On what would’ve been her 89th birthday, we take a look at Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic moments in fashion, and how you can replicate her style.
Hollywood’s biggest star, the epitome of ‘blonde bombshell’, the most glamorous, beautiful yet terribly troubled icon of the 50’s and 60’s is known as much for her feminine curves and undeniable sex appeal as her screen presence. Some of the most talked about moments in history and fashion have stemmed from a Monroe moment – on and off the silver screen. Remember when she stood on top of a subway grate in New York City and made cinematic history? Of course you do! How about when she stole the show at Madison Square Gardens with her version of Happy Birthday, which she performed in front of an audience of thousands at the birthday gala held for President John F Kennedy? Exactly. Our fire needn’t require more fuel. When it comes to style in the movies, the story is long with Marilyn Monroe.
Costume designer Dorothy Jeakins is responsible for the ground-breaking style featured in 1953’s Niagara. Shot on location in the late spring and summer of 1952, the movie was directed by Henry Hathaway and starred Monroe as a cunning adulteress named Rose Loomis. The peekaboo dress in a fiery hot red, which she wore when she crooned the song “Kiss”, denotes the devilish temptress in this 1950s film noir.
We all know the LBD is a wardrobe staple, but do we all know how it achieved such status? Monroe wore a plethora of black dresses, each surpassing the last in its icon status. Arguably one of the most notable dresses, whose thin spaghetti strap famously broke while being worn by the actress during a 1956 press conference for The Prince and the Showgirl, was put up for auction, fetching upwards of $40,000!
It has been 53 years since Marilyn had to be sewn into the Jean Louis-designed dress, which she wore to breathily lull “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at his 45th celebrations. The performance has since become one of the most famous performances of all time. The dress, which has been inspiring red carpet looks since (think Rihanna circa 2014 at the CFDA Awards), was embroidered with 4,000 rhinestones, and was so tight she wore nothing under it.
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Marilyn wore this William Travilla pink dress to sing Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend in her role of the character Lorelei Lee in the 1953 hit Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Travilla designed the clothes of the Monroe’s character in eight different films, and actually later claimed to have had a brief affair with the actress! The satin dress in “shocking pink” – which Monroe later admitted to hating, as it was difficult to wear during the performance – was auctioned off, and bought for $310,000. Oh, and if you’re thinking it looks seriously familiar, it may be because Madonna donned a knock off version for her music video “Material Girls!”
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A laid back approach to dressing in easy monochromatic hues was indeed a favourite of Monroe’s. These famous pictures show a more candid side to the A-list actress, and were shot by Alfred Eisenstaedt, who was dubbed “the father of photojournalism”. Eisenstaedt pioneered candid portraits photography, usually done in natural light.
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This golden pleated gown with a plunging halter-style neckline was also designed by William Travilla. This was another of Marilyn’s costumes in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, which she cited as one of her favourite outfits. You may recognise the photo on the left, of her staring into camera with her red lips parted, as it was to become an iconic one.
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A dress which needs no introduction. The 1955 film The Seven Year Itch, directed by Billy Wilder, saw Monroe step out onto a subway grate and mesmerised a crowd of onlookers, while her white dress blew suggestively above her knees—and sometimes over her head! The dress was created by designer fave William Travilla and has been continuously replicated and parodied since. Even if you have not seen the film, you have seen this photograph. End of.
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