Napoleon Solo’s First Suit—1960s American Style

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Ian Fleming’s character Napoleon Solo, played by Robert Vaughn in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., is introduced in 1964 as American television’s answer to James Bond. The pilot episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. titled “The Vulcan Affair” became the first episode of the series and was later made into the feature film To Trap a Spy. Napoleon Solo’s first suit in this first episode is based in traditional American style, but it applies 1960s fashion trends to it. The suit overall is very much a product of 1960s fashions, and the trends of the decade pervade the suit in a much more exaggerated way than any of James Bond’s suits of the decade do. The suave American spy dresses quite a bit differently from 007.

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The suit is made of lightweight taupe wool, likely blended with mohair judging by the suit’s sheen. It is probably woven in brown and white yarns. The suit jacket is detailed in a very 1960s manner. The jacket has only a single button on the front and one button on each cuff. The narrow notched lapels are rounded rather than squared. The jacket has slanted pockets with narrow flaps, and both the lapels and the pocket flaps have swelled edges. The rear double vents are very short and about only four or five inches long.

In the American tradition, the shoulders are natural with little or no padding and the front has no darts. The lack of front darts makes the jacket look somewhat boxy, but it still fits closely and has waist suppression. The main different between a jacket with darts and a jacket without darts is that the one without darts has less fullness in the chest. Solo’s jacket has a very clean and close-fitting chest, whilst the waist is suppressed through the rear side seams and the darts under the arms. In following 1960s fashion, the jacket has a shorter-than-traditional length, but it is just long enough to cover the buttocks. This contrasts with today’s short jackets, which have no intention of keeping the buttocks covered. Vaughn has long legs, and the shorter jacket still makes him look out of proportion. The fashionably short length has the benefit of making the 5’10” Robert Vaughn look a little taller. Especially next to the 5’7″ David McCallum who plays Illya Kuryakin, Vaughn looks rather tall.

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The suit trousers have a flat front, long rise, tapered legs and no belt loops. The long rise is the most significant part of Solo’s suit that separates it from today’s suits. It is long enough to almost meet the jacket’s front button. Going against American tradition, the trousers have plain hems. The trousers also are hemmed short, making these what some call high-water or flood trousers. It’s a traditional American style to hem the trousers too short, and Solo’s are about two inches above where the trousers would meet the shoes in front. The short hem shows off Solo’s black socks.

Solo’s white button-down shirt follows traditional American style just as many parts of the suit do. Likely made of oxford cloth, the shirt has a soft button-down collar, rounded single-button cuffs and a front placket. The narrow tie is black with a pronounced diagonal rib and tied in a small four-in-hand knot. The tie is held against the shirt with small tie clip placed just above the height of the jacket’s button. The tie clip is hidden when the jacket is buttoned.

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Solo’s black shoes are an American style of shoe called longwing bluchers. Longwings have a pointed toe cap like a wing-tip, but they have wings extending the full length of the shoe. Bluchers are similar to derbys in that they have open lacing, but on bluchers the vamp and quarters are one piece, and they have tabs sewn to the front for the lacing eyelets.

When off duty, Solo removes his jacket and tie, unbuttons the shirt’s collar and dons a beige cardigan. The heavy ribbed cardigan is mid-hip-length and fits close to the body. From the collar down to the hem, the front of the cardigan has seven smoke mother-of-pearl buttons, and Solo leaves the top button open. The cuffs have four smaller buttons, like what would be found on a suit jacket. The cardigan has a turndown collar, side vents and a patch pocket on the bottom of either side of the front. The cardigan’s front edge, the collar and the top of the pockets have black piping. The unbuttoned shirt reveals a white crew-neck undershirt, which is something Americans are accustomed to wearing. When the shirt is buttoned with a tie, a crew-neck undershirt follows the base of the shirt’s collar so the outline of the undershirt’s neck does not show. With the shirt unbuttoned, however, a crew-neck undershirt is distracting.

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Though fans of certain American and 1960s fashions may appreciate this outfit, I suspect many fans of James Bond’s style will not. The fashionable and American style of Napoleon Solo differs considerably from the more traditional and English style that James Bond wears the same year in Goldfinger. After the first episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Solo’s clothes became a little less fashionable, but also less interesting.

On a Bond-related note, this episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. features a brief uncredited—but unmistakeable—appearance of Richard Kiel (The Spy Who Loved Me‘s and Moonraker‘s Jaws) as a thug.

