Gustav Graves in 1930s-Inspired Black Tie

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As a part of his efforts to cultivate the appearance of a wealthy and extravagant Englishman, Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) wears an elegant black double-breasted dinner suit and fur coat in Iceland for a premiere demonstration of his satellite in Die Another Day. Rather than look towards the current fashions of 2002, costume designer Lindy Hemming took inspiration from the 1930s when dressing Graves.

Grave’s double-breasted dinner jacket has four buttons in the button two, show two configuration. Though double-breasted dinner jackets are more commonly made in the button one, show two configuration, this style is equally correct. It lacks some of the elegance of the lower-buttoning model due to less shirt showing resulting in an overwhelming amount of black.

The jacket has wide straight shoulders with roped sleeve heads, a clean and lean chest and a suppressed waist. The skirt has a close fit with no vents. The medium-width E. Tautz-style peaked lapels are cut with the gorge (top edge) almost horizontal to the floor, and there is a small notch between the collar and the lapels. Only the left lapel has a buttonhole. While the gorge may look low, it is consistent with the 1930s style on which the outfit is based. The jacket is detailed with three buttons on each cuff and jetted pockets. The lapels, pocket jettings and buttons are trimmed in satin silk.

The trousers have wide legs that fill out the bottom of the jacket and gently taper to the wide openings that cover the shoes with no break. The trousers have a silk braid down the side of each leg and most likely pleats at the top. The dinner suit was probably made especially for Toby Stephens to wear in Die Another Day, possibly made by Brioni.

The white dress shirt is the most obvious of the vintage-inspired pieces in Graves’ outfit. Most unique about the shirt is the proper type of wing collar, which is detachable rather than attached to the shirt so it can be heavily starched separately from the rest of the shirt. Graves’ collar attaches to the shirt’s band collar at the front and black with studs. It is very tall with elegantly rolled points and has stitching close to the edge. The front of the shirt has no raised placket, and two gold studs are visible. The cuffs are double (French) cuffs. The collar, cuffs and bib are all in pique marcella cotton.

Since the 1940s, the soft turn-down collar has been the standard collar for black tie (a dinner jacket/tuxedo). Since then there have been resurgences of the wing collar, most commonly in attached form. An attached wing collar can never be as grand as the proper detachable version and should never be worn. Since the turn-down collar because the usual collar for black tie, the wing collar has been seen as showy and has been primarily limited to full evening dress (white tie). James Bond has never and would never wear a wing collar.

Graves wears a black satin bow tie. For a wing collar, the bow tie should be sized to the wearer’s neck so no clasp for adjusting the size of the bow tie is visible. Graves’ bow tie is adjustable with a clasp that is barely visible in the film, but the director is able to control the shots so we don’t see a close-up of the clasp. A tailor can remove the clasp and sew a more discreet seam in the back of the bow tie to avoid showing a clasp.

There is a debate about whether one should wear the bow tie in front of or behind the wing collar’s tabs. Graves inconsistently wears his collar and bow tie both ways. Menswear maven Alan Flusser writes in his 2002 book Dressing the Man that the “bow’s ends are always worn in front of the wing-collar tabs, never behind them.” Many vintage fashion plates from the early 20th century, on the other hand, show the bow tie worn behind the wing-collar tabs. The tabs of the earliest wing collars would typically hover over the bow tie, so as the tabs and bow ties both became larger, wearing the bow tie and collar the same as before would result in a bow tie under the tabs. Wearing the bow tie in front of the tabs was adopted later and became the norm. How you wear the wing collar and bow tie together is ultimately up to personal preference.

Grave’s shoes are black patent leather slip-ons with either a black bow or ribbon over the vamp and natural leather soles.

When going outside to demonstrate his satellite, Graves wears a full-length charcoal fur coat over the dinner suit, showing off his ostentatious lifestyle and personality. Fur coats are the warmest of formal coats, though Graves may not need to full warm of the coat so he wears it open. Later in the film, Graves wears a charcoal-fur-trimmed black leather coat, meaning that this is the same coat and that it is a reversible coat. The idea for a long black leather coat may have been inspired by The Matrix, which was released only three years earlier than Die Another Day. On the coat’s fur side, the revers are black and may be the leather from the other side of the coat. Not much of the fur coat can be seen in the film, and the scenes the coat appear in are dark.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent new post! Some additional observations:

    – The bow tie is midway up the detachable collar, revealing the back of the neckband above the jacket collar. The ideal look is for the bow tie to run along the base of the collar, and be completely covered by the jacket collar. The elevated position of the bow tie is due to the lack of a back strap on the shirt (or it’s there but not being used), as well as to the wings not being deep enough. Both features would serve to hold the bow tie down.

