When Bond Could Have Worn an Ivory Dinner Jacket But Didn’t

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James Bond’s quintessential uniform since his first scene in the first Bond film Dr. No has always been the dinner suit, whether midnight blue or black. Starting with the third Bond film Goldfinger, Bond added an alternative black tie look, the ivory dinner jacket. The ivory dinner jacket makes more of a statement than the midnight blue or black dinner suit, but Bond wears it sparingly throughout the series in a way that it never could overtake the dark dinner suit as his most iconic look.

The ivory dinner jacket has always been a secondary warm-weather black tie look for Bond, and the costumers for the Bond series have always made sure of that. Bond wears it in only six out of 24 films: Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985) and Spectre (2015). In four of the six films he also wears a midnight blue or black dinner suit, maintaining the ivory dinner jacket’s status as an alternative to Bond’s usual midnight blue or black dinner suit rather than a replacement for it. When Bond wears an ivory dinner jacket as his only dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun, its appearance is brief. In Spectre the ivory dinner jacket is Bond’s exclusive dinner jacket in the film, and it has significant role in that film’s wardrobe.

Like the dark dinner suit, the ivory dinner jacket is a garment for the evening. Like with other white clothes, there are many cultural restrictions to when and where one should wear the ivory dinner jacket. The ivory dinner jacket was historically resort wear, and as Bond visits many resort locales it is an appropriate garment for those occasions. Understanding that it is a garment for warm-weather resort wear helps us determine where one would traditionally wear it.

As it is a garment for warm-weather, it is appropriate to wear in the tropics year-round. It is also always appropriate on a cruise ship. It’s a traditional garment to wear around the Mediterranean in the warmer part of the year, and it can be worn anywhere in The United States during the summer months, especially for outdoor occasions. It was traditionally shunned in big northern American cities like New York and Chicago during the summer, but that has changed. It was traditionally never appropriate in the British Isles, though people in the countryside now wear it during warm summer nights like in the United States. The fashion police have lessened their penalties for wearing it in nontraditional places!

The ivory dinner jacket originated in the 1930s and was a popular resort garment for the evening through the 1980s. As dressing up at resorts became less popular, so has the ivory dinner jacket. In the 1990s the ivory dinner jacket became less fashionable and did not come back into fashion until James Bond wore it again in Spectre in 2015. Since then it has been a popular alternative to the midnight blue and black dinner suits, and people are not as concerned about wearing them in the proper season or the proper locale as they were in the old days of the ivory dinner jacket. The best-dressed men, however, will always consider the season and locale for the ivory dinner jacket.

The Bond series has been careful not to overuse the ivory dinner jacket, and thus there are many occasions when it Bond was in an appropriate location for it but did not wear it, often with good reason. Thunderball is the first of these occasions. Though Bond wears an excellent midnight blue mohair-blend dinner jacket that is quite suitable for the Bahamas in Thunderball, an ivory dinner jacket would have been appropriate. The film’s villain, Emilio Largo, instead wears a flashy ivory dinner jacket and Bond wears midnight blue to contrast the villain.

When Bond wears a dinner suit on the Portuguese Riviera in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, an ivory dinner jacket would have entirely appropriate. However, a dinner suit was chosen instead to introduce the new James Bond George Lazenby in Bond’s most classic attire to help him look the part.

At the end of Diamonds Are Forever, Bond is having dinner on a cruise ship dressed in a blue velvet dinner jacket. Being on a cruise ship, this would have been an appropriate occasion to dress Bond in an ivory dinner jacket, but as he had already worn one for a large portion of the film in Las Vegas they wanted to put him in something different for the film’s third black tie occasion.

In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond wears a midnight blue mohair-blend dinner suit in Egypt. The hot desert is an appropriate place for the ivory alternative, but as the ivory dinner jacket had just featured in the previous Bond film and Roger Moore had yet to wear the classic Bond dinner suit, the midnight blue dinner suit was the right choice. Feeding into the story, the midnight blue dinner suit makes him look as overdressed as can be in the scenes following the night club.

Bond visits Rio de Janeiro in Moonraker, a tropical city where the ivory dinner jacket is appropriate. The fun look of the ivory dinner jacket would have been appropriate for Carnival, but the black dinner suit that Moore wears is a better choice for sneaking around a warehouse at night.

