Columbo: Three-Piece Dinner Suit

Columbo-Dinner-Suit

With New Year’s Eve coming up shortly, let’s look at more black tie inspiration. Milos Columbo, played by Topol in For Your Eyes Only, looks elegant in his three-piece dinner suit. It was most likely tailored by the same man who made who made Columbo’s blazer, Conduit Street tailor Robbie Stanford. The button one dinner jacket has straight shoulders with roped sleeveheads, a clean chest and a suppressed waist. The lapels and collar are very unique in that lapels have horizontal peaks like the Tautz lapel, and the edge of the collar is angled up to form a notch. There are three buttons on the cuffs. The jacket’s buttons are black horn, just like on Bond’s dinner jacket.

Columbo’s dinner jacket unfortunately has two very noticeable faults. The pockets are slanted and have flaps, and the flaps are made worse with a satin silk facing. Slanted pockets are not appropriate on a dinner jacket because of their sporting origins, and bulky pocket flaps are at odds with the dinner jacket’s elegant minimalism. Columbo’s dinner jacket also has double vents, which would be okay if they were a moderate 10″ length like James Bond’s are in the same scene. However, Columbo’s vents are about 14″ long, a quite excessive length since they almost reach the waist. Double vents this long unnecessarily flap about and are especially inelegant for a dinner jacket. Both the pocket style and the vent length are carried over from 1970s fashions, but the dinner jacket does not look like something from the 1970s overall. Though the details are not ideal, they don’t detract from the jacket’s beautiful cut.

Notice the very deep vents, approximately 14" long

Notice the very deep double vents, approximately 14″ long

With the dinner suit, Columbo wears an elegant low-cut, button three, black silk waistcoat. The waistcoat’s U-shaped opening is less common than the V-shaped opening, but it is just as classic. The waistcoat accomplishes its job of covering the waist, whilst it shows off as much of the shirt from as possible. The U-front waistcoat is almost like a cummerbund in that it is hardly seen—or not even seen at all—when the jacket is buttoned. Columbo’s waistcoat has covered buttons in the same silk as the waistcoat’s front, and it does not appear to have lapels.

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Columbo wears a white dress shirt made by Frank Foster with a spread collar, pleated front and double cuffs. The shirt’s placket is stitched close to the centre, and it closes with smoke mother-of-pearl buttons, which were also on the shirt Columbo wears with his blazer later in the film. The double cuffs are secured with large, round black cufflinks that have Columbo’s dove emblem in white, and the holes in the cuff are positioned off-centre towards the fold. Columbo’s black silk thistle-shaped bow tie matches his lapels.

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The dove cufflinks, plus a number of gold rings.

Two Lapel Buttonholes on a Double-Breasted Jacket

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A buttonhole in each lapel on Roger Moore’s Douglas Hayward blazer in For Your Eyes Only

Why do double-breasted jackets and coats often have a buttonhole at the top of each lapel whilst single-breasted jackets and coats only have a buttonhole at the top of the left lapel? It is because double-breasted jackets and coats symmetrically have both buttons and buttonholes down the left and right sides whilst a single-breasted jacket or coat only has buttons down the right side and buttonholes down the left side. The buttonholes at the top of the lapels reflect what’s below. Though peaked lapels on a double-breasted jacket never fold over and close like single-breasted notch lapels sometimes do on sports coats, pea coats and some double-breasted overcoats—like the greatcoat—are able to fasten up to the top. These coats do have a button on each side either under the collar or at the top of the chest for the lapels to fold over and fasten to. The two buttonholes on a double-breasted coat are carried over from these more functional garments.

A buttonhole in each lapel on Pierce Brosnan's double-breasted overcoat

A buttonhole in each lapel on Pierce Brosnan’s double-breasted Brioni overcoat in Tomorrow Never Dies

Dimi Major put a buttonhole in each lapel of George Lazenby’s double-breasted car coat and blazer in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Douglas Hayward made Roger Moore’s double-breasted blazer in For Your Eyes Only, his double-breasted suit jacket in Octopussy and his double-breasted dinner jacket in A View to a Kill with a buttonhole in each lapel. Brioni put a buttonhole in each lapel in Pierce Brosnan’s double-breasted blazer in GoldenEye and in his double-breasted overcoats in Tomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. Sean Connery’s, Roger Moore’s and Pierce Brosnan’s naval uniform jackets and Roger Moore’s naval greatcoat all have a buttonhole on each lapel, and the greatcoat’s lapels can close to the top. Daniel Craig’s greatcoat in Quantum of Solace also has a buttonhole in each lapel, and like Roger Moore’s greatcoat it can close to the top.

