M: Morning Dress

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M-Morning-Dress
M in Morning Dress, on the right, with his grey felt top hat on his desk

Since Royal Ascot is next week, we’re going to look at M’s, Q’s, and Sir Godfrey Tibbett’s morning dress in A View to a Kill. I already wrote about Bond’s morning dress in A View to a Kill a few years ago. M’s (Robert Brown) morning dress will be the first in this morning dress series, since his is the most pedestrian. The morning coat—known as a cutaway to the Americans—is a type of tailcoat worn for formal daytime occasions, and it is almost always single-breasted compared to the double-breasted evening tailcoat. The front skirt cuts away to the tails in the back. It looks almost like a long suit jacket that is cut away in front, but it has a waist seam like the evening tailcoat and other body coats. M’s black morning coat is the classic model with a single button link closure and peaked lapels. The link closure is traditionally two shanked buttons on a chain with a buttonhole on each side of the front, and when the link button connects the two side the front edges meet instead of overlap. It looks like there are two buttons on the front side by side, and it gives the jacket a more symmetrical look since one side isn’t overlapping the other. It’s somewhat like a cufflink, though it doesn’t pull the two sides of the jacket so closely together. M’s link closure is made a little differently. His coat has a regular single button on the right side with a corresponding buttonhole on the left side, but there is also a button on a long thread shank sewn on the backside of the jacket behind where the regular button sewn. To complicate things, M’s jacket appears to be missing the regular button attached to the front of his coat and only has the button that comes from behind, so I cannot use M to illustrate the way the link button properly looks. M morning coat buttons are black horn, and there are three buttons on the cuffs. The coat has a welt breast pocket but no other pockets.

M-Morning-Dress-2Under the morning coat M wears a medium grey button six waistcoat. Waistcoats with morning dress are traditionally light colours—light grey, light blue, buff and cream—and sometimes made of linen, but M’s medium grey worsted wool waistcoat still provides enough contrast for the same effect. Since M’s waistcoat is wool, it’s possible that he took it from one of his three-piece suits. It’s not ideal to use a waistcoat from a suit, but as long as it’s light enough in colour it works. M’s trousers are hardly seen, but they look like they are solid grey in a shade darker than the waistcoat. Most likely they follow morning dress tradition and have some sort of pattern. They aren’t the bold grey and black “cashmere stripe” pattern, which is the most formal of morning dress trousers. Most likely they are a fine houndstooth pattern in black and white, which could appear as solid grey from a distance. Checks in black and white are just as traditional for morning trousers and are great for the less formal of morning dress occasions like Royal Ascot. Because the three pieces of M’s morning dress do not match, it cannot be called a “morning suit” like Bond’s all-matching morning dress can be called. The black coat with separate waistcoat and trousers is more formal and more traditional than the morning suit.

M-Bond-Morning-DressM’s shirt is an ordinary white formal shirt and not the most appropriate shirt for morning dress. It has a point collar and button cuffs. Though detachable collars are no longer a necessity with morning dress, a more formal wide spread collar like what Bond wears is preferable to M’s point collar. Double cuffs are also preferable to button cuffs, but M’s button cuffs mostly stay hidden inside the jacket sleeves. M wears an amethyst-grey lightly-ribbed silk tie, tied in a four-in-hand knot. M wears all of the traditional Royal Ascot morning dress accessories: a light grey felt top hat with a black ribbon, thin and unlined light grey gloves with a button at the wrist, and a white carnation boutonniere. Of the four men in morning dress, M and Q are the only ones wearing handkerchiefs in their breast pockets. M’s handkerchief is white linen and folded with three points peeking out.

Though M doesn’t completely follow morning dress protocol, he makes due with what he has and his clothes fit well. His outfit might not be perfect, but he is still elegantly dressed for the race.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I love this outfit. I wore a very similar outfit for my wedding.
    I wore Black Morning coat, a double breasted shawl collar waistcoat, Striped trousers, white poplin shirt and grey tie, oh and black oxford shoes. It feels good to wear morning dress (even if was hired 🙁 )

    Matt, any ideas on what the other minister is wearing in terms of the weave? It’s a lovely suit.

    Cheers
    Ryan

  2. Nice, but with all due respect to actor Robert Brown, I have the impression Bernard Lee would have been dressed even better.

    • I think he looks very good here, the minister’s suit is also rather appealing. This is the other scene where M actually addresses Bond sartorial tastes (aside from the ‘black tie’ comment in Goldfinger) with the line “You have exactly 20 minutes to get properly dressed, 007.” Is he suggesting Bond should nip home and change in that time or would he have hired a suit for Bond, himself and Q? Hmm.

      Is now the time and the place to dig up that old (highly off topic) fan theory that this M is or isn’t Sir Miles Messervy but in fact Admiral Hargreaves from The Spy Who Loved Me (also played by Brown) having been promoted? It’s unlikely and there’s no evidence for or against it but Bond came from the navy so it’s not impossible. I like to think it’s a different character from Lee’s M. My stupid little brain can’t accept they’re the same man. Oddly, I can appreciate the Bond’s ARE all the same person…

      • The minister is always well-tailored. He clothes are remarkable in that they always flatter his corpulent figure. Though he was heavier than Bernard Lee and Robert Brown, he always looked better than M. That’s not to say that M didn’t look good too, but not as good as the minister. I’ll have to write about one of his suits in the future. Any requests?