Bond could have worn an ivory dinner jacket for the casino and dinner scenes in For Your Eyes Only in Corfu, a Greek island with a Mediterranean climate and thus an appropriate locale for the ivory dinner jacket. There are a few other men at the venue wearing ivory dinner jackets, but Bond wears a black dinner suit instead as a way of putting the flashier 1970s era behind the Bond series in favour of a more down-to-earth film.

Someone else is appropriately wearing an ivory dinner jacket (or more likely a cream suit jacket) at Bond’s casino table in For Your Eyes Only

Licence to Kill takes place in the fictional Isthmus City, which is supposed to be in a tropical region of Central America. Being the tropics, the ivory dinner jacket would have been suitable for the casino scene, but because this is a dark film Bond needed to dress dark in a black dinner suit. Costume designer Jodie Tillen famously wanted to put Bond in pastels throughout the film, and this would have been the most appropriate opportunity in the film to dress Bond in a light colour if the tone of the film suited it.

James Bond visits Monte Carlo in GoldenEye and wears a black dinner suit to the casino. Monte Carlo is a resort destination and is traditionally an appropriate city for the ivory dinner jacket, but the ivory dinner jacket had fallen out of favour at the time of GoldenEye and Pierce Brosnan needed to be introduced as Bond in the more iconic dark dinner suit.

When Bond visits the casino in Baku, Azerbaijan in The World Is Not Enough, Bond is wearing a warm-weather midnight blue mohair-blend dinner suit. A few men at the casino wear ivory dinner jackets and look out of place as the weather doesn’t seem warm enough to justify the ivory dinner jacket. Valentin Zukovsky is wearing a taupe dinner jacket, which is also a warm-weather look, but he gets away with it because he is a mafia boss. Bond could have possibly gotten away with an ivory dinner jacket here, but it is better he didn’t.

Though Skyfall is not the first time Daniel Craig’s Bond wears a midnight blue dinner suit, the film helped take an exclusively high-end dinner suit colour and bring it to mainstream fashion. It is difficult to imagine him wearing anything other than that midnight blue dinner suit in that film. He wears this dinner suit in Macau, a tropical city where the ivory dinner jacket is also appropriate. The tone of Skyfall is dark, and the dark dinner suit better fits the character at that time. The midnight blue dinner suit also contrasts nicely with the cream jacket that the villain Silva wears in their scenes together on Hashima Island.

At the time Skyfall was made in 2012, the ivory dinner jacket was still seen as old-fashioned and outdated. Spectre was able to revive this classic garment three years later, and this summer it is still part of many collections. The Bond costumers throughout the series have been careful not to overuse the garment, even in places where he could have worn it, and though it’s a trendy look now it is still important to wear it appropriately. It will always be a secondary black tie style for Bond, and it is best to keep that in mind when wearing black tie as not to overdo the ivory dinner jacket.

43 COMMENTS

  1. Is a one-button, with self-faced notched lapels ivory dinner jacket acceptable ?
    I have never seen this kind of model in any movie at all. Too unformal-like, maybe ?

      • What is your opinion on the style you sometimes see nowadays where an ivory dinner jacket is faced in black satin to match the bow tie? It looks better than the ivory satin facings you often see today on white dinner jackets, but it is rather flashy.

      • I think both black and ivory silk facings on a dinner jacket are bad. White facings add an extra element that doesn’t match anything else. Black silk facings match the bow tie and stripe on the trousers, but they break up the torso in an awkward manner.

  2. In the DVD commentary for Octopussy Moore comments that he would have liked to have worn an ivory dinner jacket for these scene where he is treated to supper by his captor; Kamal Khan. He instead is wearing a notched lapel dinner jacket that matches his trousers. I think the producers did that so the ivory dinner jacket wouldn’t be the only one Bond wore in the film. The filmmakers seem to want to avoid having an ivory dinner jacket as the only one bond wears in his films.

    • For the most part, yes. I wish Temime had been more careful to get the style correct in Spectre, since it is the only black tie attire he wears in that film. The button two fastening, centre vent, and ivory facings made it seem like a $5,000 version of a prom tux. I think a midnight mohair dinner suit would have worked better all around. Or at least introducing a shawl collar version of the white dinner jacket to the Bond series at last.

