Tailoring for the Times: Timothy Dalton



1. Large shoulders: Timothy Dalton’s suits in The Living Daylights come from a variety of sources, some fitting better than others. A few of the suits suffer from too large shoulders, a common characteristic of the late 1980s “power suit.” Not all of Dalton’s suits have shoulders like this, and the ones that don’t are more flattering.

Some of the details of Dalton’s suits defy the day’s trends, such double vents (no vent was popular) and flapped pockets (jetted pockets dominated fashion). A few of the jackets have a low button stance, but for the most part they are rather classic. Though the clothes are off the pegs, it appears that costume designer tried to find the most classic English style she could and wasn’t interested in dressing Dalton fashionably.


1. Large shoulders: These then fashionable suits have strong shoulders that build up and out. Again, it’s part of the late 1980s “power suit” look.

2. Full cut: The suits have a lot of extra room throughout the body, but they are not sack suits. They still have shape, just with a lot of extra cloth everywhere. A full-cut suit should still be neatly tailored and be clean across the back, but Dalton’s suits look a little sloppy.

3. Low button stance: The low button stance became standard by the late 1980s, just as the high button stance is so common now. A low button stance makes the suit look more relaxed, and by creating a longer lapel line it can make the suit look more elegant. But if it’s too low it draws the eye downward and can make sitting with the coat buttoned rather awkward.

4. Low gorge: The gorge is where the lapel and collar meet. In the mid 1980s the gorge lowered, which shortens the lapel and makes the wearer look shorter. A low gorge was classically worn by very tall men, like Gary Cooper, to great effect. But Dalton’s gorge is not only low but on a steep angle. That’s what really dates it.

5. Wide Lapels: The low gorge is only emphasized by wide lapels, but because the lapels start lower they aren’t as noticeably wide as what Roger Moore wore. The shape of the lapels makes them look more designed and stuck on rather than a natural part of the jacket.

6. Baggy trousers: Though Dalton wore some triple reverse-pleat trousers casually in Licence to Kill, even his double reverse-pleat suit trousers were excessively full. Baggy trousers come and go in fashion, and the late 1980s saw them far more extreme than what Dalton wore.

Dalton’s suits in Licence to Kill go as far into fashion as they can while still appearing like business suits. Suits like these were what some of the flashier business people in the late 1980s and early 1990s wore, though power ties were popular for them. Since Dalton isn’t wearing the suits in a business environment he didn’t wear a tie. Lighter-coloured suits like light grey or beige would have better fit the setting than the charcoal and navy that Dalton wore, which look out of place far from the city and without a tie.

For a classic example of a full-cut suit with built-up shoulders, see Cary Grant’s suit in North By Northwest. The cut was very flattering, but also neatly tailored despite the fullness. Full-cut does not have to look like a suit that’s too large. The 1930’s drape cut was one example of a successful full cut, and it developed in reaction to the close-fitting suits that came before. It had large shoulders and a full chest with a nipped waist to exaggerate the V-shape of a man’s torso. Another classic full cut suit is the American sack suit, that lacks shape in the front. But even a proper sack suit will not have the bagginess of a late 1980s suit.

And for some odd reason, small shirt collars were fashionable to wear with the oversized suits. That exaggerate’s the suit’s large fit, and the lack of balance is very unflattering to the face.


  1. Re: “The Living Daylights” You say “Though the clothes are off the peg, it appears that costume designer tried to find the most classic English style she could and wasn’t interested in dressing Dalton fashionably”. While this makes sense, Matt, it does beg the question, why didn’t they use a London tailor as they had in the case of all the previous incumbents? To some degree they obviously wanted to leave this behind and introduce a more relaxed image for the character, something that Dalton no doubt embraced as he has made it plain in interviews that most aspects of Roger Moore’s portrayal didn’t chime with him.

    Awful just sums up the wardrobe in “Licence to Kill”. I can’t find any redeeming feature to recommend these clothes and they have nothing to do with tailoring or 007 as we knew him hitherto. The Designing 007 Exhibition mentioned that the wardrobe here was purchased from some LA fashion house (can’t recall the name, Matt, perhaps you remember it?) so this explains a lot. They only make appear even worse a film which was itself the series’ low point. Nothing was right and the shirts with their small collars you mention (which people thought were great back then) were far away from what we’d come to expect from Turnbull and Asser or Frank Foster’s work. The low button stance jackets and wide lapels we’d seen before on Moore and Connery but these were the work of accomplished London tailoring houses. This film broke the mould, which is what the producers intended, but for me, only in the worst possible way. Apart from the fact that the film was made to suit Dalton’s portrayal and would never have been produced for either his predecessor or successor, both Moore or Brosnan’s wardrobe would have included all the elements which you mention, color for example, which Dalton got wrong.

    And while I appreciate it’s only my personal opinion, I genuinely believe the film series’ current foray into contemporary male “fashion” will stand up in precisely the same way as Dalton’s wardrobe does now in another 23 years.

    • Thanks for the comments David. I’ve heard that due to Dalton’s last-minute casting, the suits were bought off the pegs In The Living Daylights because they didn’t have the time to go to a tailor.

  2. The suits in The Living Daylights are alright. That’s the best word I can use to describe them, and since when has James Bond every settled for just “alright?” The film itself isn’t too bad, but I can’t help agreeing that Dalton’s predecessor or successor would have brought a lot more panache and made it a much more memorable entry in the franchise.

    One thing that stands out in Licence to Kill beyond the poor costume decisions is also Dalton’s hairstyle. Throughout the entire film he looks like he could use a haircut.

    • Yet another thing that stands out in License to Kill is the humorless cruelty and gratuitous sadism – I remember leaving the theater with a bad taste in my mouth!

  3. Once again, Jodie Tillen leaving her bad 1980’s mark on any production she served as wardrobe consultant upon.

    Besides Miami Vice, check out the (terrible) B-movie “No Man’s Land” from 1987 – she did wardrobe on that too. There is a segment in it that takes place in a club. Her tradition of costuming everyone by simply ordering the most terrible (read = “latest”) styles available from the most prominent fashion house of the given hour is more than apparent.

  4. Hello Matt,

    You mention at the end that “small shirt collars were fashionable to wear with the oversized suits”. Would Dalton’s white point-collared shirt worn with the pinhead suit in the finale be an example of this peculiar trend, or are there even more extreme examples in LTK?


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