Sir James Bond’s Double-Breasted Victorian Morning Suit in Casino Royale (1967)

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The most flamboyant and ridiculous film directly related to James Bond was released in 1967 and took the title of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond story, Casino Royale. For such film it was necessary that characters dressed in the most flamboyant and ridiculous fashions to match the tone of the film. The legendary David Niven starred as the retired Sir James Bond, who has bold, luxurious and outlandish tastes and wears dandy clothes loosely reminiscent of what men were wearing in the late Victorian era. For his outfit as Sir James Bond during the film’s climax, Niven wears a unique light navy with a subtle dark navy windowpane double-breasted morning suit with accessories that fell out of favour after the Edwardian era. This costume was inspired by the New Edwardian trend that had been present in British fashion in the 1950s and 1960s as well as the original Victorian styles.

The New Edwardian trend in British fashion had reached the mainstream in 1967 when the James Bond spoof Casino Royale was released. The trend made Edwardian styles—and sometimes even older styles—popular again, but with new variations on those styles. Sometimes it was just incorporating details (like gauntlet cuffs or covered buttons) from the Edwardian era or older into newer cuts, while other times it meant wearing older styles in new creative ways. The former was subtle and easy to wear. The latter was a form of dandy costume, and as such it was perfect for David Niven to wear as Sir James Bond in a flashy spoof. This outfit is purely a piece of costume for a flamboyant character rather than an example of what people wore in the 1967 or in the Victorian or Edwardian eras. With the Peacock Revolution in full swing in 1967, New Edwardian fashion was on its way out in favour of even bolder fashions.

The main piece of Niven’s outfit is a Victorian-inspired double-breasted morning suit made up of matching morning coat, waistcoat and trousers. The coat here is based on an early version of the morning coat, sometimes called a Newmarket coat, a cutaway frock coat, a walking coat or a university coat. Like the modern morning coat, this is a body coat with a waist seam, a gradual cutaway in front, large side bodies, and a single vent and pleats at the back with two decorative buttons.

The cutaway aspect of the morning coat was originally designed so the coat can drape neatly on either side of a horse when riding on horseback. The morning coat began as a garment for equestrian pursuits in the first half of the 19th century, and such versions of this early morning coat had three or four buttons and featured notched lapels. This earlier coat is mid-thigh length, which is shorter than the morning coat and was more practical for riding. By the Edwardian era when the modern morning coat was defined, it had become a more formal garment and was made more formal with a longer length, a single-button fastening and peaked lapels. The button two, notched lapel model still stuck around for less formal use.

Though the cutaway morning coat in all incarnations was usually single-breasted, double-breasted versions like Niven’s historically existed. In a 1898 portrait, Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough (Winston Churchill’s first cousin) displays a beautiful example of a double-breasted morning suit. In this portrait (pictured below) he even shows a passing resemblance to David Niven, though this similarity is not present in photographs.

Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough
by Sir Leslie Ward
watercolour, published in Vanity Fair 22 September 1898
13 5/8 in. x 8 3/8 in. (346 mm x 213 mm)
Purchased, 1938
Primary Collection
NPG 2965
© National Portrait Gallery, London

David Niven’s coat has a total of six buttons, and only the top of the three rows of buttons is cut to fasten. The foreparts are sharply cut away below the first button, exposing the bottom two buttons of the waistcoat. Each side of the coat has three buttons and three buttonholes, even though the bottom two rows of buttonholes are just as decorative as the bottom two rows of buttons. Niven’s coat incorporates traditional details from early morning coats such as steep notched lapels, flapped pockets along the waist seam and a velvet collar, which matches the dark navy windowpane design of the suit’s cloth. The coat has other traditional such as fabric-covered buttons. The cut has soft shoulders with slight roping at the sleeve heads and a full chest. There are three covered buttons on each cuff.

Completing the morning suit are matching waistcoat and trousers. The single-breasted waistcoat has a straight hem and covered buttons, with the bottom two showing where the coat is cut away. The trousers have a high rise and a darted front—no pleats but not entirely plain or flat—and the legs taper to a moderately narrow hem. The cut of the trousers was current for the 1960s, helping to modernise the look of his suit.

The maker of the morning suit may be Benson, Perry & Whitley, who made Niven’s tweed suit earlier in the film. Benson, Petter & Whitley was also Ian Fleming’s tailor.

