Judging a Suit’s Fit on Screen

38

How a suit fits is objective in some ways and subjective in others. At the extremes, a suit that is too small will either not button at the jacket’s waist or trousers’ waist, and a suit that is too large may have sleeves that cover the hands or trousers that fall down. Fashion trends also determine how a suit should fit. People now who prefer today’s trendy tight, short suits would think that people were wearing their suits two sizes too large 30 years ago. And vice versa. The constant for a well-fitting suit has always been for it to look neat, despite trends for pulling over the past decade or for sloppy bagginess 30 years ago. Neither of those extremes are tailored fits as neatness should be prerequisite for a tailored fit because clean lines can only be achieved by a good tailor.

Fit is difficult to judge in a film, and often even in posed still photos. When a suit is tailored to fit a person, the person should be standing in a relaxed, natural pose with the arms relaxed. That is when a suit should look most neat, but it is rarely how we see people. People move, and James Bond is usually moving except for when we see him standing still for a briefing in M’s office. Just moving our arms a small amount can make a jacket look uneven, wrinkle the sleeves, pull the waist or show more shirt cuff than the sleeves were tailored to show. That is all very normal, and because of this we can’t always determine the fine points of fit from a film. Posing with our hands in our pockets can do even worse. Modern lightweight fabrics show more of this and don’t recover as quickly as heavier fabrics.

Bond on screen also don’t need to worry about items in his pockets messing up the lines of his clothes on screen. While a jacket should be tailored with enough fullness to keep a wallet in the breast pocket and trousers should have enough fullness to keep items in the pockets, a Bond actor’s own wallet and car keys are unlikely to be kept inside of James Bond’s clothing pockets. Items are only placed in the pockets for the shot they need to be removed in a shot, or they’re placed in the pockets during a shot.

A well-tailored suit fits better with wear as the cloth and canvas mould to the body and the suit breaks in. Bond has many copies of his suits, and we usually see them when they are brand new since they’re made new for each film. Some of his suits are beat up by the costume department for a worn-in look, but it’s not the same as actually wearing them in because they don’t have a chance to conform to the body.

While we cannot easily judge the finer points of a suit’s fit in a film, we can get a good impression if a suit fits well based on how well it moves. A suit is not a sculpture but a flexible garment that should work with the body’s needs. The best way we can judge the fit of Bond’s suits on screen is by seeing if he can move comfortably and sit comfortably in them. The suit should move well with the body and not look stressed or look constricting, and Bond shouldn’t be fighting with his suits. He has enough villains and henchmen to fight. The jacket sleeves and trouser legs should not bind. If the suit looks like it’s going to burst apart when Bond moves, that is not a good fit. If the suit looks like it’s just hanging from the body, that’s not a good fit either.

A good fit allows a wide range of arm movement, and that is something we can see on screen, but no suit allows for a complete range of arm movement because the sleeves are tailored to follow the shape of the arm when relaxed at the side of the body. Higher and wider armholes along with wide upper sleeves allow a good range of arm movement.

Part of how good a suit looks on screen is in how comfortable the person is wearing a suit. Sean Connery carried himself well in a suit, and though some of his suits in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever had some issues with the fit due to Connery’s expanding waist, we don’t pay much attention to the fit because of how well Connery carries himself. Connery wore suits well as Bond, which is often attributed to the legend that director Terence Young had Connery sleep in a suit to help him be more comfortable in a suit.

Daniel Craig’s suits in Skyfall and Spectre are clearly too tight and should look better than they do when he stands in relaxed manner. His suits don’t move well with him, and his trousers are so tight that they split on the set. But Craig is confident and comfortable in his suits because he is wearing the kind of fit he prefers. Many viewers think his suits fit well, but that is simply because Craig carries himself very well in them. It has more to do with that than the kind of shape he is in; Tom Ford suits are so stiff and structured that his muscles don’t show in them.

All of the Bond actors are comfortable and move well in a suit, with the exception of Timothy Dalton. Dalton’s Bond suits were all bought off the pegs and have neither a bespoke fit nor bespoke quality, but combined with Dalton’s manner of wearing them they appear to be the worst suits of the Bond series. Even though wearing a suit is not second nature to Dalton, a bespoke suit may have helped his confidence in a suit. On the other hand, not even someone with more confidence in a suit could have been able to pull off the baggy suits of Licence to Kill.

