Over the last half-century and 23 official James Bond films, Ian Fleming’s super spy has been played by seven different actors under 11 different directors, with 17 different costume designers or wardrobe supervisors responsible for the look of agent 007 and the stylish garb he dons to fight villains or doffs to bed beauties.
Across the span of those five decades, even the traditionally glacial pace of menswear trends looks like a fast-forward fashion flipbook of seismic shifts in shape and fit. Lapels widen and contract, blazer buttons multiply, silhouettes balloon and shrink.
High-end suits have been a sartorial through line, from the moment in 1962 when Sean Connery appeared on screen in “Dr. No” clad in a suit cut by Mayfair tailor Anthony Sinclair to the Italian-made Brioni suits Daniel Craig wore in “Casino Royale” before Bond turned to fashion designer Tom Ford in 2008’s “Quantum of Solace.”
The way the impeccably hand-tailored suits have been used has changed over the years. At first a reflection of Bond’s character, his suit has seemed to function as a disguise in some films, a dapper suit of armor in others.
In the just-released “Skyfall,” directed by Sam Mendes, the suit functions much as a superhero’s body-hugging uniform, clothes whose primary function is to showcase the lean, mean killing machine within.
The provenance of the suits has not changed — they are still the high-end, hand-tailored work of Tom Ford. What’s different this time around is the costume designer, Jany Temime, whose credits include the “Harry Potter” films. Temime considered dressing Bond to be the same kind of challenge that would face a fashion designer brought in to update a familiar and long-lived luxury fashion brand.
“Everybody knows Bond, which gives him this almost-transcendental reach,” she said in a telephone interview from London. “That is what makes him such an incredible character to design for.”
“I didn’t want to do a parody of Bond. I wanted it to be (both) classy and modern — a film with the kind of fashion people would be wearing in 2013,” she added.
Temime considers the suits sacrosanct. “He always wears a suit, he always wears a tie. That’s something that you cannot change in Bond,” Temime said. “He’s a dangerous gentleman — but he is a gentleman. He works for the MI6, and MI6 works for her Majesty. Essentially he’s working for the Queen, so he dresses the way an English gentleman should. That’s something I felt was very important.”
So no matter if Bond is dangling from an elevator, plunging off a bridge, riding a motorcycle up a staircase or fist-fighting atop a moving train, he’s dressed to the nines.
Temime tweaked the fit of Bond’s signature suits to accentuate the man beneath.”I wanted him to be able to move in the suits,” she said. “In this movie he runs, he fights, and you can see his muscles moving under the (surface of) the trousers and the shirts.”
“I wanted to dress Bond in a way that you (almost) forget he’s wearing a suit,” Temime explained. “He’s so active and can move so well in those suits it’s like a second skin. I think that’s the modern approach to the suit — it doesn’t look dressed up. It just looks easygoing and right because it fits him absolutely perfectly.”
Anyone watching the besuited Daniel Craig run, jump, whirl and kick the living daylights out of evil-doers will likely agree that Temime succeeded. The various Tom Ford suits, grounded in a gray or blue color palette, seem to move and stretch on our hero as if infused with Spandex (although they’re 100 percent super-fine wool), accented by an omnipresent sharp crease of pocket square at the left breast and a perfectly knotted necktie that barely budges a centimeter off Bond’s Adam’s apple throughout the entire movie. (That’s thanks to a one-button collar tab behind the knot that also keeps the collar points cool and unflappable.) When Bond breaks into a dead run (which he does quite often), his suit jacket or overcoat flaps in the wind and billows behind him ever so slightly, making it almost impossible not to make the connection between coat and super-hero cape.