Website last updated: 17-7-2024

Book review: Fashioning James Bond: Costume, Gender and Identity in the World of 007

By: Brian Smith
Fashioning James Bond Llewella Chapman book review
From Dr. No (1962) to Spectre (2015), Llewella Chapman's book Fashioning James Bond: Costume, Gender and Identity in the World of 007 offers a compelling exploration of costuming in the James Bond films.

Fashioning James Bond is a history of the 007 movies through the prism of costume design. It provides an appealing inroad to an essential element of Bond’s success, but which has never been adequately explored, until now. With an eye for detail as befits the subject matter, the reader is treated to a comprehensive chronicle of costuming through six decades of Bond on film.

Previous books on Bond costuming have tended to lean towards the sartorial aspects of Bond style. Fashioning James Bond forms an all-encompassing view, not just of Bond’s clothing, but the costumes of other characters, costume as part of the films’ marketing campaigns, product placement, merchandising, and the wider role of costuming within the context of overall production design. Take, for example, the monochromatic clothing in Quantum of Solace (which is mirrored in the set design) or Auric Goldfinger’s gold/yellow/brown ensembles.

Llewella Chapman provides interesting analysis on related topics such as ‘lifestyle, fashion and marketing in the 1960s’ and the Brioni debacle which saw the tailors replaced by Tom Ford, thus creating the sartorial continuity error between the end of Casino Royale (2006) and the opening of Quantum of Solace.

Chapman is very perceptive and offers many interesting observations. A case in point is Thunderball’s (1965) Domino (played by Claudine Auger). She is dressed in black when we first meet her, alluding to her allegiance with the villainous Largo. As her allegiance becomes confused, she wears black and white. By movie’s end, firmly on the side of ‘right and virtue’, she is wearing all white. Similarly, Tracy’s wedding outfit designed by Marjory Cornelius for On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) combines elements of all of Tracy’s previous costumes. These are aspects of the films I’d never considered before. Chapman provides a riveting insight into the creative decision-making and working methods of the costumiers and designers.

Chapman’s knowledge of both costuming and Bond films, combined with a monumental level of research, is exploited to full effect. The book is a delight from start to finish and is tailor-made to educate and entertain in equal measure.

Review written by Brian James Smith. Copyright © 2022 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

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