James Bond’s Highland Dress in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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James Bond celebrates Christmas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service at the mountaintop villain lair of Piz Gloria in disguise as Sir Hilary Bray of the College of Arms. For Christmas dinner he wears Scottish Highland dress, an alternative for black tie. If he were to wear his famous dinner suit on this occasion, Bond would most certainly give himself away. Thus we see James Bond for the one and only time in a kilt.

George Lazenby does not look the part of James Bond in this kilt and lace jabot, and for this he has historically lost points with the fans. He also does not sound like James Bond when wearing this kilt because he is dubbed by George Baker, the actor who plays Sir Hilary Bray in the flesh. James Bond’s eccentric disguises have rarely been well-received, with the worst of the lot being Roger Moore’s clown suit in Octopussy. However, James Bond’s Scottish ancestry certainly gives him the right to wear a kilt, even if he weren’t in disguise.

Bond’s jacket is a black Prince Charlie coatee, which is a variation on the double-breasted evening tailcoat. The jacket is made of heavy wool with soft shoulders and slightly roped sleeve heads. It is waist-length in the front but has very short tails in the back that cover the seat. The buttons are shanked silver squares arranged with the points up and down, left and right. There are three buttons on the left and right front panels and three large buttons spaced out on each sleeve. There are also four buttons on each tail in the rear. The peaked lapels are black satin-silk-faced.

The jacket fits very well and is likely to be made bespoke, either by Lazenby’s tailor Dimi Major of Fulham (though they don’t have a record of it) or by a costumer.

The black wool waistcoat is the low-cut evening style that matches the same style worn with black tie, but it has three closely spaced silver buttons that match the style on the coat but in a smaller size. It has rounded shawl lapels. The waistcoat is short in length and sits higher than the bottom of the front of the jacket.

Though every part of this outfit is exclusive to Highland dress, it is the kilt that stands out the most. Though it is entirely appropriate here, it is not something we’re used to seeing Bond wearing. The kilt is in the Black Watch tartan, also know as “the Government sett”. It is a dark blue, green and black plaid from the Royal Regiment of Scotland. It is a military tartan, but it also a tartan that those without their own are allowed to wear. This makes it a very commonplace tartan and it is commonly sold by ready-to-wear shops that do not specialise in Scottish clothing. It is often used for dinner jackets or dress trousers. A few Scottish clans have adopted this tartan, and it may also be known as the Campbell, Grant Hunting, Munro Hunting and others.

The white shirt made by Frank Foster has a tall banded collar that closes at the back, a front placket, a darted back and rounded single-button cuffs. Around the collar, Bond wears a form of white lace neckwear called the jabot. The shirt and jabot belong to the white tie equivalent of Highland dress, while the Prince Charlie coatee belongs to the black tie equivalent and is more typically paired with a black bow tie. Compared to a black bow tie, the jabot gives this outfit a more costume-like look and was also trendy at the time.

Bond’s argyle kilt hose are over-the-calf height and folded down at the top. They match the kilt’s Black Watch tartan. Hanging down on a chain in front of Bond’s groin is a dress sporran. Sporran, the Gaelic name for purse, serves to make up for the kilt’s lack of pockets. Bond’s full-dress sporran is made of taupe-coloured fur and has three fur tassels hanging on the front. It closes with a large ornate silver clasp at the top. The shoes are black leather buckle brogues with leather soles, and they are a traditional shoe for Highland dress.

Happy Christmas to all of my readers and thank you for visiting.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Bond’s Highland dress is fundmentally flawed, in tht it draws from two styles that considered correct when worn together. The Prince Charlie coatee and waistcoat, despite it’s silver lozenge-shape buttons, is the equivalent of the English dinner jacket and, to be correct, should we word with a black bow tie. The Prince Charlie has close cousin in the Regulation doublet, worn in military style by Highland regiments and civilians as evening wear, which may be worn with both white and black tie.

    The lace jabot should only be worn with a true doublet, such as the Montrose, Sheriffmuir or Kenmore, which have a particular collar fastening to accommodate the jabot. The doublet is the most formal of the Highland dress styles, and is generally worn when the English would wear white tie and tails or Court Dress.

    The kilt, sporran and brogues are quite correct, although the hose ought really to be diced in the two main colours of the kilt, or full tartan to match the kilt. At least Bond hs not been put in (the all too often seen, especilly when Highland dress is hired) white hose, which is akin to wearing trainers with a suit and is generally held as an insult to both the wearer and Scots.

    That said, the jabot does lend Bond’s apperance a certain amount of dash, and it would be churlish to deny him that.

  2. The first line of my comment should read that the Prince Charlie coatee and lace jabot are INCORRECT when worn together.

    However, there are number of films made during the 1960s in which charcters appear in Highland dress and match a Prince Charlie with a lace jabot, so it may have been fashionably acceptable at the time.

    It may be interesting to note that, despite his smart appearance, Bond dressed thus would be refused entry to certain annual balls in Scotland, where strict dress codes are maintained, for being too casual! However, even Scots themselves often disregard the sartorial codes and appear in daytime in the kilt and Prince Charlie, despite it being obvious evening-wear, and will team it with a scarf-like neck-tie.

  3. The PC, when introduced and referred to as coatee, was presented in the catalogs of the time as being worn with a white jabot…

  4. I’ve never fully understood why Bond is even wearing this outfit. Bond is Scottish, sure, the books and films established that, but it was a minor detail based purely on the actor playing him at the time and this is a different actor… with a distinctively Australian accent. Besides, he’s in disguise as an English heraldry expert. And he’s in Switzerland. It seems like a step too far from the filmmakers to reassure us that “this guy could also be a Sean Connery, look he’s in a kilt!”. That’s another thing – a kilt, in the Alps! Good thing he has so many bezants.

    • He doesn’t have an Austrialian accent while wearing this, since George Baker is voicing him while in this outfit. We’re to assume that Sir Hilary is of Scottish ancestry in the film, which is the case in the novel. Bond says about him in the novel:

      ‘Er – well, sir, it seems there’s a chap called Sir Hilary Bray. Friend of Sable Basilisk’s. About my age and not unlike me to look at. His family came from some place in Normandy. Family tree as long as your arm. William the Conqueror and all that. And a coat of arms that looks like a mixture between a jigsaw puzzle and Piccadilly Circus at night. Well, Sable Basilisk says he can fix it with him. This man’s got a good war record and sounds a reliable sort of chap. He lives in some remote glen in the Highlands, watching birds and climbing the hills with bare feet. Never sees a soul. No reason why anyone in Switzerland should have heard of him.’

      We are to gather from this that he is a descendant of William the Conqueror, who came to Britain from Normandy nine centuries earlier. It doesn’t say if he is Scottish or if he is English living in Scotland, but the film takes this to mean he is Scottish.

    • Ah, there we are then. There’s no mention of that in the film. My excuse is I haven’t read the book in 20 years

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