Celebrating James Bond on Screen

I always get excited when museums unveil new costume exhibits. So I’m quite jazzed that 007, my favorite secret agent, is getting a swarm of attention on both sides of the Atlantic in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his silver screen debut.

The Barbican Centre in London just opened its exhibition on James Bond’s “stylistic flair” (as the Wall Street Journal put it) curated by fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave and Academy Award-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming, who worked on five Bond films. Ms. Hemming told the Journal that the early Bond films “established the unmistakable aesthetic – the stylistic template against which all others are measured.” Indeed.

Bond aficionados love to argue over which film has the better wardrobe. I wrote a piece on men’s style in the movies a while back, and I said that “Goldfinger” may be the definitive James Bond film because  Sean Connery is the personification of suave and manages to look impeccable without trying too hard. For style observers, the quintessential Bond scene is when he strips off his wetsuit to reveal a white dinner jacket with a red carnation. Yes, it’s a little campy — but you can’t help but smile.

It’s notable that every bit of Connery’s tailored wardrobe in this 1964 film looks remarkably contemporary: like his office attire of a slim navy suit with a white French-cuff shirt and skinny tie. I’ve always loved the country look that Bond wears while driving his Aston Martin in Switzerland: a tweedy tan jacket with angled flap pockets paired with a knit tie and slash-pocket trousers. According to Ms. Hemming, Savile Row tailor Anthony Sinclair’s “Conduit Cut” was narrower in the body, softer in the shoulder and chest, and featured slimmer trousers. Mr. Sinclair made clothes for both Bond creator Ian Fleming and director Terence Young, and he subsequently gave former bodybuilder Sean Connery — the original Bond — a more sophisticated look. To wit, the silk turn-back cuffs on his tuxedo in the first Bond film, “Dr. No.”

Here’s a Vimeo clip posted by the Barbican in which Italian master tailor Checchino Fonticoli, a character in my film, “Men of the Cloth,” is fitting actor Pierce Brosnan (a former Agent 007) for a Brioni suit.

In a separate exhibit, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art pays homage to the iconic opening title sequences of all twenty-two James Bond films.

Here’s a great clip in which costume designer Jany Temime discusses Daniel Craig’s suits from designer Tom Ford in the upcoming Bond film, “Skyfall.”

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