but not tight) legs and a waistband with slide-buckle side-adjusters. I would not go back to Connery’s “Daks tops” style with buttons because they are not as effective as the slide-buckle style. These trousers may not be as fashionable as low-rise, skin-tight trousers, but they are not old-fashioned either. They are more flattering to most men and harmonise better as part of a suit. Following Bond tradition, the trousers would be hemmed with turn-ups.
I might put Bond in one three piece suit if the occasion called for it. The waistcoat would be the classic six-button, four-pocket style.
At least half of the suits I put Bond in would be shades of blue, in an effort to put Bond in more Fleming-esque suits. Despite blue being the main choice of suit for Fleming’s Bond, grey has always been the filmic Bond’s primary suit colour of choice. My pick of suits may include blues in classic serge, flannel, chalk stripe, birdseye, herringbone and a plain mohair and wool blend. The suit wardrobe would also include greys in pick-and-pick, flannel, chalk stripe, herringbone, glen check, houndstooth and a wool and silk blend. Dark brown, tan gabardine and cream linen could also be options. The specific choices for suits would obviously depend on what is needed by the plot and locations, and particular shades of the colours would need to be determined based on the complexion of the man playing Bond.
Spectre brought back the odd jacket to James Bond, and I would make an effort to continue that. The navy blazer, a Bond classic, needs to return to the Bond films, particularly if he’s in a warm location. Though the classic blazer with metal buttons is out of fashion today, I would update the blazer with mother-of-pearl buttons instead. With a three-patch-pocket design like Connery’s blazers, this navy jacket could still be relevant to Bond.
My ideal dinner suit for Bond would be a button one in a midnight blue mohair and wool blend. If Bond visits a casino, the dinner jacket would have a satin shawl collar. If the occasion for black tie is more grand, the dinner jacket would have grosgrain peaked lapels. A classic button one ivory dinner jacket with self lapels and mother-of-pearl buttons like what Bond wears in Goldfinger or Octopussy would be an option for a tropical locale.
For outer coats, I would try to get Bond in “dark-blue raincoat” that Fleming specified for Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Daniel Craig wears such a coat in Casino Royale, and it needs to come back as long as the weather calls for it. A dark blue wool overcoat like Roger Moore’s in Live and Let Die could be a good substitute for cold weather.
Shirts, Ties, Shoes and Accessories
For shirts I would use Sean Connery as the primary example and put James Bond mostly in light blue poplin shirts and some white poplin shirts. The shirts would have a spread collar—the specific width, height and point length based on the face of the man playing Bond—and cocktail cuffs with the occasional double cuffs for the most formal suits worn to the office. Rather than point, pinned and tab collars, Bond needs to be in a spread collar again, as it’s the quintessential British collar. Connery’s full shirt fit would not work today; a closely fitted shirt is necessary.
I would put Bond in a variety of dark, plain ties based on what Connery wears in his Bond films. There would need to at least one classic Connery navy grenadine tie included, especially since grenadine ties are now more popular than ever. With sportier suits and jackets, I would make an attempt to include the black knitted tie that Fleming specified for Bond, or a dark navy knitted tie as a substitute because it’s substantially more versatile. Black and brown grenadine and knitted ties would also be options, as well as dark solid ties in other textured patterns.
Unlike in Connery’s wardrobe, I believe there should be more subtle variations in the ties. I would be tempted to do an entire tie wardrobe of different solid navy ties, including grenadine, knitted, ribbed, shantung or a self-pattern, all silk. Ties would need to be all tied in a four-in-hand knot to respect Fleming’s dislike of the Windsor knot.
The dress shirt ultimately depends on the type of dinner jacket, but it would be white with a spread collar, a pleated or plain front, buttons down the front in white or black mother or pearl or a fly front, and double cuffs or cocktail cuffs. Bow ties would match the material of the lapels, and the bow tie would be a batwing shape with either straight or diamond ends, following what Connery wears in his 1960s Bond films. The batwing goes better with today’s narrow lapels than the butterfly shape does.
Any cuff links Bond wears would be discreet along the lines of Connery’s and Craig’s cuff links rather than like the flashier links Brosnan wears. Pocket squares would always be included, and they would be white linen and folded. Bond is not the fussy type who would match his shirt to his pocket square.
A shoe wardrobe should bring back slip-on shoes to respect Fleming’s Bond’s abhorrence of laces (as stated in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), though they need to be more sophisticated than moccasins. Though Bond has worn moccasins with suits in the past on film, he needs something more proper to wear with a suit.
A slip-on like the Edward Green Fitzwilliam in black with it’s elastic gussets on the sides could be an excellent choice for Bond to wear with suits. They are more formal than moccasins, and in being very similar to some of the shoes and boots Sean Connery wears in Goldfinger and Thunderball they pay homage to Connery. I’d give the shoes Dainite studded rubber soles instead of leather soles for the added traction Bond needs. But for black tie I would put Bond in the classic shoe: black patent leather plain toe oxfords.
Some of the best casual clothing of the Bond series has come from Daniel Craig’s last three Bond films, and I would continue with his clothes along those lines with blue polo shirts, round neck and polo neck cashmere jumpers, Harrington jackets, suede blousons, leather jackets, Barbour jackets, pea coats, beige chinos, brown corduroy trousers, grey flannel wool trousers and brown suede chukka boots.
I would source the clothes from classic British brands, just like Bond has been wearing in the past two films. Brands like Sunspel, John Smedley, N.Peal and Baracuta would be amongst my top picks. The casual clothes could have a more fashionable fit than the suits have, currently with close fits all around, but I wouldn’t go to any extremes of fashion at the risk of dating the film too much.
Though I would try to keep Bond wearing suits whenever possible, I think Bond sometimes looks ridiculous wearing suits in some of the action sequences. In the 1970s as the action in Bond films increased, Bond was wearing suits less often. By the 1980s, Bond was rarely wearing tailored clothing for the more intense action scenes that had started to become an important part of the Bond films. For practical reasons, especially if I could put Bond in bespoke suits again, Bond would need to go back to wearing more casual clothes for more of the intense action scenes so that 25 replicas of a suit may no longer be needed. Though Bond has long been known for wearing suits, he has also long worn elegant sportswear as well. If a lot of stuntwork is necessary, sometimes we need to admit that a suit is really not the best choice for Bond at those times.