Pierce Brosnan’s 1980s Black Tie Wedding Attire in Remington Steele

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‘Why are you running off in that monkey suit to marry a hooker?’ is Laura Holt’s line that explains why Mr Steele is wearing this dinner suit in ‘Bonds of Steele’, the final episode of Remington Steele’s fourth season and regular series run. ‘Bonds of Steele’ first aired on 10 May 1986, and the series was cancelled the following week. Two months later on 15 July 1986 at the end of a 60-day option, it was announced in the Los Angeles Times that Remington Steele would in fact be renewed for another six episodes, due to a combination of fan letters to NBC and the rumours that Pierce Brosnan was going to become the next James Bond. This renewal, however, prevented Brosnan from playing Bond in The Living Daylights, and he’d have to wait another 8 years until he would be finally cast as Bond. Yet with only a slight trim, his hair in this 1986 episode would already be the same style as he’d wear in GoldenEye.

This episode has ‘Bonds’ in the title in reference to the bonds of matrimony, but it also might have been a nod to the likelihood that Brosnan would be cast as the next Bond. It would have been a fitting title had this been the show’s final episode, especially since the first episode had the Bond-inspired title ‘License to Steele’. Both episodes dress Brosnan in James Bond’s signature look: the dinner jacket.

Steele is wearing a nicer double-breasted suit when he collects his dinner suit from the dry cleaner

In this episode Steele has just collected his dinner suit from the dry cleaner and is careful not to get it dirtied during the course of his case so he can look presentable when he resumes his wedding to an hourly rented prostitute played by Nancy Everhard, an actress with a name worthy of a Bond girl. It’s a nice touch to see that Steele collected this dinner suit from the dry cleaner because it acknowledges that it’s not a new dinner suit. He had been wearing it in Remington Steele for two years, premiering it in the second-season episode ‘Dreams of Steele’.

Many traditionalists, especially those outside of America, believe that black tie is wrong for weddings. Black tie is not traditional wedding attire in places where evening weddings are uncommon, and especially in places where evening weddings were once illegal. The United Kingdom’s Marriage Act 1836 specified that marriages in England and Wales must only take place between the the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM, and the Marriage Act 1949 expanded those hours to between 8 AM and 6 PM. This meant that 19th and 20th century evening dress such as white tie and black tie would never have been appropriate for weddings. Instead, morning dress became the traditional British wedding custom, and in the 20th century suits became an informal alternative. Though these hourly restrictions for weddings were abolished in 2012, evening wear is still not associated with wedding attire in the UK.

The United States does not the same history of hourly prohibitions on weddings, though marriage laws vary by state. American wedding attire traditionally follows what would be appropriate for the time of day. Morning and afternoon weddings would have traditionally been morning dress (cutaway) or black lounge (stroller) while evening weddings would have been white tie in the first half of the 20th century, and since the middle of the 20th century they have commonly been black tie. Black tie has become the classic American image of wedding attire and for decades has been worn for American weddings at any time of day. The American wedding attire rental industry has perpetuated this by inventing all sorts of variations on the ‘Tuxedo’, most of which are designed to be evening garments. The best-dressed American men still wear proper black tie for, and only for, evening weddings. I believe that black tie is also appropriate for a wedding that begins in the late afternoon because the wedding will mainly be an evening affair.

In ‘Bonds of Steele’, Mr Steele wears a dinner suit for his own (attempted) church wedding that starts at 3 PM. The costume designer likely put Steele in black tie because of its association with wedding attire, but Steele himself should have known better than to wear black tie for an afternoon wedding. Because he did not grow up in America and because his identity is inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood, he would likely have considered morning dress the quintessential wedding attire. Morning dress and black lounge were popular for weddings at this time, so it’s surprising Steele didn’t wear either. A 1982 episode of the show, ‘Signed, Steeled & Delivered’, even features a wedding party in quintessential 1980s American hired morning dress with wing collars and clip-on cravats. Considering Steele was about to marry a ‘lady of the night’, it can be argued that evening wear is not inappropriate for this occasion.

