After 30 years, James Bond will once again be wearing an ivory dinner jacket in Spectre. Bond started a tradition of often wearing an ivory dinner jacket in warm climates 51 years ago in Goldfinger. In the six appearances of the ivory dinner jacket throughout the series, Bond has demonstrated how to properly wear warm weather black tie.
Bond’s warm-weather dinner jackets are ivory and not pure white because many natural fibres—particularly wool—have oils that prevent them from being bleached pure white. Calling it a “white” dinner jacket is not incorrect since white is the intended colour. Though Sean Connery’s ivory dinner jackets are made of wool, Roger Moore wears ivory dinner jackets in silk and linen. Daniel Craig’s ivory dinner jacket in Spectre is made of 56% silk and 44% viscose, a cool-wearing semi-synthetic fibre derived from cellulose.
The ivory dinner jacket is part of the black tie dress code, which means it should only be worn after 6 pm. A light jacket does not mean it is for daytime. The jacket follows the conventions of its black and midnight blue counterparts, with one button on the front of single-breasted models and two, four or six buttons on double-breasted versions, with one or two fastening buttons. Lapels should ideally be peaked or shawl, and notched lapels less ideal because they make the dinner jacket look more like a sports coat. Pockets should be jetted, and there may be two vents or no vent in the rear. Buttons should be mother-of-pearl, though covered buttons in the material of the jacket are acceptable.
The biggest difference that the ivory dinner jacket has with it’s black and midnight blue cousins is that the it traditionally does not have silk facings, neither on the lapels nor on the pockets or buttons. Silk facings on an ivory dinner jacket are typically the mark of the cheap rental, though Daniel Craig’s considerably expensive ivory Tom Ford dinner jacket in Spectre has grosgrain silk facings. It lacks the refined taste of Bond’s previous ivory dinner jackets. Whilst black and midnight blue dinner jackets have silk facings to primarily differentiate them from ordinary lounge jackets, the ivory dinner jacket does not need such a distinctive mark. White dinner jackets are always worn with black or midnight blue trousers.
The ivory dinner jacket is strictly worn in warm weather. There’s no absolute consensus as to where the ivory dinner jacket should appropriately be worn, except it should never be worn in the British Isles, never in large cities and only in warm weather. Bernhard Roetzel states in his book Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion, “The white tuxedo is worn at open-air evening parties and on cruises.” Roetzel’s statement suggests that if the weather is warm enough to be comfortable outdoors, the ivory dinner jacket is appropriate.
The tropics are the most appropriate place for an ivory dinner jacket. Sean Connery wears his ivory dinner jacket in the Goldfinger pre-title sequence in an unknown country in Latin American, a tropical region. Connery again wears the ivory dinner jacket in Diamonds Are Forever in Las Vegas. Las Vegas in not in the tropics, but the ivory dinner jacket is well-suited for its hot desert climate. The ivory dinner jacket is generally considered appropriate anywhere in the United States during the summer months, though some consider the northern states’ climate to not be right at any time of year for it.
In Thunderball, Bond visits the Bahamas, which is an appropriate location for an ivory dinner jacket. In the casino scene there, Adolfo Celi’s villain Largo is dressed in an elegant double-breasted ivory dinner jacket, whilst Bond contrasts him in an equally suitable midnight blue mohair dinner suit. However, Bond opts for the white dinner jacket in Ian Fleming’s novel Thunderball.
Roger Moore first wears an ivory dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun for a 9 pm dinner with Hai Fat in Thailand, which is within the tropics. Moore later wears an ivory dinner jacket in Octopussy in Udaipur, India, which lies one degree of latitude north of the Tropic of Cancer. Though technically not in the tropics, the weather is certainly hot enough to justify wearing an ivory dinner jacket. When Bond arrives at Kamal Khan’s club in his dinner jacket, the sky is still light. If it is June or July, it could be 6 pm. Only a few scenes later, Bond is having dinner in the same dinner jacket under a night sky.
