A View to Alaïa

Grace Jones as May Day, in A View to a Kill.

No offense to Mr. Bond, but Grace Jones stole the show in A View to a Kill, the fourteenth film of the James Bond franchise. Technically, the main character is James Bond, played by Roger Moore. Stylistically, the star of this film is easily May Day, a fierce role delivered to us on a silver platter by avant-garde fashion icon Grace Jones.

Jones pictured here with James Bond, played by Roger Moore.

May Day’s character subverts the dusty-ass script that’s normally written for “Bond Girls.” Instead of playing the piece-of-ass trope, May Day kicks ass and spies in style. The whole James Bondiverse is deeply riddled with problematic depictions of women, but May Day is a refreshing deviation from the usual damsels. She’s not just a strong, gorgeous, capable, and confident badass; she is the epitome of cool.

Christopher Walken and Grace Jones in A View to a Kill, 1983.

Tunisian haute couture designer Azzedine Alaïa was brought onboard to craft May Day’s wardrobe, with the help of Indian costume designer Emma Porteus. Grace Jones and Azzedine Alaïa were tight friends. Jones was his muse and wore original Alaïa garments designed specifically for her body.

The film fashion historian, Christopher Laverty, described Alaïa as “not a household name for the uninitiated, but still remembered as a hugely important designer.” Part of his importance was found in his dressmaker nickname–the King of Cling–and how he utilized stretchy fabric to drape and dance around the human body. We can thank Alaïa, in large part, for the bodycon dress craze.

Grace Jones pictured with Azzedine Alaïa at his atelier in Paris.

Bodycon dresses cling to every little curve, dip, lump, and bump. At first, you might think that style of dress is smothering and restrictive. It is, surprisingly, quite the opposite. Think about wearing a lycra dress versus trousers and a button-up blazer. Which would you prefer for yoga? Sure, your ass cheeks might flop out of the dress but you’ll be one downward-facing dog without ripping a seam.

Alaïa’s commitment to the intersection of the feminine form and comfortable, breathable, dynamic fabrics is precisely what made him the perfect choice for clothing a character like Madame May Day. The woman parachutes off of the top of the Eiffel Tour, tames a bucking horse, seduces Bond, and does karate. Her glamour needed equal parts form, flexibility, and femininity– the very three pillars that Azzedine Alaïa prided his designs on.

“Fashion will last forever. It will always exist.”
–Azzedine Alaïa

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