Comparing Daniel Craig’s Navy Pinstripe Suits

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The three-piece suit in Casino Royale

Quantum of Solace begins moments after Casino Royale ends with James Bond wearing a two-piece navy pinstripe suit. Bond is supposed to be wearing the same three-piece suit from at the end of Casino Royale, but the change from a three-piece suit to a two-piece suit is not because we’re meant to think that James Bond removed his waistcoat. Naturally if a man wants to shed a layer of his three-piece suit, he’s going to take off his suit jacket and not the waistcoat. The reason why James Bond is no longer wearing a waistcoat in Quantum of Solace is because a change in costume designer meant a reinterpretation of the Casino Royale outfit. These two suits are the only two in the series that can be fairly judged by comparison since story-wise they are supposed to be the same suit.

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The two-piece suit in Quantum of Solace

For the final scene of Casino Royale, costume designer Lindy Hemming dressed James Bond in a three-piece Brioni suit to signify that Daniel Craig’s new Bond had become the more sophisticated James Bond we knew from previous Bond films who takes pride in dressing up. This was a large step from being a man who didn’t have a proper dinner jacket earlier in the film. Lousie Frogley assumed the costume designer position for Quantum of Solace and abandoned Brioni for Tom Ford. Perhaps she decided to put Bond in a two-piece suit rather than a three-piece suit because he hadn’t matured into the classic Bond character yet, because a three-piece suit didn’t fit the Lake Garda setting or because a two-piece suit worked more effectively for the intense action stunts. A three-piece suit also would not have looked so great if Frogley was intent on Bond removing his tie. She at least kept the suit a navy pinstripe to maintain a modicum of continuity between the films. But even though the suits are both navy with pinstripes, the pinstripes are white in Casino Royale whilst the pinstripes are light blue in Quantum of Solace. The stripes on both suits are spaced no more than a half-inch apart.

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The three-piece suit in Casino Royale

The cuts of the Brioni and Tom Ford suits are very different. The Brioni suit jacket has straight shoulders with a healthy amount of shoulder padding whereas the Tom Ford suit jacket has much softer pagoda shoulders, which have a slight concave shape. Both suits have roped sleeveheads. The Tom Ford jacket has a more shaped silhouette than the Brioni jacket has, with a more defined waist. Though both suit jackets fit closely, the Brioni has a boxier silhouette. Wearing the suit jacket open adds to the boxy look. Both suit jackets have three buttons with the middle button placed at the middle of body’s waist. The Brioni jacket’s lapels roll gently at the top button, whilst the Tom Ford jacket’s lapels have a harder roll down to the middle button for a button two silhouette. The Brioni sleeves are cut full at the upper arm and taper down to the cuffs. By contrast, the Tom Ford sleeves are narrower through the upper arm and have a slight flare at the end for a dash of English style. Both suit jackets’ sleeves are slightly too long, but it is hardly noticeable in Quantum of Solace since Bond’s arms are hardly ever at his side. The Tom Ford suit also has a little skirt flare, which is lacking in the Brioni suit’s more Italian cut.

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The two-piece suit in Quantum of Solace

The two suit jackets’ details vary too. Both jackets have straight pockets with flaps, but the Tom Ford jacket adds a ticket pocket. Whilst the Brioni suit jacket has a typical angled breast pocket, the Tom Ford jacket has a curved “barchetta” breast pocket, which is a Neapolitan-inspired detail. The Brioni jacket has four buttons on the cuff whilst the Tom Ford jacket has five buttons on the cuffs, worn with the last button open. The Tom Ford suit has double vents, but the vent style on the Brioni suit is difficult to tell. It may also have double vents, but considering that Bond’s other worsted suits in Casino Royale have single vents it could be a likely possibility here too.

The suit trousers between the Brioni and Tom Ford suits have different cuts. Both trousers have straight legs with little tapering, but the Brioni trousers have much wider legs. The Tom Ford trousers have a flat front whilst the Brioni trousers have a small dart on either side of the front placed beside the side pockets. The side pockets on the Brioni suit trousers are slightly slanted off-seam, but the pockets on the Tom Ford trousers are on the seam, which curves forward at the top. The Brioni trousers are worn with a belt and the Tom Ford trousers have slide-buckle side-adjusters placed on the waistband seam. Both suits’ trousers have turn-ups.

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The two-piece suit in Quantum of Solace

The part of the outfit that is the least changed between Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace is the shirt: both are light blue cotton poplin. The Casino Royale shirt is made by Brioni and the Quantum of Solace shirt is made by Tom Ford. The shirt in Quantum of Solace, however, is a paler blue than the shirt in Casino Royale. Both have moderate spread collars, front plackets and double cuffs, though the collar in Casino Royale sits a little higher and closer to the face.

