A View to a Kill isn’t very good. Some would even say the 1985 film is the worst James Bond movie of all time. But it’s gone down in fashion history because of Grace Jones, the first Bond girl ever to help design her own wardrobe.
In her book, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, Jones explains how she enlisted the help of Azzedine Alaïa to translate her aesthetic into the Bond cinematic universe. While the Bond girls who came before her tended to be defined by swimwear or pastel evening attire, May Day wound up with a closetful of clingy hooded gowns.
Based on his designs, I think it’s fair to assume Alaïa wasn’t a Bond connoisseur, but his hooded ensembles—which Grace Jones wore off-screen and on the runway as well—spoke to his ability to dress women in clothing that made them feel authentic and free. May Day didn’t dress like other Bond girls, because she wasn’t like them; she seduces Bond instead of being seduced by him, and outshines him entirely while she’s at it. She makes the bad movie worth watching, even if it’s on mute.
I suspect I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about A View to a Kill’s costumes recently. Images of Jones in Alaïa—from the film and from the 1980s in general—must have been circulating among Hollywood’s top stylists, because right now, the world’s most famous women seem to want to wear gowns only if they have hoods attached. This is exciting for many reasons, but especially because watching a red carpet is much like watching a movie on mute, and this barrage of hooded ensembles gives us enough drama to force us to pay attention, even if we don’t know exactly what’s happening.
It’s also pretty easy to follow the current red-carpet plot: Hooded gowns are in and they’re everywhere. When Addison Rae wore a vintage hooded 2012 Gareth Pugh minidress from LILY et Cie to the CFDAs, sceptics on Twitter changed their tune about the famous TikToker, claiming the unexpected fashion choice was reason enough to consider her a “potential mother.” At the WSJ. Magazine 2022 Innovator Awards, veteran fashion “mothers” Kate Moss and Amber Valletta wore hooded gowns straight off the Saint Laurent runway (which paid homage to earlier Yves Saint Laurent collections), accessorised in the most ’90s way possible. Moss’s sheer gown revealed her black underwear, while Valletta just wore plain black sunglasses.
And on a recent trip to Qatar, Bella Hadid wore two hooded gowns: a vintage asymmetrical navy knit from Alaïa’s winter 1986 collection and a bright red gown from Schiaparelli’s spring 2023 collection with a hood that cascaded over her shoulders and ended at her wrists, transforming into long, billowy sleeves. On Instagram, she claimed the latter made her feel like a “walking heart.”
Hadid looked like a walking heart, too, beaming with the kind of aplomb that radiates only when you dress as your truest self. For the half-Palestinian model, the choice to wear hooded gowns to the Fashion Trust Arabia Awards wasn’t just about fashion. It was a homage to her Middle Eastern roots, which she has tried to tap into more overtly in recent years alongside her pro-Palestinian activism.
Alaïa and Yves Saint Laurent were also paying homage to the Middle East with their work. Both were raised in North Africa—Tunisia and Algeria, respectively—and it's clear they were influenced by the religious attire of the majority Muslim population around them. Their designs helped the hooded gown occupy an entirely different space, one Hadid stands at the intersection of as both a proud Palestinian woman and a supermodel making an appearance at an awards ceremony.
There’s movement to a hooded gown that just doesn’t exist in the strappy, often-sequined dresses we’ve unfortunately grown accustomed to seeing on the red carpet. Those dresses aren’t really made with the wearer in mind. Instead, they’re built to showcase her body in a way that signifies traditional sexiness, while constricting it in a way that makes it hard to actually feel sexy. People don’t really ooze sex appeal in a pseudo-prom dress—not like Katie Holmes in a black hooded Tom Ford wrap dress at Tom Ford’s spring 2023 show, or Tessa Thompson in a scarlet red ruched Elie Saab 2022 hooded couture dress at the Venice Film Festival. They both looked slinky despite nearly every inch of their skin being covered, because they were cocooned in sumptuous fabric, gliding with the coquettish ease of someone who’s getting away with attending a high-profile event in a swanky swaddle. The excess fabric of a hooded gown gathers around the body like the malleable clay on a spinning pottery wheel, falling in a way that feels deeply personal—intimate, even. Sure, Hadid says she felt like a walking organ, but she really looked more like an objet d'art.
This fluidity is what drew Yves Saint Laurent to design his signature hooded “capuche” pieces, first in the mid-1980s, and then again for his final haute couture show in 2002. Saint Laurent was inspired by the deep purple tubular sheath worn by Martha Graham for her 1930 choreography of Lamentation, in which she swings her body within the confines of the fabric like a forceful metronome. Graham described the work as “a solo piece in which I wear a long tube of material to indicate the tragedy that obsesses the body, the ability to stretch inside your own skin, to witness and test the perimeters and boundaries of grief, which is honourable and universal.”
What Graham saw as an expression of grief, Laurent saw as clothing that could be as fluid and freeing as an outpouring of emotion. Anthony Vaccarello, the current creative director of Saint Laurent, looked to reprise the theme for the spring 2023 collection. (Ironically, many criticised the way the tall stilettos styled with the capuche dresses made it hard for models to float down the runway as intended—let’s instead envision how incredible they’d look with a pair of flip-flops like those seen at The Row.) And he’s not the only one. Both Halpern and Alaïa featured similar hooded numbers in their most recent collections, and vintage resellers and archivists have seen an uptick in interest around the silhouette. Model Paloma Elsesser recently went to a curated vintage shop, Archive, to source a vintage Issey Miyake piece from 1995 with a pleated train, meant to be worn around the head and shoulders instead of trailing on the ground.
The resurgence of the hooded gown feels right for an era when people seem to be trying to dress to express themselves. But it’s impossible, once again, to not consider the similarities of the garment to religious garb—nuns and monks wear cowls, and Muslim women often wear hijabs. Designers like Laurent and Alaïa saw the hooded gown as a way to let women move freely in flowing fabric, but many in Iran right now are protesting for the right to live free from any head coverings, a movement sparked by the murder of Mahsa Amini, who died after being detained by the police for wearing her hijab “improperly.” And in France, Muslim women have been fighting against xenophobic law proposals that would ban the wearing of hijabs in public for years. Power dressing in 2022 looks different than it did two decades ago, mostly because of how acutely obvious it is that some of us hold all the power in the world, while others don’t—no matter what we wear.
While fashion fans can’t help but worship all these recent hooded gowns created sans the fabric of faith, we have to recognise that power dynamic. But it shouldn’t mean we can’t still marvel over the supreme elegance of a bright silk cowl brushing a clavicle before pooling at the hips, transforming the wearer into a walking heart, or a Bond girl who does her own stunts.
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