Double-Breasted-Chalkstripe-Suit

A buttonhole only in the left lapel in Roger Moore’s double-breasted Cyril Castle suit jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun

Cyril Castle, however, only put a single buttonhole in the left lapel in Roger Moore’s double-breasted chesterfield and silk suit jacket in Live and Let Die and Roger Moore’s double-breasted suits, blazer and white dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun. A single lapel buttonhole on a suit jacket discards the ancestry and symmetry of having two lapel buttonholes for instead considering only the actual usage of a suit jacket’s lapel buttonhole: the boutonnière. Even when there is a buttonhole in both lapels, only the left buttonhole should be used for a boutonnière if you are so inclined to wear a boutonnière.

Daniel Craig’s Billy Reid pea coat in Skyfall also only has a lapel buttonhole on the left, which takes into account the reality that even if the lapels were closed, only the left side would actually fasten over to a button on the right. There wouldn’t be a jigger button at the top of the coat like there is at the waist. Since the Billy Reid pea coat has peaked lapels and no buttons at the top, it actually can’t close at the top like a traditional pea coat could anyway.

No lapel buttonholes

No buttonholes in the lapels of Roger Moore’s double-breasted Angelo Roma dinner jacket in Moonraker

Angelo Vitucci didn’t put any lapel buttonholes in the two double-breasted dinner jackets in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker and the double-breasted blazer in Moonraker. This is the coward’s solution for those who can’t decide if a double-breasted jacket should have a lapel buttonhole in the left lapel or both lapels. Though history and symmetry says there should be a buttonhole in each lapel of a double-breasted jacket, it’s not a faux pas to have one buttonhole only in the left lapel. No lapel buttonholes at all ends up looking cheap and leaves no place to wear a flower.

Emile Leopold Locque’s Questionable Suit

Emile-Locque-Double-Breasted-Suit

Questionable taste is often the sign of a villain. Emile Leopold Locque, played by Michael Gothard in For Your Eyes Only, wears a suit that’s just as suspicious as his octagonal-framed glasses. Locque’s light grey flannel double-breasted suit looks too warm to be comfortable where people alongside him are pleasantly swimming and sunbathing. The suit jacket has four buttons on the front with two to button, and the button stance is low, following the 1980s trend. The shoulders are straight and narrow, and the chest is clean and closely-fitted with a little give over the shoulder blades in back. The most questionable part of the suit is the fishmouth “cran Necker” notch lapels, a style that’s rarely made by tailors outside of France. There is nothing wrong with the lapels themselves, but notch lapels of any kind don’t belong on a double-breasted jacket. Notch lapels on a double-breasted jacket are neither an attractive nor a balanced look, and, combined with the jacket’s narrow shoulders, they give this suit an emasculating look. Double-breasted jackets with notch lapels were trendy in the late 1970s through the mid 1980s. Roger Moore wears a double-breasted blazer with notched lapels two years earlier in Moonraker, and the notch lapels place that blazer amongst the worst of James Bond’s clothing.

Emile-Locque-Double-Breasted-Suit-2Locque’s suit jacket also has the unusual, sporty feature of three patch pockets—two hip and one breast—with safari-jacket-style, buttoned pocket flaps. This is another element that puts this suit into questionable taste. The jacket also has deep double vents and three buttons on the cuffs. Though the style of the jacket is odd and not in the best taste, the jacket fits quite well. The back and sleeves drape cleanly, though the low button stance causes some fit issues in the front. The trousers have slightly flared legs with a lapped seam running down the outside of each leg.

The clothes that Locque wears with the suit, by contrast, are very tasteful. The pale blue shirt has a moderate spread collar, square two-button cuffs and a front placket. The black knitted silk tie, tied in a four-in-hand knot, is the literary James Bond classic and is a good complement to this somewhat sporty suit. Locque’s socks are grey to match the suit, and his shoes are black.

