It’s not often that a garment perfectly illustrates a literary technique. But witness Demi Moore in a Thierry Mugler LBD and observe the sexiest version of “Chekov’s Gun” this writer has ever seen. Chekov’s rule of foreshadowing posits that if an element—such as a gun—appears in the first act of a story then it must be used—or fired—before the story ends. Otherwise, why introduce the element at all? In Indecent Proposal, released on this day in 1993, the “gun” is replaced with a Mugler dress wrapped around the body of Moore and represents the crux of the film’s plot. In the opening scene, Diana Murphy (Moore), enters a pricey Las Vegas boutique to steal free chocolates and spots the black crepe and velvet floor-length Mugler. Wearing denim cut-offs and a puzzling rucksack-cum-vest, Diana is obviously out of place, but she pulls the old try-it-on-as-best-you-can-over-your-clothes-maneuver anyway. From the moment she sees the detailed neckline against her collarbone she’s hooked, and so is the audience: It is obvious she is destined to have her “wow” moment in this dress. Things look hopeful when a lecherous but handsome billionaire, John Gage (Robert Redford), appears and offers to buy it for her, but Diana tartly responds, “The dress is for sale. I’m not.” Her resolve on the matter holds until a few scenes later when John invites her and her husband, David, to a private party in his suite. Guess which gown he sends for Diana to wear? David is surprised when he opens the large gift box holding the Mugler, but Diana isn’t and neither is the viewer. The gun is loaded and cocked.
After all the build up, Diana’s big reveal does not disappoint. The Mugler design is fairly simple save its unusual neckline. The modified halter and angular cut-outs are edgy and somewhat architectural modifications to an otherwise seen-it-a-million-times black gown. (Because David is a struggling architect who has bankrupted the couple in his attempts to build their dream house, obvious symbolism can be inferred in the choice of garment.) In addition, Diana’s fashion makeover is underscored by the fact that her character ordinarily dresses like a sloppy adolescent. But at the party, her usual disregard for glamour serves her well. Paired only with earrings and Moore’s simple, sleek bob, the dress is a standout, though a subtler side of the normally outrageous Mugler. Once John stops ogling Diana, he gets to the point and the gun is fired: He wants her, and he’s willing to pay a million dollars to spend the night with her.
At this point, the story begins to falter and, likewise, the film takes a sartorial downturn. Potential for a repeat runway-ready moment can be found on Diana’s “date” with John; the billionaire dresses her in a green chinoiserie number that can never be fully appreciated due to ill lighting and the fact that it follows the more stunning Mugler. But the poor fashion that precedes and follows nonetheless reflects Diana and the men in her life. I won’t give away the ending, but the back and forth between John and David result in wardrobe transformations that are alternately chic and ghastly: one volatile scene has Diana dressed in a sort of Blossom-inspired nightmare that makes you almost want her to leave the architect for the billionaire with a bit of taste. Whether or not Diana turns out to be a lady with a designer closet or one cursed with an abysmal wardrobe, we can rest knowing she at least gets to keep that Mugler. —Rachel Chambers
Cinemode is OTDIF’s ongoing compilation of the world’s most stylish films, a must-see list for fans of fashion. From Klute to Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Shaft, some of the greatest style inspiration comes from the characters and costumes in film. Bookmark Cinemode and check back often to read the growing list. The reviews, written with an eye specifically toward fashion, are added to On This Day In Fashion on the anniversary of the film’s release date.