Bond often looks better in a suit than real people do because there are wardrobe people on set to straighten out the clothes and press the clothes so they always look their best. Bond even has different fits for different activities. For the rest of us, our jacket sleeves get stuck on our shirt cuffs, our jacket vents get caught on our trousers, and our shirts wrinkle after a few minutes of wearing them. So when we do see some sloppiness in Bond’s clothes, it often signifies a fault in the clothes rather than regular wear and tear.

I have purposefully not captioned any of the screenshots in this article with the hope that the reader will have been examining the fit of the suits in the photos without my input. In the photo of Sean Connery on the train in From Russia with Love, his suit looks messy because his hand is in his pocket and he is leaning over. There is no way we can judge how the jacket fits from that shot, or from many others like it. But the suits moves well with him, and he always looks comfortable in it, so we assume it fits very well.

Roger Moore’s light brown suit pictured from For Your Eyes Only looks almost perfect, but it has very little screen time and has not had a chance to break in. Even though he is pausing still in a natural position in that image, he was just in motion. It is thus very difficult to say for sure that the suit is not perfect because there are some ripples in the left front or that the left sleeve is too long.

Daniel Craig’s blue suit as pictured in Spectre shows Daniel Craig in a relaxed natural pose. This is how one should stand when a suit is fitted, and a suit should look its best when one is in this pose. But because the suit has so many ripples in this shot, we can tell that the suit does not fit well.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Roger Moore’s light brown suit looks as Matt says almost perfect. Brosnan’s grey sharkskin from TWINE looks wrinkled but it is lightweight and he is moving. Plus it is a bit fuller cut then Moore’s. Dalton’s baggy 1989 suit doesn’t look as bad really as Daniel Craig’s tight Spectre blue suit in my opinion.

    • One of the reasons Dalton’s suit looks better is because he’s wearing it open. Since we don’t see it closed, we don’t see if it fits properly in its most natural state. Neither suit fits particularly well, but Craig would look somewhat more natural if he opened his suit up.

      The costume designer could have worked around his preference for tightly fitted suits by putting him in a three piece suit that would still look refined and businesslike with the jacket open, and would have covered up the triangle of shirt showing below the fastening point.

  2. Craig’s trousers split on set? Yikes. If that’s not a sign to loosen the fit, I’m not sure what is . . .

    • And although the film received all the suits for free, they’re worth thousands of dollars. What a waste.

      • you made a good point, just see how much a Tom Ford’s suit costs. Yet even the most expensive seen in their shops or online are series produced suits. A made to measures from Tom Ford commands skyrocketting prices.

  3. Interesting! Can you elaborate more on “carrying yourself well in a suit”?
    Is it the general impression we get from the Bond actors of comfort and confidence, or is it about how one walks in a suit?

  4. I love the way Connery’s suits look when he’s got his hand in his pocket and looks relaxed. I’ve never thought they looked messy; they always looks so well tailored compared to how most off-the-rack (and even some bespoke) suits fit today. Even leaning with his hand in his pocket, no shirt is exposed and there are almost no signs of stretching, despite the suit having a lot of waist suppression and slender trousers. Compare that to Craig’s overly tight suit, where even standing in the perfect position to show off the tailoring his shirt is exposed below the button and the jacket looks like it’s going to burst.

  5. Matt Spaiser – How would you define drape as opposed to bagginess? Most of Sean Connery’s clothes would be thought ‘baggy’ by current fashions.

  6. When Henry cavill started hitting gym Jones I say the fit he has with his clothes in the man from uncle was horrible.

    I haven’t seen body builders successfully execute savile row

    • I don’t know if his suits were bespoke or MTM, but Dave Bautista pulls off the look in his Timothy Everest suits in Spectre much better than Daniel Craig does in his Tom Ford. It all comes down to cutting the suit to fit the unique body type.

    • Henry Cavill would make a great James Bond. He’s got the same body-type as Connery, and he’s already played a spy multiple times.