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The two-piece suit in Quantum of Solace

The ties are both blue neat patterns, but they have different patterns and colours. The Casino Royale tie (maker unknown) is a honeycomb pattern in blue and white, and the Quantum of Solace tie (made by Tom Ford) is roughly a pattern of blue and black squares. In Casino Royale Bond ties the tie with a four-in-hand knot whilst in Quantum of Solace he ties it with a windsor knot. The tie in Casino Royale has a very heavy interlining, which makes the knot quite large. Though Bond wears a folded white pocket handkerchief with his other suits in Quantum of Solace, he foregoes the handkerchief with this outfit so it more closely matches the Casino Royale outfit.

Bond, of course, wears black shoes with both suits, but the styles and makers, again, are different. In Casino Royale he wears the John Lobb Luffield, which is a two-eyelet derby. In Quantum of Solace he switches to the Church’s Philip perforated cap-toe oxford. This is one of the least noticeable differences between the two outfits since the shoes are hardly seen.

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The John Lobb Luffield two-eyelet derby in Casino Royale

Through comparing the suits in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, I have described some of the essential differences between Brioni’s and Tom Ford’s silhouettes and styles, though both makers offer a numbers different styles.

Do you prefer the three-piece suit in Casino Royale or the two-piece Tom Ford suit in Quantum of Solace?

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To save you the trouble of asking, yes, I will be posting a comparison of Mr. White’s two similar outfits from these same scenes.

Osato’s Charcoal Suit

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Though black is now the prevailing colour for the lounge suit in Japan, that is not shown to be the case in You Only Live Twice back in 1967. Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada), the head of Osato Chemicals and Engineering and a SPECTRE agent, wears a charcoal grey suit for his meeting with James Bond, or rather “Mr. Fisher”. Though black would suit his complexion well, charcoal is just as flattering and gives Osato a more approachable appearance. Osato’s outfit, though not ostentatious, is fitting for a man in charge of a large company.

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Though weather can get hot in Japan, Osato’s suit is made of a heavy, fuzzy woollen flannel. The suit jacket is cut to make Osato look larger than the short man of no more than five and a half feet that he is. The button two jacket is cut with a full chest and a gently nipped waist. The shoulders are straight and narrow with a lot of padding, to give Osato’s shoulders a little extra height. The jacket is too short to cover his rear, but since Osato’s legs are very short in comparison to his torso, the shorter jacket length actually gives his body better proportions. The a short length also makes Osato’s legs look longer to help make him look a little taller. The jacket’s button stance is low by today’s standards, but it helps to give him the stronger look someone in his position desires to show authority. The jacket has jetted hip pockets, four buttons on the cuffs and no vents. The trousers have tapered legs and plain hems with no break.

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Osato’s cream shirt has a wide spread collar and double cuffs. He wears two different ties with this suit. During his meeting with Bond he wears a dark grey satin tie, tied in a windsor knot. Because the tie is narrow and has a lightweight interlining, the windsor knot ends up being a respectable size. However, it could possibly be a half-windsor knot. Later in the film in Blofeld’s volcano lair, Osato wear the same suit and shirt with a navy tie with subtle self-stripes ascending from Osato’s right to left. This tie is also tied in a windsor or half-windsor knot. With both ties he wears a silver tie bar straight across the tie in the middle of his chest. It should ideally be on the lower half of the tie so it doesn’t distract from the face. Osato also wears a white cotton or linen handkerchief with a grey border in his breast pocket. With the grey tie Osato angles the handkerchief to point towards the face, and with the navy tie he angles it to point toward the shoulder. Osato’s shoes are black plain-toe derbys with either three or four eyelets.

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Getting Seated in a Suit

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There are three things James Bond does when he sits down in his suits. The first is something often recommended for sitting, and that is unbuttoning the jacket. This only applies to single-breasted jackets since double-breasted jackets should always be left fastened. Seeing that only one of the suit jacket’s buttons should be buttoned anyway—only the top button of two buttons and only the middle button of three buttons—it’s easy to open one button when sitting down. Pierce Brosnan’s and Daniel Craig’s Bonds can often be seen unbuttoning their jackets to sit, though other Bonds do it occasionally too. Unbuttoning the jacket makes it more comfortable to sit in, relieves the stress on the button and prevents creases. Notice in the image above, both Bond and Le Chiffre unbutton their dinner jackets when sitting down. Bond also pushes the front of the jacket to the sides to avoid sitting on it, thus avoiding unnecessary creasing and feeling tied down.

On the other hand, James Bond often leaves his suit jackets buttoned when seated, especially in the earlier films. It helps the action between sitting and standing to flow better, and it avoids clumsy fiddling on screen. When Bond opens his suit jacket in Osato’s office in You Only Live Twice, it is done outside the frame. On many occasions when Bond sits with his jacket unbuttoned, he already had unbuttoned it for another reason. And when Bond stands up, he typically fastens his jacket if it wasn’t already fastened. It’s a good habit to have.

