Author discusses her James Bond fashion book

Llewella Chapman, author of Fashioning James Bond

Film historian and academic Dr. Llewella Chapman is out with a new book, Fashioning James Bond.

For a character with a license to kill, fashion in the form of suits, dinner jackets, etc., has always been important. The new book examines the costumes and the fashions of the James Bond film franchise, starting with 1962’s Dr. No and running through 2015’s SPECTRE.

According to the book’s listing at Amazon, Fashioning James Bond “draws on original archival research, close analysis of the costumes and fashion brands featured in the Bond films, interviews with families of tailors and shirt-makers who assisted in creating the ‘look’ of James Bond, and considers marketing strategies for the films and tie-in merchandise that promoted the idea of an aspirational ‘James Bond lifestyle.'”

The blog interviewed Dr. Chapman by email. It was edited to go with “American” English rather than English English.

THE SPY COMMAND: There are various books about James Bond. What makes yours different?

LLEWELLA CHAPMAN: There are! And one of my favorites is Dressed to Kill: James Bond the Suited Hero (authored by Jay McInerney, Nick Foulkes, Neil Norman, and Nick Sullivan (1995). I also really enjoyed Peter Brooker’s and Matt Spaiser’s co-authored book From Tailors With Love: An Evolution of Menswear through the Bond Films (2021). The key difference with Fashioning James Bond is that I not only analyze Bond’s costumes but also the costumes worn by the villains, the “Bond girls,” the henchmen, and many others besides.

Hopefully, there will be something in there for everyone! Everyone has a favorite character, of course, and so I’m sorry if yours isn’t analyzed in my book. Unfortunately, I had a word limit and had to stop somewhere!

In many ways, of course, and as Julie Harris, the costume designer for Casino Royale (1967) and Live and Let Die (1973), summarized the key difference between fashion and a costume designer’s role to The Times in 1967: “fashion is the big pitfall in costume design. Not only because the time lag between drawing the designs and the film’s showing averages a year, time enough for anything to have happened in fashion … film designers have to keep a sharp and beady eye on fashion. They have to develop a flair for fashion futures, for the average time between starting designs and the actual appearance of the film can be anywhere between nine months and a year.”

In direct relation to Bond, the character’s suits evolved depending on need and not just fashion. From Sean Connery until the end of Roger Moore’s tenure, Bond wore bespoke tailored suits. From Timothy Dalton onwards, we see Bond dressed the majority of the time in made-to-measure and off-the-peg suits. The main reason for this was the sheer amount of suits needed for the films, particularly since Dalton’s, and the timescale required to make them.

TSC: As you researched your book, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

CHAPMAN: I compiled my research for this book from many different archives, libraries, and repositories, and one of the surprises and rather fun anecdotes was discovering a connection between Bond and the multiple menswear firm Montague Burton. The company attempted to capitalize on the “Bond mania” of the mid-1960s following the release of Goldfinger in the U.K. by briefly hiring Anthony Sinclair as a consultant, and producing a small range of 007 suits.

However, Montague Burton quickly realized that ‘young people, although they may like Bond, do not want to dress like him, and middle-aged men don’t want a coat that has pockets for hand grenades, and so the range was swiftly dropped before the release of Thunderball in the U.K. You can find out more about this story in Chapter 3 of my book.

TSC: Who had the biggest influence with the style of James Bond? Anthony Sinclair and his suits? Someone else?

CHAPMAN: I think that it mainly depends on who made the decision to go with a particular tailor or menswear firm to dress Bond in his suits. With Sean Connery, Terence Young recommended his personal tailor, Anthony Sinclair, and similarly with George Lazenby, Peter Hunt elected to dress George Lazenby in Dimitrov “Dimi” Major’s suits.

Roger Moore is the first actor to play Bond who had his own agency over the way the character was dressed, owing to his interest in menswear and him being an established television star. It is somewhat appropriate that he also had three tailors dress him over the course of his Bond films: Cyril Castle, Angelo Vitucci, and Douglas Hayward.

With Timothy Dalton, he particularly influenced Bond’s style, wanting a more casual look for the films, and for Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s first film, Casino Royale (2006), it was Lindy Hemming, the costume designer, who elected to dress Bond in Brioni. For Quantum of Solace, costume designer Louise Frogley explained that she chose Tom Ford to provide Bond’s suits owing to “needing to solve a problem,” and from Skyfall until No Time To Die, we see Craig possess more agency over the way his Bond was dressed.

TSC: How would you characterize the James Bond style?

CHAPMAN: In three words, I think that the “James Bond style” should be: classic, elegant, and timeless. Though ultimately, Bond should be a chameleon in any situation in which he finds himself: fitting into the scene seamlessly and in order to obtain what he needs.

TSC: What do you think accounts for Bond’s continuing popularity?

CHAPMAN: Good question! I think because the films aim to not only present a fun, often humorous, and thrilling story for audiences worldwide with the money “spent on the screen,” but also because over the past 60 years the films have continuously evolved to reflect the political, social and cultural contexts during the time they were made.

Cover to Fashioning James Bond

You can order Fashioning James Bond at Amazon’s U.S. site by CLICKING HERE. Or you can order from the U.K. Amazon site by CLICKING HERE. Another option is ordering through the website of Bloomsbury (the book’s publisher) by CLICKING HERE. I’ve been advised this may be a quicker method for customers in the U.S.

One Response

  1. GREAT book. She did an EXCELLENT job.

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