A Fresh Look for the Other Fella
James Bond: George Lazenby
Director: Peter Hunt
Costume designer: Marjory Cornelius
Wardrobe mistress: Jackie Cummins
Tailoring: Dimi Major
Shirts: Frank Foster
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service marks the not only the first instance in the James Bond series of a new Bond actor but also a new tailor for Bond. George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery, and Dimi Major replaced Anthony Sinclair. For his audition, Lazenby bought a suit from Sinclair that was originally made for Connery and photographed wearing it next to a London lamppost, but Major made all of Lazenby’s tailored clothes that he wears in the film. Sinclair’s look was getting to be a bit old-fashioned, so Major gave Bond a more modern look without forgetting the tradition of English tailoring. There are, however, a number of looks that distract from the brilliance of the rest of the wardrobe.
Like with Connery, Lazenby’s first scene as James Bond finds him in a dinner suit. The dinner suit is Bond’s first with peaked lapels, which he had only previously worn on a an ivory dinner jacket. The suit has a trimmer cut than what Connery wore, particularly in the trousers, but it’s still a classic dinner suit without any unusual features. It could be pass for a dinner suit made by London tailors today without any changes, but it has a certain flair that belonged only to Dimi Major and his former partner Douglas Hayward.
The shirt is where we see more adventurous styling, and because Bond wears this dinner suit in two scenes he wears two different voile dress shirts. The first has a pleated front with lace, while the second has a ruffled front. Both are emblematic of 1960s peacock styling, and this is the only film where Bond wears such flashy evening shirts. They’ve grown on me and I’ve come to appreciate them more than I used to. They’re bold, but they’re also tame by 1969 standards, and they’re tasteful compared to some more recent trends. Because Bond’s dinner suit has remained traditional in this film, the shirt is a more subtle way to introduce fashion. These shirts allow Bond to update his look without compromising the traditional dinner suit.
The most impressive part of these outfits is how well and closely fitted the two shirts are. Frank Foster’s fitting skills are all on screen for us to see, contrasting with the fuller-cut shirts that Turnbull & Asser made for Connery. Foster’s dress shirt in Goldfinger’s opening sequence similarly has a fitted silhouette. The overall craftsmanship of Frank Foster’s shirts elevates the looks, no matter their style.
Bond’s wedding attire is also on trend for the 1960s, in a look called ‘black lounge’, ‘stroller’ or ‘Stresemann’ with a black lounge coat and contrasting waistcoat and trousers. While it would have been nice to see Bond in morning dress for his wedding, black lounge might be more appropriate for the character. Bond might have viewed morning dress as too old fashioned or stuffy, particularly a young version of Bond in 1969. While the black jacket itself looks quite heavy and hot for Portugal, the matching lightweight light grey waistcoat and trousers add a more weather-appropriate touch, even if they aren’t the most traditional choices.
Lounge Suits and Jackets
Lazenby’s suits are a tremendous success, bringing an updated look to the character while maintaining traditional British style. Major’s silhouette is much different than Sinclair’s, reflecting both different personal styles and contemporary trends. Major’s silhouettes are trimmer, especially in the trousers, which now have a darted front instead of a pleated trousers. The shoulders have a more natural shape instead of roped sleeve heads. We see more quintessentially British styling (by today’s standards) like longer double vents and steep hacking pockets with ticket pockets. The look of Major’s suits is still a modern English silhouette today.
Major introduced Bond to the button-three jacket for some of his more traditional looks, such as the two three-piece office suits and the hacking jacket, but also for his light blue resort suit. Connery purely wore jackets with two buttons, so this brings a welcome diversity to Bond’s look. Bond still wears a few button-two suits for some of his sportier looks for a nice balance between the two styles.
Some of the suitings are similar to Connery’s but add a little more flair. The navy worsted herringbone and navy flannel chalk stripe cloths are new to Bond but follow the same themes as Connery’s suitings. The Glen Urquhart check from From Russia with Love returns jazzed up in ‘Prince of Wales’ form with a subtle blue overcheck to tie it together with the light blue shirt and navy tie.