        I’ve always considered Bernard Lee’s M and Robert Brown’s M to be the same man. M stands for Messervy, so Hargreaves would instead be called H if he were in that position.

      • Is that really so? I mean, Q stands for Quartermaster. It’s quite a coincidence that Lee’s, Brown’s (if we assume he is NOT Hargreaves) as well as Dench’s Ms all have a name that start with M. We know Mallory do but other than that, the movies have all made it seem like it was, in Bond’s own words, a randomly assigned letter choosen to hide the real name of this extremely important and secret person.

        As for the ministre, I too would love a closer look on one of his outfits. He is a sartorial delight every time he is onscreen, and I do like the fact that Geoffrey Keen (a brilliant actor with a wide range) decided to play the ministre EXACTLY as our stereoptypes of such a man would be – boring, stiff and completely humorless.

      • Bernard Lee’s character was called “Miles”, which we can assume is the “Miles Messervy” name that Fleming gave the character. Any names that Dench’s name has been given (Barbara Mawdsley or Olivia Mansfield) have started with M. It’s no coincidence when the filmmakers want to keep the character M instead of giving him another letter.

      • You might be right. I just see this a little more realistically, I guess. I have always thought that the M’s replaced eachother. After his long tenure, Lee’s M was on leave in FYEO (mabey due to illness) and in the next movie, after iether the old M’s retirement or death, whom I prefer to believe is Admiral Hargreaves was promoted to be the new M and then in Goldeneye presumable Hargreaves had retired recently and the new M is Dench (they even mention her predecessor kept cognag in his office – wich I always playfully think is Hargreaves). Then after Dench’s death in Skyfall Mallory becomes the new M. This of course is still totally unrealistic as Bond has been the same age since 1962, since I too do believe it to be the same Bond in all films. Also, the new Moneypenny is a similair issue. But I think the M timeline is separate and in fact does add to the realism of the series.

      • I believe that if Robert Brown was still playing Hargreaves, the character would have been called H. It wouldn’t be the first time an actor played multiple roles in the Bond series.

      • I think it’s well known that the title of M is given to each head of the service regardless of his/her name. This mirrors real life, where to this day every head is referred to as “C” (and apparently signs the initial in green ink). This was taken from the first director, Sir Mansfield Cumming. In all likelihood, Fleming decided to not use C and simply chose the other initial instead. I think the fact Mawdsley/Mansfield and Mallory is just pure coincidence, and that Hargreaves would have been promoted into the role as opposed to being recast.

      • This conversation is delightfully off-topic but rather enjoyable!

        I’m a subscriber of the Admiral Hargreaves theory as well. I don’t think that Brown’s M has the same relationship with Bond as Lee’s does and that they are thus two different people.

        Where my personal theory gets a little crazy is I believe that there are two distinct James Bond continuities, one pre- and the other post Daniel Craig, much like the difference between the universes created by the Tim Burton and. Christopher Nolan Batman franchises, with the latter casting aside any events established by the former. James Bond is still the same man, Bruce Wayne is still the same man, but the characters exist in a different world now.
        I could even go so far as to say that the M in the Brosnan films is Barbara Mawdsley and the character in the Craig films is Olivia Mainsfield, a different person entirely, as this is a different and unique Bond universe.

      • Kyle, I agree with you entirely. There is evidence that Bond 62 – 92 is the same man, impossibly defying time and ageing (the references to Tracy and gadgets from previous films) and then there’s lots showing that the films of 2006+ is Bond at the start of his career, so having Dench’s M be the same person in both timelines is a little odd. They’re played identically but it does helpfully explain the two names she’s given in a fan-boy kind of way…even though, that was because, clearly, the scriptwriters hadn’t bothered reading any John Gardner books…

        Ultimately, with actors ageing and being replaced, with Bond’s age, hairline, eye colour, hair colour, accent, chest hair and height going back and forth between films, not to mention his taste in clothes, with ethnicities changing between characters every couple of films, the easiest thing to do is just not bother looking for any continuity and just let it wash over you. I find that hard to do because I’m so pedantic. I just keep saying “it’s only a movie…”

  3. Matt
    I think a good starting point for an article on the Minister’s wardrobe would be the three piece suit in this article that I enquired about previously 🙂
    Cheers
    Ryan

  4. According to a recent book (Operation Postmaster) the literary M was based on General Colin Gubbins of the Special Operations Executive, who was known as M during WW2. The book claims that many of Bond’s exploits were based on actual events, but had to be dressed up as fiction to avoid breaching the Official Secrets Act. Anyway, this M does his best, but one thinks his morning dress is a relic of a Buckingham Palace appearance (perhaps for

  5. an OBE or MBE). He doesn’t strike me as a Royal Ascot regular. In Australia, high status folk wear lounge suits to the premier race events now but morning dress is very popular for weddings, but is usually rented.

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