Did you just get out of the shower and want to put something on, but a dressing gown or bathrobe covers too much? Do you simply not want to get dressed but need to cover up a few body parts? If these things are true, James Bond’s towel skirt in Thunderball is perfect for you.
One year after he wore a towelling onesie in Goldfinger and four years before he wore a kilt in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond wore what can only be called a wrap or a skirt made of towelling. Like the playsuit in Goldfinger, this skirt shows another creative use of towelling from the 1960s. Bond wears it at the Shrublands health clinic in Thunderball under a light blue terrycloth dressing gown. He wears this in the traction table scene.
It is not unusual to wrap a towel wrapped around one’s waist, particularly after using the towel to dry off after a shower, bath or a swim. But a towel worn in this manner frequently falls down. Bond’s towel skirt provides a similar look with more security.
This skirt is made of two pieces of ecru terrycloth towelling: a piece for the front that overlaps a piece for the back. The bottom corners of the pieces are rounded. There is an overlap of about six inches at the sides. The two pieces are only attached at the top, and the top is sewn into an elasticised self waistband that fastens on the right side, likely with Velcro strips for small adjustments.
The skirt sits at Connery’s natural waist, the narrowest part of his torso, which helps keep it from slipping down. The front and back pieces hang freely, so when sitting the skirt can expand at the side vents.
There are patch pockets at the bottom left and bottom right of the front piece, which gives this garment an additional advantage over wearing an ordinary towel.
There is a brown stain over the right buttock, which is clearly visible as Bond is getting onto the spinal traction table. We don’t know how that stain got there, but it is the least Bondian detail about this outfit. Even when Bond doesn’t dress well, we can expect his clothes to be clean when not going through extraordinary circumstances.
Bond has an additional fawn-coloured rolled-up towel draped around his neck, completing a full and creative outfit of towelling. Sean Connery’s Bond just loved the feel of terrycloth, but who could blame him?
This would come in handy, for example at a hotel where they ask even men to wear swimsuit cover ups to keep their furniture outside the pool area dry.
Presumably either the cinematographer was very good at his job, Connery was wearing a jock or a dance belt under the towel, or some tape was used, because that thing is very short for some of the angles they shot him from. Particularly when he gets on the traction table.
I wonder if the stain came from the brown and purple make-up that was used to create the bruise.
That makes sense. It’s roughly the same shape and length.
If the actress playing the attendant/masseuse did multiple takes of “examining the bruise”, she could have brushed some of the makeup onto the towel in previous takes to the one they used.
I certainly hope so. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about!
Two words – safety pins.
Just don’t be ten Martinis deep when you do it though.
Thanks for the another enjoyable post!
In “From Russia With Love” when he ‘meets’ Tatiana for the first time he wraps a towel around himself giving a similar effect,perhaps in light blue? Just prior to that, he had taken off his shirt and casually thrown it on the bathroom floor – a gesture which, when I saw it as a child, I thought was very cool and would practice ( until my mother put a stop to it).
I am in my late 60’s and in those days most men had one. As a matter of fact, fondly remembering their utilitarian nature(they do not fall down), I purchased one for myself about 30 years ago. It is sadly now in landfill heaven.
My dad had something like this and wore it around the house on his days off.
Not how I’d have put it… :D
Anyway, this post (and the recent podcast episode on this topic) has led me down a rabbit hole of very readily available terry cloth shower/sauna skirts with patch pockets. Much like Connery’s swimsuits, his item runs a little shorter than modern standards. But they range in price from $15 – $60 in general, everywhere from Wal Mart to Hammacher Schlemmer. Orlebar Brown’s missed opportunity is our gain…
Thanks for listening to the podcast! I’ve been trying to cover more items that we can wear while stuck at home. Orlebar Brown would have made a fortune if they could have offered one of these with 007 branding! And you know they’d charge more than $60.
So, I actually used to have something like this when I was a teenager. It was basically just a short towel with elastic and Velcro so you could wrap it around your waist and have it stay in place. My mother bought it for me and told me my dad used to have one. Naturally I was kind of horrified at being presented with a toweled skirt by my mother but ended up getting quite a bit of use out of it. I live in South a Florida and used to spend a lot of time around the water. It was good to take to the beach/pool and wrap around your damp swim trunks before you sat on a lounge chair or got back in your car. I would also sometimes put it on when I got out of the shower and then throw a robe over top if I wasn’t going to get dressed right away. Eventually it got ratty and I threw it away. Might have to look for another though.
On a recent re-watch of Thunderball, I discovered how the stain came to be.
Connery clasps his hands behind his back, as seen in the first photo, then when he moves his arms the stain appears. It came from the makeup used to cover his forearm tattoo, which was placed exactly where the stain later appears!