James Bond's style celebrated in Barbican exhibition

Written By MR on Friday, July 6, 2012 | Friday, July 06, 2012


Barbican showcases costumes and props from the films' 50-year history, from suits and swimwear to gadgets and diamonds
Designing 007 at the Barbican: A James Bond suit displayed
on a Sean Connery waxwork next to an Aston Martin DB5.

The Chesterfield coat and hat Sean Connery wears in Dr No for his first meeting with M; Roger Moore's yellow ski suit and red backpack seen on the slopes in The Spy Who Loved Me; George Lazenby's kilt donned in On Her Majesty's Secret Service; the Brioni suit Pierce Brosnan wore to drive a tank in Goldeneye; and Daniel Craig's infamously snug baby-blue swim trunks of Casino Royale fame. All are featured in the Barbican's blockbuster summer show Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style, which opens on Friday

Every aspect of this extensive retrospective of the Bond films has been carefully thought through. It is as camp and fun as it is nerdishly packed with facts, production sketches, storyboards and costume drawings. Film screens playing classic clips are dotted throughout, with scenes relating to the paraphernalia, from clothing to props, gadgets to 25-carat diamonds.

The opening scene of Dr No, the first Bond film, featured a close-up of a turned-back silk cuff on a tuxedo jacket designed by Anthony Sinclair for Sean Connery. The tailor's involvement in shaping the look of Bond is integral to the character's image. A three-piece grey-check suit by Sinclair is worn by a Connery-lookalike mannequin leaning on a DB5 Aston Martin in this show.

Bronwyn Cosgrave, fashion historian and co-curator of the exhibition, says Sinclair's designs are the male equivalent of a Chanel suit. Its athletic cut, she says, inspired designers such as Hedi Slimane, Tom Ford and Thom Browne.

Ford's mohair and cashmere tuxedo, worn by Craig in 2008's Quantum of Solace, also puts in an appearance in a section of the exhibition dedicated to Bond casino moments.

As well as Craig's trunks, there is a recreation of Connery's Thunderball shorts, which Bond costume designer and Oscar-winner Lindy Hemming – the exhibition's other key curator – asked British brand Sunspel to recreate. Such is the power of Bond – Cosgrave says many fashion trends have been inspired by the fashions of this franchise – that Sunspel, who also created clothes for Craig's Casino Royale wardrobe, has launched a new swimwear line.

Designed to take visitors on a Bond-style narrative journey – there are rooms dedicated to M, ski slopes and foreign locations. Cosgrave says the show aims to reflect all 23 films. Visitors walk through a bullet-shaped entrance covered with stills from the films, before arriving in the Gold Room, which features a revolving circular bed complete with white sheets and a gold-painted female body – a nod to the classic scene from Goldfinger.

Pussy Galore's gold waistcoat and Scaramanga's golden gun are displayed in glass cases alongside black-and-white footage of Connery arriving at the premiere of Goldfinger and being mobbed by fans. "The film Goldfinger made Bond a pop-culture phenomenon rivalled only by the Beatles," says Cosgrave.

Other costume highlights in the exhibition include Ursula Andress's Dr No bikini, which was created from the actor's bra and some bottoms found locally during filming, alongside designs by Prada, Gucci and Versace.

In 2002's Die Another Day, Halle Berry's Jinx Johnson paid homage to Andress by emerging from the sea in a similar bikini. But it is Berry's Versace evening dress that is one of the exhibition's standouts. It is a typically flesh-revealing gown in a pinkish purple and featuring glittering jewels across the top section. Alongside the dress are the original sketches by the designer Donatella Versace.

Similarly eye catching is a canary yellow Roberto Cavalli affair which is slashed in the front and splattered with Swarovski crystals around the bust. This was worn by Ivana Milicevic to play Valenka, the girlfriend of Casino Royale's villian Le Chiffre. There is also the red silk georgette, one-shouldered dress worn by Eunice Gayson to play Bond's girlfriend Sylvia Trench in Dr No. This dress was apparently bought by the actor herself from an inexpensive shop near Pinewood studios following the film director Terence Young vetoing costume designer Julie Harris's original choice.

In a section dedicated to Bond villains and enigmas, Madonna's fencing ensemble from Die Another Day and Jaws' metal teeth also feature.

"It's the longest running and most successful film franchise of all time – and the most glamorously made," says Cosgrove. "Nothing can touch it. That is why Bond and his sidekicks are inspirational to people all over the world and to all ages."

by - Simon Chilvers

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