Robert Redford as John Gage, smooth billionaire and proposer of indecency
Off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, Summer 1993
Film: Indecent Proposal
Release Date: April 7, 1993
Director: Adrian Lyne
Costume Design: Beatrix Aruna Pasztor, Bernie Pollack, & Bobbie Read
Happy birthday, Robert Redford! To celebrate the screen legend and style icon turning 85 today, I asked my Instagram followers a few weeks ago which of Redford’s yet-uncovered looks I should cover in today’s post: his black tuxedo for his on-screen introduction in 1974’s The Great Gatsby or the cream Cerruti suit he wears for consummation of the eponymous Indecent Proposal. With more than 3,000 votes cast, it was a close race, but Indecent Proposal won by just over 70 votes.
For those who haven’t seen Indecent Proposal, Redford stars as super-billionaire John Gage who—rather than launching himself into space—offers to provide a struggling young couple, David and Diana, with one million dollars… in exchange for one night with Diana. The couple initially refuses, but their financial state inspires a change of heart as the two pragmatically approach their lawyer to draw up a contract. As Diana (Demi Moore) leaves for her “date” with Gage, David (Woody Harrelson) has yet another change of heart… but arrives too late to stop the two from flying on Gage’s helicopter to his yacht, anchored off the Santa Barbara coast.
Standing topside in a dress he purchased for the occasion, Diana remains rightfully bitter about the terms of her arrangement with Gage, who tells her “I bought you because you said you couldn’t be bought.” “I can’t be bought… we’re just gonna fuck as I understand it,” she corrects him.
What’d He Wear?
John Gage dresses almost exclusively within a tailored template inspired by Old Hollywood: double-breasted suits, crisp shirts with sharply pointed collars, and patterned ties. His yacht is no place for business dress, so he leaves the conservative navy and gray suits in his closet with his white shirts and dresses appropriately for a summer evening at sea.
Shortly before Indecent Proposal‘s release, Roger Tredre of The Independent spoke with Bernie Pollack, one of the trio credited with the film’s costume design and a longtime collaborator with Redford, who confirmed that elegance was the key for the actor’s on-screen suits, all sourced from Italian designer Nino Cerruti’s Cerruti 1881 label. “We had to be careful not to make Bob’s character look like a sleazy high roller,” Pollack explained.
Gage stands relaxed but proud at the rail of his yacht in a cream suit that, aside from its startling off-white color, follows the mold of his previously observed trio of suits. The softness of the creamy shade and Redford’s own easygoing charisma help Gage skirt the concern cited by Sir Hardy Amies that “it is difficult in a white suit to have the air of nonchalance that I think real good dressing requires.”
While some of Gage’s double-breasted jackets have the more contemporary six-on-one button configuration, this suit is rigged with a more classic six-on-two button front, though he only buttons the top of the two, arguably correct but still with enough of a laidback air that Redford finds that rare balance between nonchalance and good dressing that the aforementioned Sir Hardy had celebrated in his 1964 volume ABCs of Men’s Fashion.
The tailoring flatters Redford as well as Gage’s smoothly domineering persona, powerfully padded across the wide shoulders, shaped with darts through the body, and gently suppressed at the waist, with the ventless back further serving his lean physique. The straight jetted pockets offer no flaps to collide with the additional ornamentation of a double-breasted jacket, and Gage dresses the welted breast pocket with a brown paisley silk pocket square that coordinates with his tie while avoiding the direct match that some would consider gauche.
Despite the financial transaction driving the evening’s events, Gage hardly considers this a business dealing and leaves the office-ready worsteds behind. Most clearly seen in silhouette when the ship’s lights turn on Gage against the night sky, the cream suiting’s softly napped finish suggests the luxurious possibilities of worsted cashmere or a wool and mohair blend.
Redford’s screen-worn shirts were made by his usual shirtmaker, Anto Beverly Hills, who followed the aesthetic of his tailoring to create strong and stylish shirts with “golden era”-inspired detailing, specifically razor-sharp spearpoint collars. Rather than wearing one of his usual white shirts, Gage selects a sky-blue cotton shirt that serves to both “dress down” this off-hours look while also creating an interesting and nautical-inspired contrast against the off-white suiting.
“I would have liked to have used French cuffs,” Pollack recalled in The Independent, “but this might have implied a slickness that wasn’t right for the character.” Thus, the shirt has button-fastened barrel cuffs, a front placket, and likely a breast pocket to be consistent with his other shirts.
Gage’s olive brown tie follows the patterned neckwear trends of the ’90s, overlaid with dark blue cross-hatched lines, occasionally broken up by amoebic green and bronze blob-like shapes, all bordered in the same dark blue. Auctions and other sources have cited Armani as a significant purveyor of Redford’s screen-worn ties in Indecent Proposal, so it’s likely that this it is also from Armani.
The top of his suit’s matching trousers remain mostly covered by his buttoned jacket and, as we’re not in his stateroom later to witness its discard, we can only imagine it’s styled like his other suit trousers with belt loops, single pleats, side pockets, and button-through back pockets.
The bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs), breaking high over what appear to be dark brown leather lace-up dress shoes.
Gage’s right hand is dressed with jewelry, including the silver tribal ring that Redford had been gifted by Hopis in 1966 and which he has worn in nearly every film appearance since then. Gage’s wristwatch is an elegant gold tank watch with a white square dial, secured to a dark brown leather strap.
The suit, shirt, and tie can be seen more clearly in Martin Barker’s photographs for The Columbus Dispatch of the costume on display last month at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio.
How to Get the Look
Robert Redford’s tailoring in Indecent Proposal recalls the elegance of the “golden era” of menswear half a century earlier, updated to reflect contemporary sensibilities and made contextually appropriate via his off-white styling and sky-blue shirt for a summer evening on the water.
- Cream napped suit:
- Double-breasted 6×2-button jacket with wide peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, and ventless back
- Single-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, button-through back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Sky-blue cotton shirt with long point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Olive (with blue streaks and blue-bordered “amoebic” shapes) tie
- Dark brown leather lace-up dress shoes
- Silver tribal ring
- Gold tank watch with white square dial on dark brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Who made the decision?