Mr Steele’s black wool dinner suit is in a trendy mid-1980s double-breasted style, but it is decently fitted without an exaggerated cut. It has a button one, show three style, with a total of six buttons in a keystone configuration. It’s also known as the 6×1 style. With only four buttons it would’ve had a more timeless look, but the addition of the top two buttons dates it to a popular trend from the mid 1980s that lasted through the early 1990s. This dinner suit was still a fresh style when it first featured in Remington Steele in 1984, but two years later it was a menswear mainstay. This style was occasionally seen in the 1930s and 1940s, but more common at that time was a 6×2 suit fastened only at the bottom button to achieve this look.

The jacket has heavily padded but not overly wide shoulders with natural sleeve heads for a contemporary Italian look. It is cut with a full chest, a suppressed waist and a close fit in the hips. The overall look gives Brosnan a dramatic and strong V-shaped silhouette. The dinner jacket has medium-width peaked lapels with a medium-low gorge, which was typical of the mid 1980s. The lapels have silk satin facings and are finished with pick stitching, which is not common on silk-faced lapels. Tom Ford likes this look. There is a buttonhole in each lapel, which is less common for double-breasted dinner jackets than it is for double-breasted suits and blazers. The dinner jacket is classically detailed with jetted hip pockets, no vents and three buttons on the cuffs.

The dinner suit trousers have a slightly full cut with double reverse pleats and a tapered leg. They lack the exaggerated amount of fullness that would become popular later in the 1980s. The trousers most likely have a satin stripe down the outseam, but it is difficult to see on screen. The trousers take a belt, which is unusual for dinner suit trousers. Since it’s not necessary to wear a waistcoat or cummerbund with a double-breasted dinner jacket, the belt does not get in the way. Brosnan usually wears black leather belts with his dinner suits in Remington Steele, which is one of the oddest features of his wardrobe.

The shirt is a fairly typical 1980s dress shirt, and thankfully Brosnan never wore the trendy wing collar with his dinner suits in Remington Steele. The shirt has a small point collar, which is too low and has points that are too short. A higher stand and longer collar points would balance the jacket’s medium-low gorge and tremendously improve the look. The front has a bib of tiny swiss pleats with a separate placket down the centre that takes three round gold studs with black onyx inlays. When Brosnan unbuttons the dinner jacket the buttons on the shirt show below the third stud, but this is okay because a double-breasted dinner jacket is meant to remain fastened when in public. The shirt has double cuffs, which are fastened with cufflinks that match the studs.

The wide black satin butterfly bow tie looks good on Brosnan but it is too wide for the shirt’s undersized collar points. He wears a puffed white silk pocket square, which he uses to dust himself. His black leather zip boots are an unusual choice but they have a trim last, a plain design and thin leather soles so they don’t detract from the look.

Brosnan’s usual two-tone Panthère de Cartier watch from Remington Steele‘s fourth season elegantly completes the look. According to the DVD commentary, the watches always belonged to the actors. It features heavily in this episode.

This outfit is certainly not the worst of the 1980s, but it is far from the best. It lacks nuance in its design and looks fairly standard for the era, but it would have been considered a fashionable choice. It is likely ready to wear, but little denotes the level of quality, other than that it doesn’t look cheap. It could be luxurious or it could be slightly above mediocre. This outfit is ultimately both a time capsule from the mid 1980s and an example of classic black tie. The details of the design are of their time but for the most part the outfit follows the classic rules of black tie.

Ron Talsky is the costume designer and Shelly Levine is the men’s costumer for this episode.

14 COMMENTS

  1. As long as the groomsmen don’t wear those hideous polyester vests (often matching not only their clip-on bow ties, but also the bridesmaids’ dresses!), and stick to traditional “black tie”, it doesn’t offend me, even if the wedding ceremony takes place before 6 pm. It seems weddings have become an almost exclusively late afternoon and evening affair in the United States (I don’t know about the trends in Britain and Continental Europe), which is perfectly understandable, as the couple usually wants the party to last late into the evening. Almost all the weddings I’ve been to started around 2-3 pm with a church ceremony, followed by a banquet (“cocktail hour” at 5 – dinner at 7 seems to be a pretty standard progression), in which case, wearing evening clothes to the church stage of the wedding does make sense, because there isn’t either time or opportunity for the attendees to change before going to the banquet. At the same time, it has become quite common for the bride to change from a church-appropriate, conservative wedding dress into something more contemporary, sleek, and, shall I say, “sexy”, to appear at the reception, where modern dancing is usually expected.