      • I agree with you, however, the blunders you mention, single vent aside, are not particularly apparent on screen. Like everything with Temime, it’s a mixed bag. I’m grateful that she used the power of Bond to revive this classic garment. It’s just a shame the execution wasn’t a little better.

  3. Great read. Matt .
    I’ve yet to own an ivory dinner jacket, but contemplating it because of future travel. Would simply using the trousers from my black dinner suit suffice with the ivory jacket?

  4. A very creative post! I have a question – for an ivory dinner jacket would you use a black pocket square for it to contrast, or would you avoid the use of the breast pocket completely?

    • I think a pocket square can work well with the ivory dinner jacket, but I’m not a fan of a solid black pocket square with the ivory dinner jacket because it can look too harsh. I prefer a puffed silk square in a black and white pattern. A burgundy square can work well too.

  5. I have always felt a man is poorly dresses if you notice the clothes before you notice the man. In the Connery films you are always focused on the man.

  6. Good stuff. I think the ivory dinner jacket is still considered a bit old-fashioned, at least in New York where I live. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody wearing one outside of a Bond/spy cosplay thing. It’s too bad because the metro area gets really hot during wedding season.

      • That’s good to know. Are the jackets styled short or is the classic length starting to come back? Maybe it doesn’t apply to formal wear as much, but I was never sure if the shorter length that seems much criticized in these comments section is a fad or something more permanent.

    • Agent 00Soul I am saying this in all sincerity and no desire to be flippant: why worry what other people think? If you want to wear an ivory dinner jacket at a formal occasion go ahead and wear it, and, what’s more important, own it! If unsophisticated would be fashionistas think you are old-fashioned, so what? And BTW, what’s wrong with being old-fashioned?

      • Dan, perhaps I read his comments in a different tone but I believe he was just curious about if people were wearing white dinner jackets and what they currently looked like, rather than if he should wear them himself. I get the feeling most of us are not all that concerned with what is fashionable right now except to see if we can still get our preferred styles.

      • “And BTW, what’s wrong with being old-fashioned?”

        -Nothing, as far as “old-fashioned” is not synonymic with “stiff” or “square”. Unfortunately, that gets mixed up quite frequently. However, if people say “old-fashioned” but mean “classical”, I would have no problem with it.

      • Dan, Jovan, Renard – I was referring directly to the article. Matt refers to old-fashioned or out of fashion in the fifth and also final paragraph.

  7. @Agent 00Soul – The shrunken fit short jacket with the high button stance and low rise trousers was something the fashion industry was pushing because it saves them money on cloth, but ultimately fashion has to change. The shrunken fit might have been a good boon to them because of how little fabric it uses, but if they want to keep selling suits they’ve got to change it eventually, and shrunken fit has been pushed to the limit (just look at what Craig was wearing in Skyfall). They’ve nowhere to go but larger, longer drapier jackets and looser, higher-rise trousers.

    I watched a video about this from ReviewBrah, who took a break from food reviews to discuss fashion and suits (he himself only wears 1980s style suits) and he said already the designer brands are experimenting with new styles.

      • I generally like the way he dresses but I personally think the wing collars are a bit much, especially with lounge suits.

        I think he goes for the bigger suits partly because he is not very big and they help enlarge him, and also because they’re from the thrift store, and it’s often hard to find something that both fits you and that you like there.

    • Thanks Sam – my own feeling is that it isn’t a bad look per se (look at the bum-freezer jackets and high cuffs on early 60s Fellini films), but was just curious if now, like then, it was just a fad. Having said that, the look was indeed taken too far in Skyfall and Spectre. It’s a look that’s designed to emphasize slenderness in my opinion, not hulking-out.

      • I personally don’t think short jacket are necessarily a bad look. On men with short legs and a long torso the most flattering look is a short jacket with high-waisted trousers, because it makes the legs look longer. My dislike for the shrunken/slim fit look is the high button stance and low trouser rise combination. Sometimes it’s taken so far the skirt of the jacket barely even reaches the waistband of the trousers. You can see the shirt and the waistband of the trousers below the button and it looks very sloppy.