Roger Moore’s last ivory dinner jacket is worn in daylight in A View to a Kill at Château de Chantilly in France, just north of Paris. Though it is daylight, the reception Bond attends starts at 6 pm, and because this scene takes place not long after the Royal Ascot at the beginning of summer, the sunset in the part of France would have been close to 10 pm. However, the location for wearing an ivory dinner jacket is questionable as it is very far north of the tropics and has the same climate as England. But since the weather is warm and the reception is outdoors, the ivory dinner jacket doesn’t look out of place. The ivory dinner jacket is more appropriate down south in the sub-tropical Mediterranean region, where Roger Moore occasionally wears a white silk dinner jacket in The Saint.
Daniel Craig wears an ivory dinner jacket in Spectre in Morocco, a country with a largely Mediterranean climate. Humphrey Bogart established a precedent for wearing an ivory dinner jacket in Morocco in the 1942 film Casablanca. Based on the trailer, Bond appropriately wears his dinner jacket in the evening whilst having dinner on a train.
Despite the ivory dinner jacket being just as classic as black and midnight blue, they go in and out of fashion, and some people don’t care for them. Hardy Amies writes in his 1994 book The Englishman’s Suit:
One has to say firmly that a white dinner coat is effortlessly ‘naff’. It was derided by those who knew what was what in Venice ten years ago. I don’t suppose it matters what you wear in the Caribbean. But it looks seriously awful in Europe. It is also very impractical. A dinner suit should be made in a cloth of the lightest weight available, in midnight blue, of course. You can then wear it all the year round. The cloth used in white coats is not lighter and, if not wool, creases unattractively.
Also in the 1990s, Bond shared Amies’ opinion and did not wear any ivory dinner jackets. He could have in the Monte Carlo casino in GoldenEye, but every man in the casino is dressed in black. In The World is Not Enough, some men in the Azerbaijan casino are dressed in ivory dinner jackets, but Bond wears midnight blue. It’s a less appropriate location for an ivory dinner jacket, especially considering that it’s wintertime. Bond’s ally Valentin Zukovsky wears a flashy light taupe dinner jacket, which, like the ivory dinner jacket, is better suited for a warmer place.
The ivory dinner jacket is worn just like a black or midnight blue dinner suit, just with the jacket exchanged for an ivory jacket. This means that the trousers are black or midnight blue with a silk stripe or braid down the side of the leg. The shirt to wear with it is the traditional evening shirt in white cotton. The only exception is the ivory dress shirt that nicely matches the ivory silk dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun. Typically Bond wears a soft pleated shirt with his dinner jacket, but in Octopussy he wears a plain voile shirt to battle India’s heat. Bond never wears a marcella dress shirt or shirt studs with his ivory dinner jackets. A marcella shirt, and especially a shirt with a wing collar, is too formal to wear with an ivory dinner jacket, since the ivory dinner jacket is slightly less formal than a dark dinner suit. Bond’s dress shirts for warm-weather black tie always have a spread collar and double cuffs or cocktail cuffs.
The bow tie to pair with an ivory dinner jacket should be in black satin or grosgrain silk to match the stripe down on the trousers. Either type of silk can match trousers with a braid down the side. Bond wears a black satin cummerbund with his ivory dinner jacket in Spectre, and goes without a waist-covering on all other occasions. Ian Fleming had Bond wear a wine-red cummerbund with his white dinner jacket in the Thunderball novel to point up “his rich, property-seeking status”. A waistcoat can also be worn with a white dinner jacket, but cummerbunds are more traditional because they were developed as a warm-weather alternative. They cover much less of the body than a waistcoat does, though backless waistcoats are more effect in warm weather than a full-backed waistcoat.
Like with a dinner suit, shoes with an ivory dinner jacket should be black patent leather oxfords or pumps. Less formal alternatives like black patent leather slipper-style shoes can also work well for warm-weather black tie.