For over six decades, a certain suave superspy has headlined an entire franchise, capturing generations with engaging globetrotting, poker-playing, and martini drinking. He’s surrounded by dynamic characters starring alongside him that often outdress even the dapper, you guessed it, the name’s Bond, James Bond.
In every Bond film, there are luxurious cars, idiosyncratic gadgets, quippy villains with baroque master plans, and alas- the ‘Bond girl’, and believe it or not, each girl, be it an ally, foe, or friend, plays a significant role in the development of the franchise. The Bond girls have all left a captivating mark on the big screen alongside 007, depicting character archetypes, development of tropes, or purely adding to the allure of the Bond aesthetic. This begs the question-what distinguishes a Bond girl?
The most articulate distinction of the Bond girl comes from author Roald Dahl in an interview for the film ‘’You Only Live Twice’’, where he recounts the guidelines received for the characters from the 007 producers. The main fix of these girls was the so called Bond girl ‘formula’, breaking them quintessentially into three archetypes- the sacrificial lamb, the femme fatale and alas, the heroine. These women are typically puzzle pieces in a juvenile fantasy, originally inspired by Muriel Wright, whom Ian Fleming, author of the 007 books, often called Honeytop due to her gorgeous blonde hair. She became the blueprint for his Bond girls, chiefly Honey Ryder of Dr. No, which brings us to their styles, and the transpositions in their roles. The introduction of the Bond girls are some of the most paradigmatic in cinematic history, so their ensemble- or lack thereof- is crucial to defining her place in the opulent Bond world.
With most Bond girl introductions taking place at either a poker table or a grand soiree, evening gowns are a requisite to their fashions. Though the low-cut, backless, full length gowns seem to be the template, this execution varies depending on the location, era, and personality. Electra King’s style in ‘The World is Not Enough’ is nuanced, complex, and rather glamorous. It is one of the most exemplary costume pieces of the entire franchise. A Bond girl’s gown often aids in propelling the story visually, in this case blurring the intention, drawing the eye in and narrating what can’t be said, similar to the embellishments of the gown.
Next is Agent XXX of ‘The Spy Who Loved
Me’, whose floor length formal gown featured a classic low-cut v-neck, with spaghetti straps embellished with sparkly crystal detailing and a criss cross open back. Finished off with a column skirt with two rather risque slits, the duality of the dress mirrors her nature. A last honourable mention is Vesper Lynd of ‘Casino Royale’, a clever, proper woman with looks to match. Her looks are rather formal, and the Cavalli purple silk gown stylishly encapsulates serenity, but also a feeling of melancholy and loneliness. This is the dress she dons to cry in the shower, adding a vulnerability and down-to-earth charisma to her person.
Alongside the emblematic evening ensembles, entrances are typical to swimwear moments, chiefly in the 60s and 70s, when a bikini was still quite the unorthodox, scandalous option for a swimsuit. Against the original ‘damsel in distress’ portrayal of women- Honey Rider set an undefeated standard. Her debut in the film in a white bikini, a shell in her hand and a dagger strapped to her belt, it envisioned the ideal Bond girl- she’s beautiful, she’s determined and she’s armed. Domino of ‘Thunderball’ embodied a certain bright, comical assertiveness, allegorized by the use of lines in her black and white bikini, and a black mesh one piece that carries her agenda. Jinx of ‘Die Another Day’ emerges from the sea in a vibrant orange bikini with a dagger on a white belt, capturing the contemporary age in a radiant manner.
Often, the silhouette of the clothing is rather avant-garde, a key factor being May Day of ‘A View to Kill’ whose outfits are cohesive yet eye-catching. Catsuits, biker jackets, leather blazers and over the knee boots are some of the most daring pieces carried by actress Grace Jones, apart from her hooded Alaia dress.
The Bond girls stay sharp in terms of business-wear as well, with pieces such as vests, suits, heavy leather belts, much like the sorts of M herself. The typically masculine clothing mirrors their self assured, authoritative personas. In terms of jewelry and makeup, most Bond girls opt for a chic, dignified, minimal look, with simple yet prestigious gemstones the likes of diamonds or rubies, and generally prefer either a very natural no-makeup makeup look, or a sultry night look usually heavy on the eyeshadow and a bold lip.
The Bond girl kicked off being a mere plot device, rather needy and dim, primarily when she wasn’t British.
The Bond girl was never a respected acting role, as defined by the “Bond Girl Curse”: playing a Bond girl often seemed to irreparably damage actresses’ careers. However, the ’80s and ’90s Bond girls included trained assassins, programmers working for Space Control Centres and nuclear physics doctors who also speak fluent Russian.
With all of their talent, these women did, of course, still find the time to look flawlessly gorgeous, sometimes wearing out of touch attires, such as Denise Richards’ Lara Croft look in ’The World Is Not Enough’.
The most progressive change came about
with Daniel Craig’s Bond films, drastically with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, who quite intellectually challenged him, and Ana de Armas’ mysterious Paloma, who fought beside him and made the movie her own despite having minimal screen-time. The next 007 is in fact rumoured to be played by actress Lashana Lynch which would ensue the most controversial change in not just the Bond girl trope, but also the 007 type too.
Over the last 50-plus years, the Bond girl has evolved and reflected the times just as much as Bond villain threats have (it's Russia! It's the internet! It's coming from inside the organization!), but truly great roles, quite like diamonds last forever.