Some button three jackets are cut for the top two buttons to fasten, and if you fasten more than one button on your jacket you should leave the buttons fastened when sitting down. When James Bond has two buttons on his button three hacking jacket fastened in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he leaves them both fastened when sitting. Fiddling with more than one button when sitting and standing looks too fussy.

Skyfall-Sitting

The second, and most frequent, thing Bond does when sitting down is give a tug at his trouser legs. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan do this most regularly of all the Bonds. Bond isn’t pulling up his trousers to show off his socks but instead to relieve stress on the trousers. Tugging up the trousers just a little takes stress off the knees to make the trousers more comfortable, to keep the crease sharp and to prevent the knees from wearing out. Even Daniel Craig manages to pull up his tight suit trousers a little in Skyfall. Notice both Bond and Mallory tugging at their trousers legs in the image above.

Brosnan-Sitting

The third part of James Bond’s ritual when getting seated—especially for Pierce Brosnan’s and Daniel Craig’s Bonds—is adjust his shirt cuffs and cufflinks. Notice Pierce Brosnan adjusting both his trousers and his cuffs in the image above. Sometimes the shirt cuffs get stuck inside the suit sleeves and need to be pulled out of the jacket sleeve and straightened when sitting down. Cufflinks, however, rarely need to be adjusted.

Do you unbutton your jacket, adjust your cuffs or lift up your trousers when getting seated?

Count Lippe’s Casual Brown Tweed Suit

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Count Lippe (Guy Doleman) is a SPECTRE agent Bond encounters at the Shrublands health farm in the English countryside in Thunderball. The basis for Lippe’s clothes in the film was taken from Ian Fleming’s description of Lippe in the Thunderball novel:

He was an athletic-looking six foot, dressed in the sort of casually well-cut beige herring-bone tweed that suggests Anderson and Sheppard. He wore a white silk shirt and a dark red polka-dot tie, and the soft dark brown V-necked sweater looked like vicuna. Bond summed him up as a good-looking bastard who got all the women he wanted and probably lived on them—and lived well.

Like in the novel, Count Lippe’s suit in the film is tweed, though it is not herringbone. The mottled appearance makes it very difficult to tell what pattern the cloth is, though if I had to guess I think I see a fine check. It is not beige, however, but a darker taupe-brown overall that looks great in England’s countryside. The tweed is made up of brown yarns likely mixed with cream and green, and possibly other colours too.

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Though the suit in the film is casual in style, the button two jacket with slightly narrow lapels does not have the uniquely relaxed Anderson and Sheppard drape cut that the literary Bond identified Lippe’s suit by. The chest does not have much drape, and the shoulders have too much padding. Anderson & Sheppard’s cut, by contrast, is known for its soft look in both the shoulders and the chest, and sometimes foregoes the front darts on the jacket. Lippe’s suit jacket has the casual details of two open patch pockets at the hips and a matching breast pocket. The cuffs have three buttons, placed very close to the end of the cuff. Based on the way the jacket pull at the skirt, it likely does not have any vents, though the rear is not seen. The jacket’s buttons are light and dark brown horn, and the buttonholes are a bold medium brown that stands out. Judging by the suit jacket’s oversized shoulders and buttons being vey close to the ends of the sleeves, this suit was likely made for another actor for another production and altered to fit Doleman for Thunderball. The suit trousers have gently tapered legs. Though the top of the trousers is not seen, they likely have double forward pleats.

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Notice Lippe’s elegant chestnut brown shoes

Under the suit jacket Lippe wears a light brown doeskin wool waistcoat, which has a felt-like appearance. Its inclusion was likely inspired by the “soft dark brown V-necked sweater” that Fleming writes about, but the waistcoat is not quite a casual as a sweater. Lippe’s tattersall shirt has a cream ground with a large check in a number of colours, which are difficult to decipher. It may include navy, green, purple, red and orange. Country tattersall shirts are typically woven in a twill weave to have a softer and more casual look than crisp poplin. Lippe’s shirt has a spread collar and button cuffs. His tie is medium brown wool and tied in a half-windsor knot. Just peaking out of Lippe’s breast pocket is a puffed green silk pocket handkerchief with purple dots, which would suggest that those two colours are very likely in the tattersall shirt. Silk handkerchiefs go well with wool ties because of the contrasting textures. Lippe’s shoes are elegant chestnut brown plain-toe slip-ons. Though they are beautiful shoes, such a heavy suit would look better with sturdier brogues.

