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Fashion | Screen Style

Conservative Never Dies

January 08, 1998|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Movie: "Tomorrow Never Dies."

The Setup: Eighteenth installment in the adventures of British Agent 007--James Bond (Pierce Brosnan).

The Costume Designer: Lindy Hemming, whose credits include "GoldenEye," "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and most of the Mike Leigh oeuvre.

The Mind-Set: Bond for the '90s could just as well be Bond for the '60s or '80s or '00s. Hemming reinvented the character as the movie world's fashion straight arrow in "GoldenEye" and does it again this time. Why? For starters, conservative suits, plain cotton shirts and subtle patterned neckties don't date a guy. (Ditto for Teri Hatcher's hardly hip, feather-trimmed, bosom-baring evening gown by Spain's Ocimar Versolato.) And, well, that's the way European spies really dress, according to Hemming. "Everyone in Britain knows quite sophisticated, genteel people from Cambridge or Oxford going into the civil service, into the world of espionage," she says. They all have their suits made on Savile Row or, at the very least, buy "off the peg" at a fine men's store such as Gieves & Hawkes.

Vitals: Executing a timeless suit cut is no simple matter. "You follow the dictates of the man's body. It's all to do with balancing his body to make him look his best," the designer says. In Brosnan's case, the actor comes naturally equipped with "excellent proportions," but a bit more weight and muscle than in his last turn as Bond, hence a slightly looser, though definitely not unstructured, overall fit. Other details on Bond's classically cut suits include a gentle, sloped shoulder ("he already has enough shoulder"), a long jacket body ("he's a tall guy and his balance doesn't work with a short jacket"), three-button fastening ("necessary for a long jacket") and slim, single-pleated trousers ("he has slim legs and not very wide hips and can take a lean trouser"). All four of Bond's suits, as well as his caramel cashmere overcoat, were custom-made by Brioni in Rome, whose real-life customers include Nelson Mandela, Tony Bennett, Donald Trump and Rick Pitino. Brioni's made-to-measure suits typically retail for upward of $3,000 (20% more than the off-the-rack suits' price) and are available at Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York and Battaglia in Beverly Hills. Shirts and ties were made by Turnbull & Asser in London. The leather trench coat was designed by Hemming.

Trivia: Bond's one concession to the cutting edge is his suit fabric--no scratchy English tweeds for him, but a new English wool known as Super 100, a fine, lightweight weave that breathes and doesn't crease, which makes sense for a man on the go. "Most men who have their clothes made know about it," maintains Hemming. "It's state-of-the-art fabric."

Get Out Your Magnifying Glass: It certainly doesn't hit you in the face, if you even notice it at all, but Bond's tuxedo is not the standard black. It's midnight blue (same for the bow tie), an ode to the fashion-forward Duke of Windsor, whose evening clothes were a similar color.

Sex Appeal: Unlike the current crop of American action heroes who strut their stuff in muscle shirts and tattered T-shirts, Bond's appeal comes perhaps from the fact that he's so well-dressed. And his chest is bared in only three scenes. "Don't you think that's much more interesting?" wonders Hemming. "You see his physique, but you have to wait for it."

You Should Know: Agent Wai Lin (played by Michelle Yeoh) remains fully dressed throughout. No gold body paint or even decolletage for her. In most scenes she wears loose, black, jersey-like pants (to hide the knee and leg guards she wears in the film) and an Oriental-style red Prada jacket or Sportsmax bamboo-patterned blouse. "The producers and the studio were absolutely [against] forcing her into becoming a cleavage- and thigh-revealing girl," the designer says.

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