        Double-breasted slim/shrunken fit suits look much nicer, since they don’t expose the shirt and waistband of the trousers below the button. Like you said though, it’s a look that flatters skinny men, not athletic ones like Daniel Craig.

  8. Great article, Matt – an interesting, “what-if?” I generally think that the filmmakers got it right with the predominant use of black or midnight blue. The black/midnight blue generally photograph better, are easier to light, and are more flattering on all of the actors (I would have liked to have seen Dalton in ivory, however, particularly in Corfu, had he been cast for For Your Eyes Only). With the exceptions of the Octopussy jacket- which is by far my favorite of the ivory examples – and the Goldfinger one because of Connery’s swagger as he enters the nightclub, I could pass on the rest (nothing against ivory in concept – just my opinion on what’s featured in the series) and am pleased with the filmmakers’ actual choices.

    • No, there are more limitations to the ivory dinner jacket. Creams suits and sports coats, however, were also originally intended to be resort wear like the ivory dinner jacket.

  9. The Octopussy version is clearly the best executed of all of these jackets followed by the MWTGG jacket which has novelty of being he only double breasted white dinner jacket in the series and like all the clothing in that movie, it’s exemplery.

    I personally find the reverence for the Goldfinger jacket overblown. Ok, it was the first example of this outfit in the Bond series however, personally I find Connery’s second in DAF to be far more polished looking.

    The remaining three are all ok. Just ok. Because they all have some issues. The Goldfinger example is fine but just doesn’t look that sharp in terms of the way it seems to fit on Connery, the AVTAK jacket is beautifilly cut but a little pedestrian (nothing to mark it out as being a dinner jacket specifically) and the Spectre one (while it was nice to see it return) had the ineptitude and lack of flair of Temime and Craig written all over it.

      • “…,but just doesn’t look that sharp in terms of the way it seems to fit on Connery”

        -May I ask what is wrong with its fit? I can’t make out that. It is cut in exactly the same style as all his other suits in the early classic Bond movies: In comparison to the DAF one, the cut is a bit more drapey (but tall man like Connery can wear that) and the quarters are more open. But that’s it and then, the DAF dj has (slanted!) flap pockets (gimmicky) which are completely out of place on a white dj which is formal and no casual wear. The GF one has jetted pockets and no vents, and that’s comme il faut.
        Moore’s white dj from TMWTGG is what I would consider curious – due to its overwide lapels it appears as if Moore is wearing a jacket which is far too large for him (the photoshop montage above clearly illustrates that).

    • I am in 100% agreement with this. Especially the praise for the Octopussy DJ and the sentiment that the Goldfinger jacket is overrated.

      • I agree with you all over the Goldfinger jacket in terms of (its curious) fit. But the use of a white dinner jacket at that moment in the film, and Connery’s swaggering entrance, are perfect.

      • The fit of the GF jacket is by no means inferior to the OP one – it is simply a different style of tailoring. And yes – as Christian stated, the fact that it is the most iconic among all of Bond’s white dinner jackets is of course due to Connery’s way of wearing it. It looks undoubtedly more stylish on him than the rest – including Connery’s DAF version. And indeed it needs some audacity / boldness / chuzpah to pull it off. That Moore looks more pedestrian in it is for the simple reason that his Bond portrayal lacks those qualities – in comparison to Connery, Moore’s type is much more on the average side.

  10. Hey: If Ryan Gosling can wear one in the winter, and OWN it, then it’s fair game, and all-year round to boot! Being a clothes-horse myself, am attempting to get my youngest son to wear one of mine to his girlfriend’s senior prom; have a vintage BB, hand-made, LOVELY ivory dinner jacket, hoping he makes the plunge, as last year he wore my midnight blue, 1956 tux, that is one BEAUTIFUL work of art….makes one feel a bit like Mr. Bond.

  11. I live in Scandinavia and wear black tie regularly (4-5 occasions/year). I’ve only wore my white dinner jacket four times ever: in Macau, the Bahamas, Monaco and Tangier. The correct location and setting is key to this garment, in my opinion.

  12. Matt, considering all those recent articles on white dinner jackets – could it be that you are planning to have one made for you (?)

    Best,
    Renard

  13. Though I understand by impression, I don’t think I can distinguish “ivory” and “cream” perfectly in theory. What distinguishes the two colors?

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