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Over his suit, Lippe wears a car coat that is designed to resemble a shearling coat, particularly with its lambswool-faced shawl collar. Whilst the body of a shearling coat is sheepskin suede, this coat is brown wool melton. The heavy, firm, dull, felted melton has a fine nap that can look almost like suede, especially in the drab brown colour, but it is a traditional cloth for overcoats as well as blankets. The double-breasted coat has four brown leather buttons on the front with two to button. The hem and sleeves are finished with four bands of stitching, like one would find on a covert coat. There are slanted pockets on the front with flaps, and the flaps also have the same four rows of stitching to match the hem and sleeves. The sleeves have buttoned straps, and the back has short double vents.

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D. Major Bespoke Tailors: OHMSS Style

George Lazenby in a cream suit made by Dimi Major

George Lazenby in a cream linen suit made by Dimi Major

Dimi Major is known to James Bond fans as the tailor who made George Lazenby’s suits  for his role as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. D. Major Bespoke Tailors Ltd. continues today under the ownership of Dimi’s son Andrew Major and Andrew’s sister. Andrew Major was kind enough to answer a number of questions for me about the history of the firm and the firm’s work on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Even though Major Tailors only did work for one James Bond film, their clothing played a substantial part in the look of the film and is one reason why the film holds up well today.

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A recent linen suit jacket made by D. Major Bespoke Tailors. Apart from the patch pockets it is not so different from the suit Lazenby wears in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Dimi Major and the history of D. Major Bespoke Tailors

Dimi Major was originally trained to be a tailor by his father, and then moved to London where he worked at Bailey and Weatherill—known to readers of this blog as Patrick Macnee’s tailor for The Avengers—for almost a decade. By that the end of his tenure at Bailey and Weatherill, Major was ready to open his own business where he lived in the Fulham area of London, and since 1959 Major Tailors has been located there at 11 Royal Parade, Dawes Road. Andrew said it was very important to his father to own his premises.

For a few years in the 1960s, Douglas Hayward, later known one of London’s most famous celebrity tailors, formed a partnership with Major. Hayward is known to James Bond fans as the tailor who made Roger Moore’s suits in his three Bond films from the 1980s, and he is also know for formerly being the to Michael Caine, Terence Stamp and many others. Hayward left Major in 1968 when he acquired his own premises in Mayfair. Andrew told me that his father and Hayward remained friends until Major’s death in 2004.

A recent navy chalkstripe double-breasted suit made by D. Major Bespoke Tailors

A recent navy chalkstripe double-breasted suit made by D. Major Bespoke Tailors

The Silhouette

Andrew Major cuts and fits all of Major Tailor’s garments, and he was trained by his father. The silhouette of the suits he cuts is still similar to what Major made for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He said about the cut:

My father always aimed for an elegantly shaped cut, with soft shoulders and a medium-weight canvas for the coat and a slim but not over-fitted line to the trousers. The emphasis has always been on a classic look with a nod to the fashion of the day, without adopting the often fleeting extremes of style. Of course, as bespoke tailors we aim to give our clients what they want while always trying to advise them on what looks most flattering for them. The suits we make tend to last quite a long time, so in the long run it is advisable to avoid being too faddish. This remains our ethos to the present day.

This cut is still the same as what Dimi Major made for George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Lazenby’s suit jackets have a 1960s flair and were made with slightly short with narrower trousers than a classic look would prescribe, but they were certainly not too faddish and do not look out of date today. Major’s attitude towards the fashions of the day is shared by most tailors, even many Savile Row tailors. A good tailor tries to make the client look his or her best above all else.

A tweed three-piece suit made by Major Tailors

A recent tweed three-piece suit made by D. Major Bespoke Tailors

Major Tailors and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Dimi Major made most of George Lazenby’s tailored wardrobe for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Not only did he make the suits, dinner jackets, sports coats and trousers, but also the three-quarter-length peacoat-like overcoat and the Victorian Ulster coat for the Sir Hilary Bray disguise. Andrew Major could not find any records that they made Lazenby’s infamous highland dress, though the firm has made a number of jackets for highland dress over the years but not kilts.

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George Lazenby in an Ulster made by Dimi Major

Not only did Major make clothes for George Lazenby, but they also made clothes for Bernard Lee (M), Gabriele Ferzetti (Draco) and Telly Savalas (Blofeld). For Lee they made two three-piece outfits (though not suits), though there are no records for his green velvet smoking jacket. Andrew Major told me that they have made similar smoking jackets for clients, who want a less complicated smoking jacket that is styled more like a dinner jacket, like M’s is. For Ferzetti they made his navy nailhead three-piece suit and his black lounge outfit for the wedding. Ferzetti’s jackets have stronger shoulders than Lazenby’s have, and that could have been requested by costume designer Marjory Cornelius to give Ferzetti’s suits are more continental look. For Savalas they made the overcoat with the astrakhan collar. Andrew Major said “I know that my father was very proud of his work when he saw it on screen.” After all, Major was responsible for creating the tailored clothing for all of the film’s male leads.

