Today’s article is about a two-piece business suit—a bespoke suit made for the lucrative business of shell collecting. In 1962, Ursula Andress’s character Honey Ryder made waves with her ivory-coloured bikini in Dr. No. To date, no woman in a Bond film has dressed so memorably, and for better or for worse, this bikini is why Andress continues to hold the mantle of one the most popular Bond girls.
‘The bikini made me into a success’, said Andress. This swimsuit put her on the map as a sex symbol and brought her tremendous success by guaranteeing her future roles for years to come. For the rest of the world, it set the gold standard for women’s swimwear ever since. The way Terence Young directed her coming out of the water into the scene helped to cement to iconography of this outfit.
This two-piece swimsuit was first auctioned at Christies on 13 February 2001 and fetched £41,125.
It was last auctioned at Profiles in History in November 2020, and Bond Lifestyle summarises the details of the auction listing. No sale price is given, but it was expected to fetch $500,000. According to the auction listings, Andress collaborated with director Terence Young and costume designer Tessa Prendergast (also known as Tessa Welborn) on the costume to ensure that it could withstand the rigours the active character would put it though. It was not made only for lying on the beach.
Many people shy away from white swimwear, but this suit is an off-white ivory. It is a subtle but significant difference. Ivory is a flattering colour on most people, from the pale-skinned to the tanned Ursula Andress to darker-skinned people. It has a much gentler look than stark white, and in the hot summer sun it will feel cool. And it won’t be any more slimming than a black bikini, as it doesn’t cover enough of the body to have any such effect.
The Bikini Top
The bikini top was constructed in cotton over Ursula Andress’ own underwire bra, so the top offers her plenty of support for the action scenes. The bra cups are darted. The cotton is ruched over the chest and gathered and cinched in the centre with a decorative bow. There are two straps over the shoulders and a hook and eye closure at the back. It shows a fair amount of cleavage, but no more than the typical bikini top.
Because the swimsuit is made with multiple layers, the ivory fabric does not turn translucent when it gets wet. Most light-coloured swimwear is designed with this in mind, and this makeshift piece of costume swimwear ensured of this proper coverage as well so there would not be any trouble with the censors.
The Bikini Bottoms
To coordinate with the bikini top, the bikini bottoms are covered in matching cotton with gathered pleats at the sides and hoop detail on the hips. There is a hook and eye closure at the left hip.
The bottoms sit at a mid-waist height in the front and back, and they ushered in a new mainstream trend of more revealing swimwear. The waist sits about three inches below her navel, which is considered a medium or medium-low height depending on current fashions and individual tastes. It is a flattering style of bikini bottoms, being neither particularly high nor low. At the time of Dr. No, the bottoms were lower than the standard bikini bottoms, which were high by today’s standards and came up to the natural waist or not much below it. Higher bottoms have the effect of emphasizing and bulking up the hips and stomach as well as shortening the torso, while these mid-rise bottoms slim down the abdomen. While almost anything would look good on Andress’ slim and athletic but curvy figure (her measurements were 36-24-36), such a swimsuit would flatter a wide variety of body types.
Brigitte Bardot, a contemporary of Andress, famously wore similarly revealing bikini bottoms along with a revealing bandeau top at Cannes in 1953, almost a decade earlier. They were shocking then, but they started to become a popular style for models in the 1950s. It wasn’t until Andress wore them that the style became more mainstream, which allowed for even skimpier bottoms to enter the fashion world.
Low-rise bikini bottoms would come into fashion a few years later, which Martine Beswick as Paula Kaplan would wear three years later in Thunderball with a skimpier top for a far more extreme look than Andress presented. Ultra-low bottoms such as those are perhaps sexier because they are more revealing, but they are extreme. This lower style would continue to be popular through the 1970s and returned in the early 2000s.
Andress’ bikini bottoms, despite not being at those depths, were still too low for some censors. A few production stills shows her with airbrushed high-waisted bikini bottoms that cover her navel. It was too much for some markets to show photos of so much skin, and particularly scandalous for a woman to expose her navel, despite there not being anything overtly sexual about it.
Unlike the currently trendy curved bikini bottoms, the waistline of Andress’ bikini bottoms cuts straight across her abdomen in front, giving the illusion of a flatter stomach. The sides of the bottoms sit lower on her hips to widen them and by contrast make her waist look smaller.
The bottoms are cheeky at the back, showing off some of the buttocks. While nowhere near as revealing as a thong, these bottoms were still risqué.
In Ian Fleming’s original Dr. No novel, Honeychile Ryder, as she is known in the book, is naked apart from this belt that holds her knife. While that would not have gone over so well for a film in 1962, the bikini wasn’t so far from nude for audiences at the time.
While belted bikini bottoms are sometimes available today, Andress’ belt is completely separate from the bottoms. It’s a utility belt to hold her knife, not to support her bikini bottoms or decorate them. The belt actually conceals the decorative sides of the bikini bottoms.
The belt is made of a dirtied white webbing and is about 2 1/2 inches wide. It came from the naval uniform of officer Gordon Joslin. It fastens in the middle with a large hook clasp, while on either side of the middle are slide buckles to adjust the size of the belt. There are two diagonally placed straps with slide buckles at the back. On the left side of the belt is a holster for Ryder’s knife.
The utility belt gives a lot of character to the outfit and gives the character a tough edge. It presents her as being prepared and not just as someone going for a leisurely swim.
The belt gives her outfit an impression of being slightly more finished, but it hardly provides any more coverage. It covers the top of the bikini bottoms and sits slightly higher than the bikini bottoms do, but ultimately the belt makes her outfit look no more modest than Tiffany Cases’s sleeves do for her bikini in Diamonds Are Forever.
The Shirt and Shoes
For a touch of modesty after the initial scene at Laughing Waters beach, Andress wears a pale pink long-sleeved lightweight cotton shirt over the bikini. However, from the moment she puts it on, the shirt is wet. A light-coloured cotton shirt instant becomes translucent the moment it gets wet. The shirt, at the very most, provides only the intention of modesty.
The shirt fits exceptionally well and looks like it was made bespoke for her. It fastens left side over right side like a man’s shirt, but it does not look like a man’s shirt on her. It has a dart at each side of the chest to give fullness. The front is plain without a placket.
The collar is a one-piece design, with a contoured shape to mimic that of a two-piece point collar. It attaches at the neck and does not extend down the front of the shirt like a Cooper collar does. Unlike many one-piece collars, this collar has a button, even if it is not intended to be fastened.
She first wears the shirt buttoned from the middle of the chest down, tucked through her belt. The rounded shirt tails neatly cover her rear. She keeps the sleeves rolled up around her forearms for better use of her arms.
After bathing at Dunn’s River Waterfalls, she ties the shirt up around her waist to prevent the soaking wet shirt from feeling heavy around her hips. Here she is without the belt, providing a proper look at the detail Prendergast put into the bikini bottoms.
Her shoes are beige canvas flats with white soles, though the colour could be decieving if the shoes are dirtied like her belt is. The shoes are necessary for the hike through the jungle to escape Dr. No’s men.
Like how Daniel Craig was able to bring the shrunken-fit suit from the runway to the masses as James Bond with Skyfall, Ursula Andress brought the modern bikini to masses with Dr. No.