Horn Buttons

Horn buttons on Sean Connery's hacking jacket in Goldfinger

Horn buttons on Sean Connery’s hacking jacket in Goldfinger

Real horn buttons are often a mark of a quality suit. They’re currently the standard at most Savile Row tailors and can be found on many of James Bond’s suits over the years. There are quality alternatives to horn buttons, such as corozo nut buttons—often preferred by the Italians—and mother of pearl buttons. Some of the best suits may have inferior alternatives for buttons, thus buttons have no bearing on the overall make of a suit. Quality buttons like horn have the power to improve the look of any well-fitting suit. Horn buttons typically come from ox or buffalo horn, and the buttons are cut out of the hollow part of the horn, whilst toggles—like on a duffle coat—are made from the solid tip.

Goldfinger Charcoal FlannelAnthony Sinclair presumably found horn buttons to be too countrified for most city suits and ordinarily used plastic buttons on his worsteds. But on some of his more rustic suits, like Sean Connery’s three-piece grey flannel suits in Goldfinger and Thunderball, he used grey horn buttons. Sinclair used light brown horn buttons on the hacking jacket in Goldfinger that match both the jacket’s rustic look and its colour. As standard practices amongst tailors changed, Sinclair put horn buttons on most of Sean Connery’s suits in Diamonds Are Forever. The buttons in that film usually match the colours of the suits as close as possible, and the buttons are polished horn for a less rustic appearance.

Lazenby-Tweed-Jacket-Horn-ButtonsGeorge Lazenby’s suits in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service all have horn buttons. The navy suits have black horn, the cream linen suit has beige horn, the glen check suit has dark grey horn, and the tweed three-piece suit and the houndstooth sports coat have medium brown horn. The black lounge coat Lazenby wears in the wedding scene has black horn buttons whilst the light grey waistcoat has dark grey buttons. Suit buttons ordinarily match the colour of the suit as closely as possibly, or at least aim to have little contrast. More contrast in buttons results in a less dressy look.

Like Sean Connery’s suits, most of the Cyril Castle suits that Roger Moore wears in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun have plastic buttons. His beige sports coat in Live and Let Die, however, has matching beige horn buttons. The Angelo Roma suits in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker mostly have non-horn buttons, but the brown tweed suit in Moonraker has medium brown horn buttons, which are a natural fit for the country suit.

Horn buttons on the dinner jacket in For Your Eyes Only

Horn buttons on the dinner jacket in For Your Eyes Only

Douglas Hayward, who made Roger Moore’s suits for For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill, uses dark brown or black horn buttons on navy and charcoal suits, beige horn buttons on his tan and light brown suits, and black horn buttons on the morning suit in A View to a Kill. The brown tweed sports coats have medium brown horn buttons. Hayward does not use horn buttons on his medium grey suits and sports coats.

Surprisingly, Hayward even puts horn buttons on his dinner jackets. The black dinner jackets in For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy and the midnight blue dinner jacket in A View to a Kill have black horn buttons. Horn buttons are paradoxically more refined and more rustic than the black plastic buttons that English tailors often used to use on dinner suits as a simpler alternative to covered buttons. Plastic button today on any item of clothing are seen as undesirable in favour of natural materials, but if horn buttons are to be worn on a dinner jacket they should ideally be the polished type. The dull horn buttons that Hayward chose for his dinner jackets, as beautiful as they are, look out of place. Hayward also uses beige horn buttons on the white linen dinner jacket in A View to a Kill, which could allow it to double as a sports coat. But again, the horn buttons are too rustic for even a white dinner jacket.

Tom-Ford-Horn-ButtonsTom Ford often mimics English styles in his suits, and the English practice of using horn buttons is present on his suits. Consequently, Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall have mostly dark brown or black horn buttons. The grey pick-and-pick suit in Skyfall is the exception with grey horn-effect plastic buttons. There will be more to come on other types of button later.