Gabriele Ferzetti in a navy nailhead three-piece suit made by Dimi Major

Gabriele Ferzetti in a navy nailhead three-piece suit made by Dimi Major

Peter Hunt, the director of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was already a client of Dimi Major before the film was made. It is unknown if he influenced the producers to choose Major to do the tailoring for the film in the way that Terence Young brought in his tailor, Anthony Sinclair, to make suits for Sean Connery in the Bond films. Major also made at least one suit for Bond producer Harry Saltzman, though Andrew does not know when. Andrew also told me that they had made suits for another James Bond actor for personal use, but he is unable to disclose whom.

A navy chalkstripe suit by Dimi Major

A navy chalkstripe suit by Dimi Major

Beyond Bond

Major Tailors has tailored many stars for other films, television and theatre over the years. They made George Segal’s suits for the 1973 film A Touch of Class, which resemble George Lazenby’s suits despite having wider lapels. Tony Curtis was also a client of Major’s for many years, including at the time of The Persuaders. Andrew is unable to confirm if Curtis wore any suits from Major in the series.

You can find out more about D. Major Bespoke Tailors at MajorTailors.com

James Bond’s Three Piece Suits

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Three-piece suits have been an iconic part of James Bond’s look since he exited the lavatory on Goldfinger’s private jet wearing a grey glen check suit in Goldfinger. Since Daniel Craig will be wearing a three-piece suit again in Spectre, I thought it would be helpful to look back at James Bond’s past three-piece suits.

The waistcoat

The inclusion of a matching waistcoat (vest) along with the jacket and trousers is what makes a suit a three-piece suit. Bond usually wears a traditional waistcoat that has six buttons and a small cutaway at the bottom. Sometimes the bottom button is on the cutaway, but even if it is not, Bond does not fasten the bottom button. The bottom button on a waistcoat is never fastened out of tradition, but it is also never fastened to allow the bottom of the waistcoat needs to spread apart when seated. In Thunderball (pictured top) the waistcoats are cut straight across the bottom, and all buttons are meant to fasten. The straight-bottomed waistcoats look a little like sleeveless cardigans and are thus slightly less formal. Bond has occasionally worn waistcoats with five buttons or seven buttons, and in Goldfinger and The World Is Not Enough, the waistcoats have notched lapels. Bond’s waistcoats typically have four welt pocked on the front, and the back of the waistcoat is made in the same material as the jacket’s lining.

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Bond showing off the waistcoat to his three-piece suit in Goldfinger

How James Bond wears his three-piece suits

Most of Bond’s three-piece suits are made of dark worsteds or flannels and worn in London. Sean Connery wears a dark brown three-piece suit to the office in Thunderball, and George Lazenby wears two navy three-piece suits (herringbone and chalk stripe) to the office and the College of Arms in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. From Moonraker in 1979 to The World Is Not Enough twenty years later in 1999, Bond all but twice wears three-piece suits to the office and in other London scenes.

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Bond at the office in a navy herringbone three-piece suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

A dark three piece suit gives Bond a traditional, confident and powerful look that is appropriate for his formal office setting. Bond’s dark three-piece suits are most often navy with pinstripes or chalk stripes, but charcoal flannel is another favourite colour for Bond’s three-piece suits. Bond has also worn three piece suits in a business setting in navy herringbone, navy birdseye, grey herringbone, grey windowpane, grey rope stripe and black pinstripe suitings.

For mourning the death of his “brother” in Diamonds Are Forever, Bond wears a black three-piece suit. Today people may consider a three-piece suit too flashy for a funeral, even in somber solid black. Bond also wears two sporty three-piece suits outside of London for non-business occasions: the grey glen check suit in Goldfinger and the brown tweed suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

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Bond in a three-piece suit in Lake Como in Casino Royale

The last time Bond wore a three-piece suit was at Lake Como in Casino Royale. Considering the location, the navy pinstripe suit that Bond wears is out of place. A solid navy or grey two-piece suit would have been better since the three-piece is too serious and pinstripes suggest the office. Though Bond is often overdressed, he is overdressed more than usual in this scene. However, the three-piece suit in Casino Royale signifies that Bond has completed his first mission and is now the more suave and mature James Bond we know from the previous twenty films.

Though the three-piece suit is a little out of place at Lake Como, it is even more out of place on the oil rig during during the climax of Diamonds Are Forever. Bond looks absolutely ridiculous wearing his navy pinstripe three-piece suit there, though it conceals Connery’s heavier figure better than practical tactical gear would have. In fact, a well-fitting three-piece suit is one of the most flattering things a man can wear.

