Jane Seymour was just 22 years old when she played white witch Solitaire in Live and Let Die (1973). Her wardrobe was a mixture of uniform (as tarot reader), casual (escaping the poppy fields, New Orleans airport) and sexualised (sacrificial peasant dress, various chemises).
Most illustrative of her kooky characterisation however are the maxi-dresses. There is something intrinsically spiritual about a maxi dress; the way it flows and veils the body. It gels with the divine aspect of Solitaire and later, with a rapidly decreasing neckline, epitomises her sexual awakening by Roger Moore’s randy new 007.
When we first meet Solitaire it is only from the waist up, sitting in the U.N. building in New York alongside crooked diplomat Dr. Kananga/A.K.A. Mr Big (Yaphet Kotto) in her unfussy ‘civvy’ clothing:
White pointed collar shirt, red knitted tank top. Long gold-tone costume necklaces.
Knitwear was popular as part of the 1970s hippy craft revival; generally as informal wear during the day and often (as in the film’s opening scene) sleeveless over a slim-fit shirt. The vivid red colour is indicative of the voodoo vibe cultivated by Mr. Big and his eclectic street wear crew.
The big reveal for Jane Seymour in tarot costume is in the back room of the New York Fillet of Soul restaurant. Just a few minutes earlier we see Solitaire stripping down from a brown front-zipped mini dress and knee-high leather boots into a matching lacy topped chemise. Soon after, she accompanies Mr. Big leaving their hotel offering just a glimpse of her newly clad red patent leather platform heel boots as they clip-clop along the concrete.
The first time that we see Solitaire in full dress regalia is the first time James Bond does too. It is her classic look:
Red velvet maxi dress embellished with bead and sequin appliqué, high neckline with attached silver pendants, wide flared sleeves, red fringed hem. Matching cloak with tassel detailing to the chest.
Note the raised round neck; at this stage in the film Solitaire is still ‘unviolated’ by Bond. Note too the ethnic styled adornment which appears somewhat Turkish in origin rather than North African (the habitual home of tarot reading). With this dress experienced costume designer Julie Harris (Whirlpool, 1959; Goodbye, Mr. Chips 1969) created Solitaire’s most enduring poster image, possibly the most enduring for any Bond girl after Ursula Andress in Dr. No (1962) – and Seymour isn’t even wearing a bikini.
Later following her deflowering from 007, Solitaire dons a far more suggestive and revealing empire line maxi gown in gold and red lamé with plunging neckline and butterfly shaped sequin appliqué. Again featuring voluminous flared sleeves, only this time gathered into the wrist.
Before this point during her escape with Bond in the poppy fields, Solitaire adopts a more practical look with orange tunic shirt and white slacks; soon after a delicate sixties style peach day dress.
By now a real contrast has formed between casual, uniform and sexual; just a few scenes earlier Seymour wears a blue kaftan-esque maxi, then a slinky red silk jersey dress with interesting (and revealing) bar finish across the chest. The vibrant red colour though, in some shape or form, is nearly always present in the company of Kananga.
A final memorable image of Solitaire occurs during her attempted sacrifice by crazed Baron Samedi. She is openly erotised in an outfit designed to be both virginal and carnal:
Full length empire line dress in white silk with slashed lace sleeves, low v-neckline and flower/vine detailing to the bust. Gold-tone pendant necklace.
This gathered empire line is similar to designer Thea Porter’s output during the 1970s, although with no ethnic veneer. It is, in fact, rather a plain dress, somewhat akin a hippy wedding gown.
Jane Seymour spent much of her screen time in Live and Let Die being yanked from pillar to post by Roger Moore’s 6’2” frame as they ran from Kananga and his plaid jacketed henchmen. It is fair to say that Solitaire was not a modern Bond girl; she didn’t do much to advance women’s lib (apart from promoting trousers), yet she did represent a hip bohemian fashion movement so often overlooked in 007’s world.
Moreover a Bond girl can be sexy in long frock, even if apparently she needs her cleavage on display most of the time to do so.
© 2009 – 2013, Chris Laverty.