  7. Today getting a suit off the rack that fits well is a real fluke; this thing is made worse because most of suits are cut in a way to mimic the all too fashionable slim fit (like those seen in the two last James Bond movies for instance). So I think the best course for those who can’t afford a tailored or made to measures suit (most of the men, actually) is to set their sight on a regular fit suit.

    • The best route to go if you can’t afford bespoke or MTM is the thrift store or buying vintage clothes online. Don’t go to Macy’s and spend $500 on an ill-fitting, uncomfortable cheap suit that looks like an undersized sack suit. Vintage suits cost around $30-$50 at the thrift store and a few hundred dollars if you’re buying them online. Look for vintage suits with timeless and more classic cuts, and avoid the overly fashionable and dated cuts.

      • Try buying someone else’s bespoke suit…

        I bought a second hand mr ned bespoke and it wouldn’t stop reminding me that it’s not my suit

    • If you know your measurements, there are sellers on sites like eBay and Poshmark that put them in their listings. You can find a high end suit, new or used, for a reasonable price that doesn’t require much alteration to fit you that way.

    • Classic fit for some brands used to previously mean american/obese/baggy fit, but with everything trending tighter/slimmer, I’m now finding it’s often closer to what I’m looking for than the slim or tailored fit sizes.

  8. Perhaps the best fitting suits in cinema history were worn by Fred Astaire who danced and jumped around in his tailored clothes in his films. I believe, his favorite tailoring house was A&S.
    Dalton is being criticized again, haha. I really don’t see any problems with his tailored clothing in The Living Daylights though. It might not be refined, compared to Moore or Brosnan, but it’s actually quite classic and timeless in its restrained, neutral aesthetic.

  9. Matt makes a good point about how the way the actor carries themselves makes a difference too. Connery obviously had that panther-like movement he learned under Yat Malmgren and always seemed at ease, even when he wasn’t in a suit. Heck, large swaths of Dr. No and FRWL are just scenes of Connery walking around and/or inspecting things. It was visually interesting.

    Brosnan carried himself well in a suit but even he was the first to admit “it was more difficult” carrying himself as Bond when he wasn’t fully dressed up (possibly one of the reasons he was almost ALWAYS suited lol).

    • To Brosnan’s credit, he pulled the Bond look off well as he walked into the hotel in Die Another Day sporting sopping pajamas and a full beard.

      But then again, maybe he gets a pass there because it was Bond trying to be Bond, despite the obvious.

  10. Great point about Craig, Matt. The first time I watched Skyfall I barely noticed that the suits were too tight. It didn’t really bother me until I started looking at stills (primarily on this blog!), at which point it became distracting when watching the film.

    I also find the fit of the suits in Spectre, in general, to be worse than Skyfall, perhaps because Craig’s fitness was less consistent throughout that film.

  11. Even thirty years hasn’t taken the edge off quite how hideously bad the suits in LTK really are (and ironically from an Italian fashion house who’s current suits sell for even more than a Ford suit!). Craig; what’s the point in further comment at this stage. His suits from the upcoming movie look like something from a high street chain store. What does this say….

  12. I assumed (apparently incorrectly?) Daniel Craig’s Skyfall suit must have been made of technical athletic material with significant spandex in it, given the tight fit and the incredible moves he made in it. Not surprised he split his pants. Perhaps not a proper-fitting suit but he sure looks badass in it. Roger Moore’s suit fits perfectly like on a mannequin because in For Your Eyes Only, at his age, he moved like one.

    • Daniel Craig has not worn suits made of synthetics. They are made in wool, wool and mohair blends or wool, mohair and silk blends. They are constructed very firmly with stiff canvas and shaped with a lot of ironwork, like an English bespoke suit. If his suits had stretch they would look even worse because stretch fabrics can’t be shaped the same way as pure wool or mohair can. His suits have different fits for different activities to allow for a too-tight fit in the hero shots, so the moves you’re seeing aren’t all in the too-tight suits.

  13. La relación entre cine, televisión y moda es muy estrecha. Tanto, que muchos filmes y series han influido en las prendas que han llegado a las tiendas y que en ellos hemos podido ver alguno de los vestidos, trajes o momentos más ‘fashion’ de la historia.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.