    – The shirt is not a stiff (boiled) front shirt, which usually accompanies detachable collars in evening dress.

  2. Of course Bond has never and would never wear a wing collar, with black-tie, considering Connery is probably the universal icon for the use of turn-down collar for black-tie.

    However, I wonder if we ever will see Bond in a white-tie ensemble? I even raise the stakes: Wearing proper opera pumps instead of patent leather oxfords. Maybe at an event that is action-free in the plot, since the garment is not suited for parkour chase. I definitely would like to see such thing.

    Yet I also sadly presume the most probable outcome of this would be seeing James Bond wannabes at a cocktail-attire event in faux pas-loaded white-tie ensembles. Not to mention their garments would be bought from mass producers like Zara or H&M, the hidden killers of the menswear elegance.

    • Sadly, I don’t think either scenario is likely any time soon. But I’d love for it to happen. I only hope it would be perfectly tailored, but Tom Ford himself has worn a tastefully updated, full evening dress suit for the Met Ball. Waistcoat is the proper length, unlike Benedict Cumberbatch beside him. I think his shirt collar could stand to be a little higher though.

      http://www.justjared.com/2014/05/06/tom-ford-hits-red-carpet-at-met-ball-2014-without-husband-richard-buckley/

      See also James McAvoy in this beautiful rig by Huntsman. I don’t think he’ll ever play the character, but this is the sort of devil-may-care attitude I’d expect from Bond in white tie. (Minus the beard of course.)

      http://www.thefashionisto.com/vanity-fair-british-invasion-hollywood-2015-photo-shoot/james-mcavoy-vanity-fair-march-2015-photo-shoot/

      Many “James Bond wannabes” have already committed a plethora of black tie sins, so I don’t think we should shut it down just on that basis. Since when do Zara or H&M carry full dress evening coats anyway? I worked at a menswear store for two years and several men claimed they wanted the “James Bond look” when going to a black tie event, but then didn’t want a shawl collar. I suggested peak lapels… that was also shut down. They also hated spread collars so wanted a “wingtip” collar. Cummerbunds are “awful” and low cut waistcoats are met with squints indicating, “What the hell is that?” So in the end, they wind up with something completely unlike what James Bond would wear. I’m not sure too many men know what they actually mean by “James Bond look” besides that, yes, he wears a dinner suit in almost every movie. 😛

  3. Toby Stephens has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the more bland, boring Bond villains, although he does dress and look great here. As far as his acting goes, I felt he was much, much better in Black Sails as Captain Flint.

  4. If you’re looking for more 1930s-style clothing on screen, watch the Agatha Christie’s Poirot series. Although the books run from roughly 1918-1970, the TV series condensed the timetable to 1935-1939, except when the story necessarily took place in a different time period. The clothes featured are 1930s style, rather than 1930s-inspired style, but apart from Poirot’s anachronistic dress sense, they show off a good variety of stylish tailored clothing for anyone taking notes.

  5. I’m curious why you have inferred that it’s the same coat? Other than the length, what suggests that? I am curious about your process and what things you are looking at.

  6. Toby Stephens played Bond in radio adaptations of Dr No and Goldfinger, and (shirt aside) this is an excellent look for his rendition of the character.

    • I agree, it sort of works if you imagine he’s stuck in the past.
      By the way there 6 of them, now. Thunderball was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on December 10th. They’ve done Doctor No, Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, OHMSS, Diamonds Are Forever and Thunderball in that order with Toby Stephens all with Martin Jarvis directing plus an excellent but unrelated BBC Radio 4 version of You Only Live Twice with Michael Jayston in 1990.

  7. The coat show few shirt,is too much closed,the lapels are too much skinny (especially for a 30s inspired dinner jacket) with low gorge.
    Is a mediocre tuxedo in my opinion.

  8. Thank you for covering this outfit, which is one of the most memorable in the series. I particularly like the 4 buttons in the front, instead of 6 (a very unusual choice). Fred Astaire wears a very similar dinner jacket in Top Hat. Is there an alternative name for “E. Tautz-style peaked lapels”? It’s one of my favorite styles and (perhaps) impossible to come across in modern RTW.
    Thank You!

    • I’ve heard of them simply being called “Tautz lapels”. You probably need to get something with those lapels made to measure or more likely bespoke. It would be best to bring along a picture just in case your tailor or fitter is unfamiliar with the term.

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