How to wear a three-piece suit

Wearing a three-piece suit has a few difference to wearing a two-piece suit. It allows the jacket to be worn open and still look just as presentable as it does with it closed. If you remove your suit jacket at your desk like Bond does in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, you will look more dressed with a waistcoat. The waistcoat, however, cannot replace the suit jacket for any occasions a suit is required.

Bond at his desk in just his waistcoat

Bond at his desk in just his waistcoat in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The correct proportions and fit are more important with three-piece suits than they are with two-piece suits because they have a waistcoat to tie the pieces all together. It is important that the waistcoat and trousers work together to prevent the shirt from showing between the bottom of the waistcoat and the top of the trousers. The waistcoat needs to cover the the trousers’ waistband. The problem with wearing a waistcoat with modern low-rise trousers is that the waistcoat has to be very long. When the waistcoat is too long it cannot conform to the body as well, which makes the body look heavier when the jacket is removed. A long waistcoat also makes the torso look larger overall, which is not flattering. A waistcoat that is too long will also be uncomfortable to sit in. Wearing trousers with a traditional rise is the only proper way to wear a three-piece suit so the suit as a whole can fit and move with the body in the best way possible.

Octopussy-Grey-Rope-Stripe-2

M, the Minister of Defence and Bond, all in three-piece suits in Octopussy

Three-piece suits should never be worn with belts since they leave a lump under the waistcoat. Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig wear three-piece suits with belts in their Bond films, as opposed to Sean Connery and George Lazenby who wear suit trousers with side adjusters. Ralph Fiennes’ Gareth Mallory in Skyfall wears his three-piece suits with braces, which are the best option for trouser support when wearing a waistcoat. Braces are the only sure way to prevent the trousers from sagging and revealing the shirt below the waistcoat. And if you don’t want anyone to know you are wearing braces, the waistcoat keeps them perfectly hidden. I am surprised that the films have not—or at least not from what can be seen—put Bond in braces when wearing a three-piece suit. The trousers often slip down in action to reveal a sliver of the shirt. This could have been avoided with braces, and nobody would ever know or think that Bond is wearing braces when they are hidden under a waistcoat.

James Bond Shows How a Suit Should Fit

James Bond has often set a good example for how a suit should fit. I’ve previously written about classic proportions and different parts of the suit, but not about overall fit. There is no one way a suit must fit, but there are general guidelines. Today’s slim-fit suits (like Daniel Craig’s suits in Skyfall) and the late 1980s and 1990s baggy suits (like Timothy Dalton’s suits in Licence to Kill) can follow the trends without being poorly-fitted messes. Whilst suits that bunch up or pull are not by any means well-fitting suits, a full-fitting suit and a close-fitting suit can both be equally well-fitting if they have clean lines and are comfortable to wear. The fit of a suit is primarily judged at a natural standing position, but how it moves with the body is also important since a well-fitted suit should never hinder anything but the most unnatural movements. A well-fitting suit should be comfortable to drive, eat or dance (but not breakdance) in.

For this example I am using Sean Connery’s famous grey glen check suit from Goldfinger made by Anthony Sinclair. It has a very classic fit, neither particularly full nor trim. It has fuller cut than what is fashionable today, but the same fit principles apply still.