The warm-weather suitings in Portugal introduce a new approach. The cream suit makes a stunning impression, and it will be repeated in future Bond films. The light blue suit is hardly seen in the film and doesn’t become such a classic look for Bond. There’s nothing wrong with a light blue suit, and it would be interesting to see how Bond would wear it in the 21st century. There’s one more suit that fits better in a later category in this review.
For the bull fight scene, Lazenby wears a new hacking jacket with a bolder pattern than Connery’s barleycorn. The button-three cut in a houndstooth pattern with a windowpane gives Lazenby’s hacking jacket a more traditional look, as well as one that recalls Fleming’s Bond’s houndstooth suit. However, the stock collar and stock tie look like costume. While they fit with the peacock trends and earlier revivals of the 1960s, it’s not a natural look on Bond. It’s unnecessary when an ordinary cream shirt and red knitted tie would have done much better.
The double-breasted navy blazer, on the other hand, is a far superior sports coat. Just one film after Connery introduced Bond to the naval uniform, Lazenby brought the civilian equivalent to Bond. In a button three, show three (6×3) configuration, it resembles a naval uniform and looks superb on Lazenby. The swelled edges and hacking pockets bring the perfectly sporty touch.
Lazenby wears most of these suits and the blazer with a blue and white shirts and navy and red knitted ties. The cream suit gets a pink shirt, which is regrettably the only time Bond dresses up a pink shirt because it’s a superb look. The shirts are less striking than Connery’s with narrower point and semi-spread collars and ordinary button cuffs. Nonetheless, they suit the character. Though not in black, the navy and red silk knitted ties nicely recall the tie Fleming’s Bond wore.
In two short moments, Lazenby also wears an overcoat that’s a combination of British warm, pea coat and bridgecoat styles. Because of how much it looks like a naval coat, it suits Bond perfectly. The style also makes it a highly versatile coat, and it deserves far more screen time and attention.
Casual Styles and Sports
Bond’s own casual style consists only of a fawn-coloured golfing suit of matching blouson and trousers paired with an orange roll neck. The colour combination does not say ‘classic Bond’, but it coordinates well. I love the blouson on its own, particularly its bi-swing back, but as parts of a matching suit it looks too forced. The orange polo neck is too bright for Bond and for Lazenby’s complexion.
The rest of Bond’s dressed-down looks are not his own. They’re mainly borrowed or stolen, starting with borrowing Tracy’s bathrobe that isn’t long enough on him. Its job is to sexualise Bond, and it does so in a way that is successful in the context of the film, especially since he only wears it briefly.
The light blue ski suit is an iconic outfit, and it looks fantastic on Lazenby’s athletic physique. He unfortunately finds himself forced to wear an oversized and ugly plaid ski lodge jacket over it to disguise himself. Sometimes Bond gets lucky and finds stylish clothes to wear at a moment’s notice (a strength of Quantum of Solace‘s wardrobe), but here Bond is less fortunate. The uglier found items make sense in the story, but they don’t have to be so bad.
The blue anorak for the film’s final battle is practical, but it’s not particularly stylish. It’s merely a cheap uniform that Draco gives Bond for the mission, but it’s a shame when Bond can’t be both stylish and practical.
Quite the Little Baronet
For a good portion of the film, Bond is forced to dress in three disguises as Sir Hilary Bray (played by George Baker) from the College of Arms. Sir Hilary is from the same generation as Bond (going by the ages of the actors being less than a decade apart), but he dresses two generations older. Bond dresses in pure disguise as Sir Hilary, without bringing any of himself to the disguise as he often does. The glasses alone might have been enough for the disguise.
Bond borrows Sir Hilary’s rust brown Inverness coat and his brown tweed three-piece suit, which are beautifully cut by Dimi Major. An Inverness coat looks like Victorian costume, which was long outdated by the time Sir Hilary was born. The tweed trilby, however, is a more welcome addition that looks appropriately country-esque but is a more versatile piece.
