Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty's Secret Service: To Die For | Clothes on Film – Part 20920

As Contessa Teresa ‘Tracy’ Di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diana Rigg embodied a complex and charming, if sadly terminal ‘Bond girl’. Decked in glamorous, era-specific trends by Marjory Cornelius, Rigg’s costumes were subtly symbolic of her tomboyish nature, culminating in a memorably daring wedding ensemble.

Glamour and symbolism were director Peter Hunt’s idea; he intended a return to the more distinguished Bondian elements of dress and production design as established in Goldfinger (1964). Acknowledged for his dapper style on set, Hunt even sent new 007 George Lazenby to his own tailor. Lazenby’s Bond is one of the sharpest attired in the series, principally because he reflects the flourishing youth movement of the time without betraying the character’s traditional Savile Row sensibilities.

Throughout the film, Tracy wears a variety of dramatic outfits ranging from a scalloped dress in sea green silk and sequins with huge Tudor style trumpet sleeves and deep sweetheart neckline, to a luxurious matching sable fur coat and hat. This was ‘jet set’ chic in the mode of teenage model Twiggy; cover star of the 1960s.

The intricate swirls of Tracy’s mermaid-alike green dress evoke visionary designer Emilio Pucci, one of the most covetable names of the period, while simultaneously acknowledging the upcoming seventies fad for quasi-hippy fashion. Tracy’s wedding outfit seen briefly at the close of OHMSS is cobwebby enough to be scandalous today. Cornelius upholds modesty and a cursory notion of masculinity by making the costume a trouser suit, even though, interestingly, this is only noticeable in publicity photographs and never once made apparent on screen:

White guipure lace all-in-one trouser suit formed of oversized daisy flower heads and seed pearls, sleeveless with scalloped plunge neckline and wide leg pants; detachable tiered coat in sheer ivory chiffon; nude briefs and bra; white patent leather shoes with tall heel and high vamp.

This flower heads iconography is used throughout OHMSS to suggest Tracy as something beautiful emerging, presumably in contrast to her wayward, possibly suicidal state at the beginning of the story. Of course a heart-rending twist occurs when Tracy is murdered just as she has overcome her demons and embraced life. Considering too that the person who helps bestow this will to live is also the person indirectly responsible for her death, and this irony becomes tragic in the extreme.

Another recurring motif is the colour purple, evident in the garish Casino wallpaper where Bond and Tracy meet for the first time socially, then later at Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s (Telly Savalas’s) alpine headquarters, Piz Gloria; in the laboratories and Christmas presents distributed to his ‘Angels of Death’. Peter Hunt was strict in that everything seen should be flawless and coordinated. As normally dowdy secretary Miss Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell showcased a jazzy, contemporary look (bolstered by a specially created bra) requiring more fittings than for any other Bond film. Lazenby himself had over twenty costume changes. He was immaculate, as was Diana Rigg. Crucially, they had to be immaculate together.

Hunt’s trust in Marjory Cornelius was well placed. She had already made beautifully tailored ensembles for Dinah Sheridan and Kay Kendall in Genevieve (1953), directed by her husband Henry Cornelius. Even though Marjory Cornelius was only credited as costume designer on two features, the eye for detail and ingrained sophistication she brought to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ensures its place as the most strikingly clothed Bond film of all.

You can watch movies online including Diana Rigg’s debut role in The Assassination Bureau at LOVEFiLM.com.

© 2011 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.