Under the coat, Niven wears a white shirt with a stiff, detachable wing collar and double cuffs with cuff links. The wing-collar shirt traditionally has single link cuffs that don’t fold over, while the more modern turn-down-collar shirt takes softer double cuffs that fold. The wing collar with morning dress was long outdated by the 1960s and contributes to the costume-like look of this outfit.

Around the wing collar, Niven wears a dress cravat, which is also known in Britain as an “Ascot”. (The informal day cravat is called a “Ascot” in America.) It is made of a formal grey silk with a large printed navy four-petal Macclesfield motif. The cravat is knotted and folded in front of the shirt, held together with a sapphire blue flower-design stick pin. Like the wing collar, the dress cravat was considered outdated and is a piece of costume, while a four-in-hand tie would have been the standard neckwear for morning dress.

Niven’s shoes are black short calf ankle boots with hidden elastic hidden connect the quarters under the vamp, a cap toe and a heel counter. This is the same kind of boot that Sean Connery wears in Thunderball except with additional toe and heel details. Niven’s costume can’t and shouldn’t be all Victorian- and Edwardian-inspired; some of it needs to be current 1960s style so he looks like he’s boldly dressed rather than in a costume drama.

23 COMMENTS

      • He was never knighted, thus never a ‘Sir’. Possibly because he lived the latter part of his life in Switzerland (and France) as a tax exile, although that didn’t prevent Roger Moore, his neighbour in Switzerland, from getting his knighthood.

  1. Sir David Niven…

    Great actor, bad movie. Seriously! Who do we have to blame for this film, and its equally ridiculous style!?!? Though Matt, why not cover some of David Niven’s style in other films? As I recall he wore a red velvet dinner jacket in The Pink Panther. That would be interesting to cover.

  2. “Casino Royale” of 1967 was a incredible missed opportunity for achieve a good Bond movie out of the serie.
    Think at a serious movie with a actor as Richard Burton or Alan Bates as Bond.
    Think the waste of having the best potential 007’s villain, Orson Welles as Le Chiffre and use it in a silly, ridiculous,camp movie..
    What a waste! What a waste what a waste!

    About the Niven’s suit,is a peacock revolution take on New Edwardian style.
    The famous trendy tailor Blades make suits in this style ( see :
    https://s9.postimg.org/uggbqpu7j/blades1.jpg )

    • Well, they weren’t trying to make a serious movie though. The entire goal was to be a sendup of James Bond and spy movies. Whether or not it was successful at that is a source of much debate.

    • I agree about the wasted opportunity and your choice of potential Bonds. Welles was inspirational casting as Le Chiffre. Niven could’ve still played Bond Snr. Casino Royale SHOULD have been made during the stream of initial Bond movies one way or the other. It was “the other” and was, as you say, a waste. However, every cloud as they say has a silver lining and CR 1967 boasted a collection of what was perhaps the best looking Bond girls in any Bond movie; the lady playing Moneypenny, seen in the first still, has got to be the best looking actress to play that role. And to quote the late, great Barry Norman “and why not?”!

      • David Marlborough – a bit more on Barbara Bouchet (the actress who plays Moneypenny), who is still one of the chattiest, nicest and most charming people I’ve ever met.

        She started out in American films, a memorable episode of Star Trek, and a Man From Uncle episode called ‘The Project Deephole Affair’, but then moved to Italy to get better roles as all she was offered in America were spy capers (like Agent for H.A.R.M, and Danger Route) and comedies.

        In Italy, she’s a very well known personality, and is a principal actress in Italian giallo films, in which you’ll see a lot more of her in more ways than one.

    • I’ve heard (by which I mean I’ve read in serious discussion of this film) that Peter Sellers was determined to play his role completely straight. Tune everyone else out (especially Woody Allen) and you might have a glimpse of what an EON/canon Casino Royale may have looked like.

    • I can’t see much of it from the poor-quality video, so that’s not enough to write a post on. I think the dinner jacket is dark green, but I can’t tell what it is made of or if the trousers match. For a dark green dinner jacket such as that one, I’d recommend doing it in velvet and pairing it with black dinner suit trousers. It’s not so Bond-like. In blue it would be more Bond-like.

  3. Mr.spaiser,
    When it comes to black tie when is it okay to venture into the world of coloured dinner jackets? I want to stay in the realm of bond and not venture into “kingsman” territory. I want to try new things without looking like a magician

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