The Cummerbund and Bond

The cummerbund in Skyfall

The cummerbund in Skyfall

Though the cummerbund is a well-known part of black tie, Bond has only worn a cummerbund on a handful of occasions. Traditionally, one isn’t wearing a cummerbund because he’s wearing a waistcoat or a double-breasted dinner jacket, but those situations do not make up the rest of Bond’s black tie outfits. Bond is well-known for omitting the waist-covering altogether, but Bond wears the seemingly pointless piece of silk around his waist a few times.

According to Black Tie Guide, the cummerbund originated from coloured sashes that British officers wrapped around their waist in India. Now cummerbunds ordinarily come in the form of a piece of pleated silk—with the pleats worn facing up—in the front that connects in the back with a strap and buckle. The purpose of the cummerbund is to act as a formal waist-covering that wears cooler than a waistcoat. It covers the bottom of the shirt front and the trousers’ waistband, so it serves an aesthetic purpose if not a practical one. Unlike how braces and belts aren’t worn together because they serve the same purpose, the cummerbund is not a belt and does not hold up the trousers. Thus, there is no rule about not wearing a cummerbund with braces. Braces can be worn with a cummerbund just the same as they can—and should—be worn under a waistcoat. Bond wears both a cummerbund and braces in Licence to Kill and Skyfall. Though belts and cummerbunds serve do different tasks, a belt should not be worn under a cummerbund since it will show as a bump underneath.

Diamonds-Cummerbund

A fancy, coloured silk cummerbund in Diamonds Are Forever

The cummerbund is traditionally black and matches the bow tie in both colour and texture, but it can be other colours. Burgundy is the most common choice for a coloured cummerbund, but the bow tie should always be black no matter the colour of the cummerbund. Coloured matching bow tie and cummerbund sets are often sold and can be worn for “creative black tie” functions and high school proms, but if you’re trying to follow the elegant example that Bond sets the bow tie should always be black. After all, it’s called “black tie”. The only time Ian Fleming mentions Bond wearing a cummerbund it’s a “wine-red cummerbund” that he wears with his white dinner jacket and dress trousers in the Thunderball novel. Since the bow tie isn’t mentioned, we can assume that Bond wears a proper black bow tie. The first time Bond wears a cummerbund in the films it’s a fancy silk in burgundy and black in Diamonds Are Forever. It’s a flashier 1970s take on the “wine-red cummerbund” that Fleming writes about, but the bow tie is still black. It’s the only time in the series that Sean Connery wears any sort of waist-covering with black tie.

Built-In-Cummerbund

The built-in cummerbund in For Your Eyes Only

In For Your Eyes Only, Bond wears trousers with a sort of waistband that acts like a cummerbund. The waistband is very wide, flat silk that extends across the entire front and fastens with two buttons at the right side. It’s a little narrower than a real cummerbund, but it’s a clever design and acts like a built-in cummerbund. The same type of built-in cummerbund returns in Octopussy. It may not be a proper cummerbund, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Licence-to-Kill-Cummerbund

A flat cummerbund in Licence to Kill

The first time Bond has a traditional black, pleated cummerbund is in Licence to Kill. It’s one of the few redeeming qualities of the black tie outfit in that film. But actually there are two cummerbunds used. The one Bond removes is flat silk and is used with the purpose to conceal rope. But later when Bond wakes up at Sanchez’s villa and sees his dinner suit neatly hung up, it’s the traditional cummerbund with pleats.

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The cummerbund briefly appearing in Quantum of Solace

When Bond wore his dinner suit without a cummerbund or waistcoat in Casino Royale, many people took note of it and started doing the same. Though Bond’s tradition of foregoing the waist-covering began from the start of the film series in Dr. No, it took 44 years for people to notice and make a big fuss over it. When Bond returned in Quantum of Solace two years later, the cummerbund returned. And Bond wore a cummerbund again in Skyfall despite the cummerbund not being very popular at the moment.

The cummerbund does not work well with the low-rise trousers that make up the majority of suit trousers today since the cummerbund should be worn up at the waist and not down at the hips. Some people say that the cummerbund should be used with such low-rise trousers to prevent the white of the shirt from showing between the jacket button and the top of the waistband, but that’s not a true solution for a poorly-designed suit. The cummerbund’s purpose is not to prevent that bit of shirt from showing. The jacket’s buttoning point and the trousers’ waistband in a well-fitting suit should not be very far from one another. The cummerbund should actually be mostly hidden under the jacket and only show just a little above and below the jacket’s button, if it shows at all.

