Demi in Decent Mugler

Demi Moore, Indecent Proposal, 1993.

This past Sunday, the fashion world lost one of it’s most innovative and original couturiers of the last century– Manfred Thierry Mugler. To honor his legacy, we dedicate our first official designer post to the Mugler dress that appears in the 1993 film Indecent Proposal. The garment transgresses character boundaries and becomes indicative of the plot, adding complex psychological layers to the character who wears it. Enter: the divine Demi Moore.

The happily married Diana Murphy (Demi Moore) gets more than she bargained for in this unromantic drama, based on a book of the same name, by Jack Engelhard. Spoiler alert! Diana gets screwed in more ways than one. She bites down hard on a velvety slice of forbidden fruit, gifted to her by a snake of biblical proportions. In this case, the snake is billionaire John Gage (Robert Redford), who slithers in from a twisted garden of Eden– a glittering casino pit at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. Lucky for us fashion freaks, the forbidden fruit is a $5,000 silk and velvet Thierry Mugler dress.

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The film itself received a rocky reception. It was criticized as anti-feminist for positioning Demi Moore’s character as a sex object. Vile as it may be, this criticism isn’t a far cry from Mugler’s ideology as a designer. He and Azzedine Alaïa are credited, in large part, to the return of ultra form-fitting garments for women in the early eighties. One United Press International article from 1982, exclaimed: “The liberation of women from being sex objects went out the window in the 10 days of the 1983 Paris Spring/Summer and Ready-to-Wear shows…” At this the time, Thierry Mugler was exhibiting dazzling RTW collections. Perhaps “dazzling” is an understatement. In 1984, Mugler hosted a 10th-anniversary show for his line. The showstopper featured, as Andre Leon Talley described her, “the first black supermodel” Pat Cleaveland, descending from the ceiling as a Madonna figure. And to think this was a “Ready-to-Wear” show.

Pat Cleaveland, dangling from the ceiling for Mugler’s first-ever commercial fashion show, Zénith Paris Stadium, 1984.

While the Madonna getup isn’t reflective of Mugler’s more constrictive designs, it is a bold display of his gumption as a designer. His visions for women’s fashion were larger than life. Alongside these wilder pieces, Mugler sent refined, impeccably sculptural garments down his runways. By 1992, he was invited by France’s Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode to show officially as haute couture. That same year, his sultry black velvet dress was scouted for the film Indecent Proposal.

Only one thing could add more steam to a ménage à trois between the wealthy playboy, played by Robert Redford, and Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, as a happily married couple. That one thing is the black velvet sculptural dress from Mugler’s Spring 1992 Ready-to-Wear collection.

The dress itself plays a psychological role in foreshadowing the trajectory of Diana Murphy. She lusts after the dress in a casino gift shop, holding the garment up in the mirror to fantasize about wearing it. She checks the price tag. John Gage appears, watching her admire the dress. He encourages her to purchase it, and when she declines, then offers to purchase it for her. Again, she declines. This is an ongoing theme in the film, her declining and then him advancing regardless. There is undoubtedly a conversation about consent to be had here, where no means no, mister John Gage.

Without spoiling the entire movie, you should just know that Diana Murphy is pushed past her initial boundaries and eventually accepts the dress as a gift. This shadowy, subtly revealing black velvet dress symbolizes the dark side of bending your morals for money. In a subsequent scene, she’s seen wearing the garment as more boundaries are tested and pushed. Later in the film, Diana is seen wearing all white.

But it’s that iconic black Thierry Mugler dress on Demi Moore that truly steals the show.

Fashion is a movie. Every morning when you get dressed, you direct yourself.

– Manfred Thierry Mugler

Welcome to LA Cinémode

Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, 1965.

LA Cinémode is a place to study and celebrate the collision of two supercharged industries– fashion and cinema. Film by film, fit by fit, this is a new digital fashion archive to titillate your sense of style, venerate visions of the past, and inspire the future of sartorial culture.

Fashion is no longer seen as frivolous, nor as a solely feminine pursuit. It’s a visual language and a culture of communication. Whether you curate your look or intentionally do not, your clothes have something to say.

Nowhere is this more true than in the magical realm of cinema. The art of costuming is central to any story on film. Books are purely narrative, and photography is purely visual. Filmmaking is a marriage of the two. A solid screenplay is just as important to the prowess of a film as its visual elements. Clothing and adornment are the first things that define a movie character.

Stacy Dash as Dionne Marie Davenport in Clueless, 1995.

Technically garments worn in film are considered costumes. Costume design and fashion design have different objectives, though at their core, serve similar purposes. Costume designers have the great feat of alluring the audience to believe in a film’s characters. Costume design is aimed at selling you the personality of the character wearing it. Fashion design is aimed at selling you the garment itself, and sometimes the social implications attached to said garment.

Though fashion design and costume design are distinct, there HAVE been some exhilarating crossovers. Fashion designers are inspired by cinema. Costume designers are inspired by past, present, and futuristic fashions. Some of the most iconic fashion designers have even taken on the role of costuming a film, like Jean Paul Gaultier, Rodarte, Schiaparelli, Courrèges, Givenchy, Balmain, and Tom Ford, to name only a few. You can expect detailed accounts and explorations of these instances on LA Cinémode.

Rihanna wearing Adam Selman’s 230,000 Swarovski crystal-encrusted dress, 2014.

LA Cinémode aims to place something that is often intended to blend into the landscape (costume design) and make it as exciting and inspiring as Rihanna at the 2014 CDFA Awards (FASHION, BABY). It’s time to archive past looks in cinema so the future of fashion can keep reinventing itself. Who knows, you might even try on a new character to see how it fits. Looking forward to all the film ‘fits our future holds.

In Jacquemus’ name we pray, amen.