Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher, lawyer
New York City, Fall 1986
Film: Fatal Attraction
Release Date: September 18, 1987
Director: Adrian Lyne
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
Inspired by costume designer Ellen Mirojnick’s recent podcast appearance on From Tailors With Love that clarified a few misconceptions held around Michael Douglas’ tailored costumes in some of his most prominent movies, let’s finally cover the 35-year-old noir-ish thriller that spawned a cinematic sub-genre centered around Douglas’ sex life getting him in deep trouble.
Despite some behind-the-scenes hesitation about the cast and its controversial story, Fatal Attraction stormed the box office as the highest-grossing film of 1987 at the worldwide box office. The movie was ultimately nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Adrian Lyne, early in his specialty for telling sexually charged cinematic stories of dangerous affairs like 9½ Weeks (1986), Indecent Proposal (1993), Lolita (1997), Unfaithful (2002), and Deep Water (2022).
Fatal Attraction revolves around Dan Gallagher, a successful, charismatic attorney and—for the most part—family man, living with his beautiful wife Beth (Anne Archer) and their bright six-year-old daughter Ellen (Ellen Hamilton Latzen) in Manhattan. Dan’s work representing a publishing company introduces him to the enigmatic Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) during a Friday evening soiree.
After seeing his family off for a weekend in the country, Dan is called into a Saturday morning meeting where, by chance, Alex is in attendance. The two flirt over congressional dalliances and nasally smeared cream cheese until she observes him getting a little too wet and provides the opportunity for him to get something to eat and light her fire.
Alex: And you’re here with a strange girl, being a naughty boy.
Dan: I don’t think having dinner with anybody’s a crime.
Alex: Not yet.
Okay, so after they escape the rain for dinner and a cigarette (what else do you think I meant?), the sexually charged conversation leads to a brief weekend fling that he increasingly regrets as Alex gets a little too… Close, if you will.
What’d He Wear?
“If I remember correctly, Michael had come back from another project, and he wasn’t in the shape that he wanted to be in for Fatal Attraction and so we started, but then we—like, in five days—changed everything and so everything was off-the-rack but, of course, everything is always tailored for the actor,” costume designer Ellen Mirojnick shared in conversation with Pete Brooker and Ken Stauffer on a recent episode of From Tailors With Love. “On that film, nothing was bespoke at all.”
Dan wears a wardrobe of handsomely tailored suits in conservative blues and grays, though he dresses down for his Saturday morning meeting in a sport jacket, polo, and khakis, an outfit that would effectively pass the “smart casual” dress code accepted by many modern-day businesses.
The sports coat that Dan wears as he engages in his affair with Alex is woven in a unique variation of glen plaid, comprised of fine black and cream tics and further characterized by irregular but intentional slubbing. The jacket follows typical single-breasted design with its notch lapels, welted breast pocket, and straight flapped hip pockets.
As he spends most of these scenes either seated or wearing a raincoat, some other details are difficult to discern but it appears to be ventless. The jacket is fully cut with wide, padded shoulders, consistent with the “power suit” silhouette that was fashionable through the late ’80s. The sleeves are roped at the shoulders and finished with three buttons on each cuff, made of a marbled taupe to match the two buttons positioned low on the front.
Consistent with his dressing down for Saturday morning at the office, Dan foregoes a more formal shirt and tie in favor of a soft-knit black long-sleeve polo, with the three-button top fully fastened.
His khaki slacks are rigged with double reverse pleats, another then-fashionable element of ’80s menswear, and styled with side pockets, button-through back pockets, and cuffed bottoms with a full break over the black leather derby shoes that match his black leather belt which closes through a gold-toned single-prong buckle.
Given the nature of the movie—and this specific sequence—we also find out firsthand that Dan wears the same style of white cotton briefs as we’d seen during the curiously costumed opening scene where Dan, Beth, and even the young Ellen were relaxing in the Gallagher family apartment clad only in white shirts and white underwear.
Dan may not have much luck with his umbrella, but he’s at least prepared for the post-meeting downpour in his sage-green waterproofed gabardine raincoat, designed in the classic balmacaan style with its Prussian collar and raglan sleeves that allow a greater range of motion while layering over the padded shoulders of a 1980s sport jacket.
The knee-length coat has a single-breasted fly front with five buttons extending up from waist to neck, supplemented by a full belt that Dan tucks the end of into each welted vertical hand pocket. The coat also has a long single vent and semi-straps that close through one of two buttons on each cuff.
For most of Fatal Attraction, Dan wears a simple black watch that honestly it looks like it could be a Swatch with its plain white dial, detailed with black numeric hour markers and a rectangular day/date window at 3:00.
These Swiss-made quartz watches were all the rage through the ’80s, developed to compete in the “quartz crisis” that had found inexpensive battery-powered watches overtaking venerated mechanical watchmakers. The brand name is a portmanteau meaning “second watch”, intending for wearers to add Swatch timepieces to their collection as backups. We do indeed see Dan wearing a fancier gold watch while later walking his dog Quincy with Alex, though he curiously wears his Swatch-like watch for business and dressier occasions while reserving his gold watch for an afternoon at the dog park with his mistress?
Dan further dresses his hand with a plain yellow gold wedding ring, which clearly needs to be more prominent to keep our hero more faithful to his marriage!
How to Get the Look
Shoulder pads, pleated pants, whitey-tighties, and a Swatch… not to mention a wedding ring. On the surface, it sounds surprising that this would be the outfit to attract a paramour into an illicit tryst, but I appreciate the coordination between Dan’s black shirt and khaki trousers pulled together in the distinctive plaid sports coat.
- Black-and-cream finely woven glen plaid slubbed single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Black soft-knit long-sleeved polo shirt with three-button top
- Khaki double reverse-pleated slacks with belt loops, side pockets, button-through back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black leather belt with gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Black leather derby shoes
- Black socks
- Sage-green gabardine knee-length balmacaan-style raincoat with Prussian collar, raglan sleeves with buttoned semi-strap cuffs, 5-button fly front, full belt, and vertical welted-entry hand pockets
- Gold wedding ring
- Black plastic-cased Swatch Original watch with round white dial (with 3:00 day/date window) on black plastic strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Three months after Fatal Attraction was released, Moonstruck arrived in theaters, asking the question “why do men chase women?” and coming to a quasi-consensus that it’s because men fear death. However, Fatal Attraction may have spun this theory around, causing men to fear death if they chased women.
Yes, I’m discreet.