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From Ursula Andress to Léa Seydoux: How Bond Girl redefined sex symbol

Radhika Bhalla
Radhika BhallaNov 20, 2015 | 16:57

From Ursula Andress to Léa Seydoux: How Bond Girl redefined sex symbol

It's got to be hard being a "Bond Girl" - with decades of sex kittens to match up to, bringing fresh charisma to the screen in dripping dresses and peekaboo lace bits is no mean feat. Given that the actresses in question manage to establish their sex appeal successfully, the lifelong label of being the hero's sexual conquest is quite another thing to live with.

Of course, Bond would never be the grandiose figure he is without the lead lady present in all her stylish glory. For the "Bond Girl" to match his voracious appetite and eye for detail, she needs to balance elegance with intelligence, femininity with nerve, and vulnerability with a taste for danger.

Naturally, the doyenne's style statement has played an important role in creating this aura, with risqué garments being matched with sophisticated flair. The latest "babe" to join the ranks is Dr Madeleine Swann (essayed by French actress Léa Seydoux) in the new Bond movie, Spectre, who represents the Bond ideal but fashion-wise, in a tamer version of her earlier female counterparts.

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French actress Léa Seydoux in Spectre. 

In a movie still, Seydoux channels classic Hollywood dressing as she is seen walking down a train carriage in a dusty green Salma dress by London fashion label, Ghost. The look is completed with sterling silver and Swarovski earrings from David Deyong, an oxblood red pout and short blonde mane styled to perfection. The use of minimal jewellery ensures that all eyes are on her statuesque figure, as the fabric ripples seductively on her skin.

Chic and clean seem to be the keywords here, true to tailored French dressing. A belted overcoat here, a polo neck there - Léa appears down-to-earth while being subtly sexy. She is quite in contrast to the older woman that Bond seduces in the film - Monica Bellucci, who essays the role of Lucia Sciarra. At 51, the oldest "Bond woman" cuts a sensual figure in the film, dressed in black as she mourns the death of her husband in a peplum jacket, pencil skirt, knee-high boots and veiled hat.

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Halle Berry in Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan.

On the whole, the costumes seem calmer this time around, especially in comparison to the previous Bond girl looks. Who can forget Ursula Andress' dripping wet bikini and shells look in the first of the franchise, Dr No in 1962, or Halle Berry's orange rendition in Die Another Day in 2002. Or for that matter, Claudine Auger's one-shoulder spandex and mesh swimsuit in Thunderball in 1965, Diana Rigg's criss-cross bikini in the 1977 movie The Spy Who Loved Me, Shirley Eaton's gold-painted figure in Goldfinger of 1964, Sophie Marceau's gorgeous bead, lace and satin gown in The World Is Not Enough in 1999 or Eva Green's plunging black gown in the 2006 film Casino Royale.

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Sophie Marceau played the oil heiress, Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough.

The Bond Girl has defined and redefined the sex symbol in every decade. Her changing looks have been in constant conversation with the larger social milieu, with influences as varied as Betty Friedan's powerful book The Feminine Mystique in 1963, to the growing concerns of safe sex in the 1980s. In fact, in an article published in the The New York Times on June 25, 1987, Richard Maibaum - best known for his screenplay adaptations of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels - is quoted, "You must take the new sex mores into account when you write a picture now. With AIDS, you can't have James Bond alleycatting around anymore.''

Given the current context, with a growing emphasis on celebrating beauty in every form, and an effort to acknowledge intelligence over boob jobs, Swann's style appears more achievable and accessible for a larger female audience. While she continues to be sexy in the Bondian sense of desirability, Seydoux's declaration in The Telegraph that her character "doesn't need Bond" makes her more exciting than ever. Independence has always had that electric allure to it, increasing the sense of personal worth and power by making a person complete in themselves. The "Bond Girl" has a while to claim her status as an equal and superior to Bond, but until then every step forward is worth it.

Last updated: November 21, 2015 | 16:12
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