Columbo’s Bathrobe

Columbo-Bathrobe

“It was a very amusing performance between you and the owner of this,” says Bond, referring to Countess Lisl von Schlaf (played by Pierce Brosnan’s wife Cassandra Harris) and Milos Columbo (played by Topol), respectively. And “this” is the red and black striped bathrobe that Bond is wearing whilst spending the night at Columbo’s beach home. Bond often borrows bathrobes and dressing gowns wherever he sleeps, since it’s not the kind of garment most people travel with. However, Bond didn’t come to Columbo’s home prepared with a change of clothes either. The red in the bathrobe brings out the best in Roger Moore’s spring complexion, and the colour was likely chosen by the costume designer to look better on Moore than on Topol, who has a cool, olive complexion. The bathrobe is made of a smooth velour that is very comfortable for lounging in, though it’s not the most absorbent as a bathrobe. The robe also has traditional details like a shawl collar and turn back cuffs.

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Frogmouth Pockets

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Frogmouth pockets in Goldfinger

Frogmouth pockets, also called western pockets or full top pockets, were popular on trousers in the 1960s and 1970s. As opposed to traditional on-seam or slanted pockets that are accessed from the side, frogmouth pockets are accessed from the front like pockets on jeans. But unlike pockets on jeans, frogmouth pockets are not curved. They are slightly slanted down across the front, and offset down from the waistband so the pocket is in the middle of the hips rather than on top of the hips. On lower-rise trousers the frogmouth pockets don’t need to be offset from the waistband. Unlike side pockets, frogmouth pockets don’t flare open trousers that fit tightly across the hips. Frogmouth pockets aren’t very fashionable today, but with the popularity of jeans and tight trousers it’s surprising that the frogmouth pocket hasn’t made a comeback. Though the style naturally goes with today’s trends, they will continue to look dated to the 1960s and 70s unless they come back into mainstream fashion.

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Douglas Hayward trousers in For Your Eyes Only

Sean Connery’s brown cavalry twill trousers in Goldfinger and Thunderball have frogmouth pockets, as do some of his casual trousers. Douglas Hayward, who made Roger Moore’s suits in his 1980s Bond films, put frogmouth pockets on Moore’s suit trousers. They can be seen on the grey flannel suit in For Your Eyes Only and on the black trousers worn with the white dinner jacket in Octopussy.

Connery-YOLT-Frogmouth-Pockets

Notice the dart above the pocket.

Whilst pleated trousers can’t have frogmouth pockets, both flat front and darted front trousers can. Frogmouth pockets and darts aren’t often seen together, but Sean Connery’s grey trousers in You Only Live Twice have a dart above the middle of the frogmouth pockets. Darts can also be along the front edge of the pocket, which is how the brown trousers in Goldfinger are made, and it may be the case for Moore’s Hayward trousers too. Roger Moore’s trousers in The Persuaders have offset jetted frogmouth pockets that cut through the front dart, which is in the middle above the trousers’ leg crease.

Kristatos: The Classic Double-Breasted Dinner Suit

Kristatos-Dinner-Suit

In For Your Eyes Only, Kristatos contrasts Bond’s single-breasted, notched-lapel dinner suit with a double-breasted, peaked-lapel dinner suit that’s slightly reminiscent of the dinner suits Bond wore previously in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Not a whole lot of Kristatos’ black dinner suit can be seen. The dinner jacket has six buttons with two to button, and the jacket is cut with a narrow wrap so there isn’t a lot of space between the two columns of buttons. The cut is timeless with natural shoulders and a clean chest, and with its balanced proportions it wouldn’t look out of place today. It follows tradition with jetted pockets and no vent.

Kristatos-Dinner-Suit-2Kristatos’ shirt appears to be just an ordinary white shirt, especially since the shirt has regular mother-of-pearl buttons rather than studs. It is nevertheless an elegant shirt with its plain front. Though it’s not a proper dress shirt, it is an appropriate shirt especially considering the less formal casino environment. The collar is a long moderate spread collar. The bow tie is a classic black satin thistle.