The rest of the outfit has some pluses and minuses for Bond. The suit’s waistcoat adds an unnecessary old-fashioned flavour. The forward-pleat trousers, however, are a nice touch to contrast this suit with Bond’s own darted-front suit trousers. The tattersall shirt is perfect for the outfit, but it brings another unnecessary traditional element to the outfit that isn’t Bond. A solid cream shirt would have been better.
Bond wears the same shirt and suit trousers with a tan cardigan for dressing down after hours. The combination looks very old-fashioned, though the pieces could be worn in other contexts in a younger way. Bond should have modified this look to look a little more hip and less like a grandfather. Lazenby at 29 looked young enough to not come across as grandfatherly, but it would have been less flattering to all the other Bond actors.
Now we come to the infamous Highland dress consisting of a Prince Charlie coatee, a Black Watch tartan kilt and a white shirt with a standup collar and a lace jabot. The outfit is overall the equivalent of black tie, but the jabot belongs to the white tie equivalent of Highland dress. The jabot gives the outfit a more costume-like look, and it was trendy in the late 1960s. Since 1997 it has been associated with Austin Powers, which means that this outfit unfortunately ties Bond and Powers together. Had Bond worn the more traditional black bow tie with this outfit, it would have looked less like costume and truer to both Bond and to the traditionalist Sir Hilary.
The kilt is the most distracting item of the film’s wardrobe. While it makes sense in the context of the disguise, a velvet dinner jacket, maybe with tartan trousers or trews, would have had the effect of a disguise without making such a distracting statement.
Draco is one of Bond’s best-dressed allies, and he was also tailored by Dimi Major. His blue nailhead three-piece suit from the scene when he and Bond first meet would be just as appropriate for Bond. The way he wears his suits makes his clothes look even more impressive.
Well Done, James
Dimi Major’s tailoring for Lazenby is amongst the best in the series. It looks fresh today and has looked modern since the excess of the 1970s passed. With a balanced lapel width and a lack of fashionable excess, it perfectly embodies what Bond’s tailoring should be. The cloth choices are mostly classic and are all perfect for Bond’s situations.
1969 was also a transitional period in style, with the narrow lapels of the 1960s on their way out and the wide lapels and flared trousers that would come to define the fashions of the 1970s still too fringe for Bond. Part of Dimi Major’s success is talent and taste, and the rest is the luck of tailoring Bond at just the right time in history.
Not Perfected Yet
The peacock dress shirts are well done, but nonetheless they look dated. My opinion on them is mixed, but I don’t like it when James Bond looks dated. Connery’s style was almost always timeless in the previous five Bond films. His nods to the 1960s were much more subtle than frilly shirts. The style is also too flashy for Bond, but I also think that Bond needs to dress in a way to stay relevant for when traditional styles might look too old fashioned.
The fawn golfing suit just doesn’t have the right colours. A navy jacket instead of fawn would have looked considerably more Bondian. The fawn jacket would be better paired with stone gabardine trousers. The roll neck could have been more muted, perhaps in cream.
The disguises sometimes take things too far from the classic Bond look. The plaid ski lodge jacket makes Bond look more desperate than he should. Highland dress might work for Sir Hilary, but it’s distracting for Bond. They could at least have given him a bow tie instead of the jabot.
The suits and the blazer are perfect, and I think they are some of the most inspiring suits of the series. However, the shirts with the suits and blazer are rather ordinarily styled compared to the shirts Frank Foster made for Connery and for Moore. The dinner suit itself is beautiful and timeless, but dated shirts take the outfits down a notch, even if the shirts are still beautiful in their own right.
The golfing suit and the disguises aren’t terrible, but they are questionable on Bond. Sir Hilary could have dressed a little more like Bond. None of the bad looks are all bad, but the biggest problem is that they are distracting. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is known as the film when Bond wears a kilt, and it need not be the outfit that defines the film’s wardrobe when there is so much to love about the film’s wardrobe.
The good outfits in the film’s wardrobe are some of the best in the Bond series, so the bad can’t detract from the score too much.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Leave your comments below.