Of all the details of James Bond’s suits, the one we likely pay the least attention to is the lining. Bond’s suit linings generally do not draw attention; they typically match the colour of the suit, and we generally do not see when when he is wearing the suit. But they are a very important part of a suit, and we can look to James Bond’s example for what makes a good suit lining.
Why do suits have linings?
Suits have linings for a number of purposes. By giving a suit a smooth interior, a lining improves the drape by removing friction between the jacket and the shirt and between the trousers and bare legs. And by removing the friction as well as adding an additional layer between the shell and the wearer it protects the suit from wear. A smooth lining also makes donning and doffing the suit easier. James Bond would have trouble looking good while fighting or lifting his arm to fire his PPK when wearing a suit if it did not have a smooth lining to help the suit slide over his body and fall back into place.
When a suit does not have the hand of cashmere, a lining helps a rough fabric feel smoother. A lining also conceals the working parts of a jacket and can hide unfinished edges.
What are linings made of?
A good suit lining material is smooth, breathable and robust. Linings are generally made of various types of rayon, which is a semi-synthetic fibre made of regenerated cellulose fibre. Rayon is known by many names, some of which originated through of the various processes used to make rayon. It is often called “artificial silk” or “art silk” because of its smooth and shiny silk-like properties. “Viscose” is used today as a synonym for rayon, though it was originally a specific type rayon made with a unique process.
Cuprammonium, also called “cupro” or the brand name “Bemberg”, is often considered the gold standard of rayon linings, and it is made with its own process. Ermazine is a lightweight cupro popularly used for warm-weather clothing. Acetate is another type of a cellulose-based material commonly used for linings, but it is separate from rayon as it is created with a much different chemical process. It is a breathable fabric but is more delicate than rayon.
Silk is generally not used for suit linings, even in the most luxurious suits. Though the price of a proper silk lining is many times higher than a rayon or acetate lining, it isn’t necessarily better. Silk is too delicate for a lining, which is where a suit sees much of its wear. Silk also does not breathe as well as rayon or acetate, which perform better as linings.
Where are linings used in a suit?
A fully lined jacket is lined in the back, sides, front and sleeves. Lining material is also used under the pocket flaps, if the suit has pocket flaps. Jackets may also be half-lined, which is the same as a full lining except the back is only lined in the top half, or quarter or buggy lined, where only the shoulders, sleeves and edges of the vents are lined. Unconstructed jackets may not have any lining at all. Partial jacket linings serve for more breathability but at the expense of drape. James Bond usually has full linings in his suits, and that’s how the English almost always tailor their suits. More minimal linings are more common in Italian and American suits. James Bond’s Brunello Cucinelli wool/linen/silk jacket in Spectre has a quarter lining to ensure it is breathable.
A partially lined jacket may cost more than a fully lined jacket because more labour is involved to finish the seams that would ordinarily be hidden by a lining. The cost of the work to finish those seams is more than the cost of the additional lining fabric.
Waistcoats are lined on the inside, and typically a suit waistcoat is made with a back in the lining material so it is less bulky and is more breathable.
Trousers may have a full lining, a half lining, or only a crotch lining. A half lining in trousers, where the front of the trousers is lined to the knee, is the most typical because it adds comfort and durability but does not impact breathability.
The typical lining is a solid colour in a close match to the colour of shell of the suit, and it is how most of James Bond’s suits are lined. Bond does not like to draw attention to his lining. The lining is usually hidden from sight when the suit is worn, but sometimes the lining can be seen at the vents (particularly with long vents) if they open up, if the wearer pulls open the front of the jacket or if the wearer reaches into flapped pockets. It isn’t just during fights that we see the lining of Bond’s suits exposed.
There is a reason why the lining should be a close match to the shell. If the lining is much darker than the shell, and the suit is very lightweight (which is common today) and light-coloured, the lining could show through under bright light. If the lining is to be much darker or lighter than the shell of a lightweight suit, it depends on the colour of what is underneath. Suit jackets sometimes have a white lining, which can work if one is wearing the usual light-coloured shirts. The lining on lightweight trousers should be close to the skin tone of the wearer if it isn’t close to the colour of the trousers. With heavier suits and jackets there is more leeway in what colour the lining can be.
It is common for sleeve linings to be white with stripes or plain white, contrasting the rest of the suit’s lining. Often the sleeve lining is stronger than the rest of the lining. Certain tailors may use their own signature striped sleeve linings. Sleeve linings also are often used inside the waistcoat of a three-piece suit.
Bolder linings in contrasting colours or prints were very popular in the 1970s, and James Bond had a bit of fun with them at the time. We see Bond wearing suits with bolder linings in Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun.
When Bond wears bold solid-coloured linings, they’re are in rich colours to make the suit look fancier. Burgundy linings have always been a popular choice because the colour looks luxurious. Sean Connery’s grey flannel suit and black dinner suit in Diamonds Are Forever have burgundy linings, as do Roger Moore’s charcoal and black suits and black, white and red check jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun. The burgundy lining in the checked jacket also picks up the red in the check for more coordination. Sean Connery’s cream linen suit in Diamonds Are Forever has a solid gold lining, which is another colour associated with luxury.
In Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, Roger Moore’s Cyril Castle suits frequently featured linings with bold prints. Because these suits have deep double vents, the lining is often visible when Moore walks or when the wind blows.
Brioni famously uses a lining with their logo embroidered into it, which Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig wear in Bond films.
A bespoke suit allows one to chose a lining, though it does not mean we need to go crazy with it. If one is tempted to do something wild when designing a suit, the lining is the least offensive place to do it. A poorly chosen lining can be changed, though it is not a fast job to reline an entire suit.