James-Bond-Suit-Fit

The Jacket

  1. 1Collar: The jacket’s collar must hug the neck when standing both in a natural standing pose and though a little movement, and there must not be any creasing in the upper back below the collar. About a 1/2 inch to 1 inch of the shirt’s collar should show above the suit’s collar.
  2. 2Shoulders: The jacket’s shoulders should be wide enough for the sleeve to hang cleanly, which usually means a jacket’s shoulders are just a bit wider than a man’s natural shoulders. A man’s shoulders are rounded whereas a tailored jacket’s shoulders and sleeves meet at an angle, so it’s hard to compare the two. If your muscles push your sleeve out, the shoulders are too narrow. If the shoulders stick out further than your biceps, the shoulders are too wide. Anywhere in between is an acceptable shoulder width. The width of the shoulders should also be in proportion with the size of your head. Divots at the top of the sleeve do not mean the shoulders are too wide (as often thought) but rather that the chest is too tight across the back or the sleeves are not hung at the correct angle.
  3. 3Chest: The chest can be full and draped with a clean fold in front of the sleeve or close-cut and clean. The chest needs to be large enough that the arms can move without binding the chest. If the chest is too large there will be undesirable diagonal folds in the back. English tailors often cut their jackets with small folds at the sides the back behind the arms to allow for movement whilst keeping the silhouette very neat.
  4. 4Waist: The waist should not be so tight as to cause pulling, though a small “X” at the fastened button is acceptable. Sean Connery’s and Pierce Brosnan’s suit jackets did not fit closely around the waist, but they were still shaped at the waist. George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig all wear their suit jackets closer at the waist. As long as the jacket doesn’t pull at the waist (like on Daniel Craig’s suit jackets in Skyfall), the waist can have as much or as little tapering as you like.
  5. 5Sleeves: The sleeves should be wide enough to hang cleanly but not wide enough to look baggy. A sleeve that is too narrow will feel constricting. In general, the sleeve should follow the shape of the arm as it narrows towards the wrist, but it should be wide enough to comfortably fit a double cuff if you wear them. The angle that the sleeve is hung has a big impact on how cleanly it hangs. The wrong angle can cause wrinkles and discomfort. The angle that the sleeve follows should be how your arms fall at a natural stance. Armholes also play a part, and they should be snug, but not tight, around the armpit. This is known as a “high armhole” because the bottom of the armhole is high into the armpit, and it is one of the few places where snugness considerably increases mobility. A higer armhole allows the sleeve to move more independently of the chest. Read more on jacket sleeves.
  6. 6Sleeve length: The jacket’s sleeve should extend to the wrist bone. One-quarter to one-half inch of shirt cuff should extend past the jacket’s cuffs. This isn’t just to visually balance the shirt collar sticking out at the back of the neck but also to protect suit jacket cuffs from unnecessary wear. Shirts—or even just shirt cuffs—are much cheaper to replace than a suit that has frayed at the end of sleeves.
  7. 7Jacket length: The jacket should be around half the length from the base of the neck to the ground, and it must be long enough to cover the buttocks. English jackets tend to be on the longer side whilst Italian jackets tend to be on the shorter side. Fashion dictates that jacket are to be cut shorter now, just as they were cut longer in the 1990s. But within the current fashions, the jacket should still cover the buttocks or else it throws off the proportions of the body and can make the male figure look less masculine. But unlike any of the other fashions that flout proper fit, there is no loss of practicality or loss of clean lines with a jacket that is too long or too short. Visual balance is the only reason.
  8. 8Vents: If the jacket has a vent or vents, the vent or vents must stay closed. If there are no vents, the jacket should drape cleanly around the seat and not cause the front to pull open. Any man can wear any style of vent as long as the skirt of the jacket is properly fitted. Read more on vents.

The Trousers

  1. 9Waist: The trousers’ waist should be large enough to sit just at the waist without feeling too tight, and it should not be too lose as too sag. Side adjusters and belts exist only for minute adjustments, not to make the trousers a full size smaller. Trousers worn with braces should be slightly larger so they can hang freely.
  2. 10Rise: The trouser rise is the difference between the outseam and the inseam. The typical trouser rise has become shorter over the past fifty years, though it should still be long enough so the trousers can sit high enough to prevent the shirt and tie from showing beneath a fastened jacket button. The suit has a cleaner look when there is no break between the jacket and trousers. Daniel Craig’s suits in Skyfall and Spectre have a long enough rise to prevent this, though the trousers tend to sag lower.
  3. 11Front: Whether the trousers have forward pleats, reverse pleats, darts or a flat front, the front should lay flat without pulling at the crotch or opening the pockets. When there are pleats, the pleats should lay flat and only open when you sit or place your hands in your pockets.
  4. 12Legs: The legs can be wide or narrow as long as they have a clean drape with an uninterrupted crease. Trousers that cling to the leg are too tight and put unnecessary stress on the trousers. Suit trousers don’t stretch, so being too tight is not only uncomfortable but also impractical. Too-tight trousers also cannot keep a sharp crease and will not have the smart look that suit trousers demand.
  5. 13Hem: Full break, half break and no break are all valid options. The trousers are too short when sock can be seen when standing and too long when they pool on top of the shoe or reach the floor in the back. Wider legs need to be hemmed longer and narrower legs need to be hemmed shorter to achieve the same kind of break.

The Waistcoat

  1. 14Chest and waist: The front of the waistcoat must lay close to the chest. The waist should also fit closely, and the adjustable strap at the back should, like trousers adjusters, be used for small adjustments.
  2. 15Length: The waistcoat’s bottom button should be at the bottom of the trousers’ waistband to prevent the shirt from showing between the waistcoat and the trousers when left open. To keep the body in proportion, the waistcoat should not end far below the natural waist. A waistcoat that is too long makes the torso look heavier and the legs look shorter, which is rarely flattering. The waistcoat that is too long will also be uncomfortable when sitting. Because it ends not far below the waist and the second-to-bottom button is placed at the waist (the bottom button should not be fastened), it does not get in the way of sitting. If there is a gap between the waistcoat and the trousers, it is usually a problem with the trouser rise being too short, not the waistcoat being too short.

Sean Connery’s suit does not always look perfect, but that’s due to the “wear and tear that goes on out there in the field”. Because it’s a lightweight suit, it wrinkles more readily than a heavier suit would.