    • Even the groom/groomsmen wearing horrible polyester EVERYTHING picked up on the cheap from some prom-centric sh!thole looks better than some of the things I’ve seen at weddings… even church weddings. Everybody says it’s in poor taste to dress better than the bridal party, but I’ve found it hard NOT to when tossing on a sport coat makes you stand out in a crowd.

      • Yeah the last wedding I went to (Hispanic families, traditional Catholic Church service) wasn’t the worst but still a preponderance of black shirts, band collared shirts, crew neck T shirts worn under blazers etc. It always makes me a bit sad that so many men today can’t manage to bring themselves to wear a shirt and tie even for a traditional formal wedding. The old belief that even blue collar workers had one ‘Sunday best’ rig for required formal occasions largely doesn’t seem to be true any more. I’m going home to England next month for my niece’s ‘destination wedding’ so we’ll see what happens there and what effect the destination may have on the dress code!

      • Most people don’t want to hear this, but the loss of any sense of style and formality and aesthetics is a direct fruit of egalitarianism. Why dress up when the richest men in the world constantly dress like teenagers at a rock concert? Without royalty or aristocracy to set the tone with their adherence to good taste and aesthetic standards, we’re left with few examples to follow, and there’s not even an envelope for the daring to push against to make a statement.

  2. Not my favourite outfit, but great article. Could you do someday something about Scaramanga‘s black suit or Renard‘s leather peacoat?

  3. >> Brosnan’s usual two-tone Panthère de Cartier watch from Remington Steele‘s fourth season elegantly completes the look. According to the DVD commentary, the watches always belonged to the actors. It features heavily in this episode.

    He wears this watch in his TLD screentest too, as can be seen in the pictures released.

      • I’d need to see if there are good enough photos out there. Looking at the best photo I can find of him in his dinner jacket, it might have been the same dinner jacket he wore in this episode, but with a much nicer shirt.

  4. Good analysis Matt.
    I never got into Remington Steele at all but I still don’t mind these occasional trips down memory lane which serve as a useful counterpoint compared to Bond and particularly Brozz as Bond, and they underscore the evolution of both Brozznian and Bondian styles and trends from the eighties throughout the nineties.
    Considering the time, as you say this wasn’t at all a bad black tie ensemble. Certainly not up to the black tie gear we saw Brozz and even Craig get in to as Bond but not bad at all. As much as I did / do quite like LTK it serves as an example of how bad eighties wedding attire could be, so Mr Steele acquits himself admirably here despite the handicap of some inevitable eighties touches.
    I had to chuckle at your comment on his hair. I thought GE was an absolutely superb entry in the series and a masterful way to reboot the series and breathe life into the flagging franchise but always thought that one rare mis-step was that the Brozz barnet was egregiously dated and pouffy in GE (thankfully fixed in later entries).
    My sister got married in 1982 and the whole male wedding party (Dad, groom’s Dad, groom, groom’s brother, best man, me and two brothers) were all kitted out in matching rented black lounge: black jacket, cashmere striped strides, silver grey waistcoat fronts, white shirts (our own) and silver grey ties. I was absolutely dreading it and this was my first ever foray into any kind of traditional formal wear but on the day it wasn’t so bad! Given the occasional excesses of the eighties, looking back it could have been a whole lot worse!

    • I’m glad you appreciated this analysis. I often choose to feature Remington Steele outfits because I like the style, but this is one of a number of looks that I’ve decided to write about for the commentary it allows me to provide on menswear history in a way that Bond doesn’t. The next one I choose will have to be one of the better looks from the first two years of the series. And perhaps more from his beautiful Noble House wardrobe.

    • Yeah definitely worthwhile entries and as the watch is mentioned as his own I wonder how much influence Brozz had on his wardrobe both in Remington Steele and as Bond. I’m similarly curious for the other Bonds. I suppose we can never know definitively but there are always hints. It’s fairly well accepted that Connery wasn’t too knowledgable about matters sartorial and was schooled by Terrence Young. Brozz always gave the impression of being more switched on style wise and it seems likely Craig had a hand in choosing his Tom Ford sausage skins. I wonder if it’s possible to a post analyzing this for all the Bonds if it hasn’t already been covered?

  5. Tough to tell from the photo, but I can’t tell if the 1911 is “wearing” a Nielsen device or not. It may be “underdressed”.

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