Marilyn Brings Back the Bouffant

Marilyn by Bert Stern, 1962

The bouffant hairstyles of the early 1960s are making a comeback, as Marisa Meltzer reports for the New York Times.

Kenneth Battelle styles Marilyn’s hair for photographer Bert Stern, 1962

“‘The inspiration was the 1960s and Priscilla Presley,’ said Serena Radaelli, who did Cher’s hair. ‘Cher said, “Excuse me, I was alive then,” and showed us photos of herself in the ’60s.’

The hairstyle, known for its round shape, with hair swept off the face and shellacked into place with quite a bit of hair spray, is symbolic of all that is retro. Think of Catherine Deneuve, Betty Draper in Mad Men and multiple first ladies (Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Jacqueline Kennedy).

‘They used to be this glaring symbol that you were a lady of the leisure class, right?’ said Stellene Volandes, the editor in chief of Town & Country. ‘They said, “Yes, I have time to go to Kenneth and spend the afternoon there and have him tease my hair high and eat sandwiches from William Poll.”‘

She was referring to the hairdresser Kenneth Battelle, who was a master of the bouffant. Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy were clients.

Ms. Volandes said she would send those curious about the bouffant to stylists who know their way around an uptown clientele: John Barrett, Valery Joseph, Julien Farel or Serge Normant — or to Paul Podlucky’s apartment salon on East 67th Street for real Upper East Side verisimilitude.

If you’re curious about attempting a D.I.Y. bouffant, Ms. Radaelli has some counsel. ‘Have a nice comb to tease the hair — maybe you need to have a hairpiece — and lots of hair spray,’ she said. She recommended L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Hairspray, which came on to the market in the 1960s. Its gold packaging still has a drawing of a lady with a bouffant.”

Thanks to Eiji Aoki

Marilyn’s Lee Rider Returns

The rigid, heavyweight Lee Rider denim jacket worn by Marilyn in The Misfits is being relaunched for $300, reports Daily Front Row.

“The first 101J Rider jackets started popping up in Lee’s product catalogs in 1925. They originally designed as workwear for cowboys, but soon became popular with women as well and developed a following for their style, as well as their utility … The Reissue version of the jacket remains true to the spirit of the original. It has a slimmed-down, form-fitting silhouette with slanted chest pockets and short-cut waistband. Made with lightweight left-hand twill cone denim, the jacket also features Lee’s instantly recognizable zig-zag topstitching.”

‘All About Eve’ an All-Time Oscar Favourite

Marilyn presents the Oscar for Best Sound Recording to Thomas J. Moulton for All About Eve at the 1951 ceremony

As another awards season ends, All About Eve comes third in Vulture‘s ranking of the all-time best Oscar-winning movies – right behind Casablanca and The Godfather.

“Filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz once described his movies as ‘a continuing comment on the manners and mores of contemporary society in general and the male-female relationship in particular.’ Which meant they were also darkly, piercingly funny. Inspired by a Mary Orr story, which had been based on an anecdote relayed to Orr about a particularly ambitious aspiring actress, All About Eve is a wellspring of razor-sharp dialogue and despicable human behavior, telling the story of Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a massive fan of Broadway giant Margo Channing (Bette Davis) who, slowly but surely, usurps her stardom. A takedown of ego, theater, actors, writers, vanity, and other deadly sins, All About Eve puts the dagger in with such elegance — and then does it again and again.”

While there were no direct nods to Marilyn at this year’s ceremony, British actress Florence Pugh – nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her role as flighty Amy in Little Women – wore a Louis Vuitton gown to Vanity Fair‘s Oscar party which brought to mind a 21st century version of Marilyn’s gold lamé gown, designed by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

On the streets in Hollywood, meanwhile, W magazine profiled some of the faces in the crowd…

What’s your name? Monika Ekiert.
What brings you to the Oscars tonight? I’m an actress and I just finished a film about Marilyn Monroe, because before, I was in a play, The Seven Year Itch.
Are you looking to see any celebrities on the red carpet? I am not looking, I’m an actress. I was famous in Europe, so when I came here it was different, it’s not the same system. Maybe someday soon I can be like them, at the Oscars.

Forever Marilyn (2019)

Marilyn Dons ‘Snap Cardigan’ for Agnès B

Fashion designer Agnès B  has assembled a group of creatives to put different spins on her classic black ‘snap cardigan’ for a new exhibition, opening in Manhattan this weekend and on display until March 1st, Flaunt reports. Among them is photographer William Strobeck, who has put the cardigan on a lifesize cutout of Marilyn in Bus Stop. A Monroe fan herself, Agnès B has said she was touched by the simple elegance of Marilyn’s possessions during a private view of The Personal Property of MM at Christie’s in 1999.

Harley Quinn’s Marilyn Moment

As Birds of Prey (and the Fabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn) hits big screens worldwide, Insider‘s Kirsten Acuna gives some insight into leading lady Margot Robbie’s Marilyn moment (to the tune of Normani and Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Diamonds‘.)

“During the film, Harley is seen dressed as Marilyn Monroe’s character from 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The big change here is that Quinn has an updated version of the gown with pants instead.

Costume designer Erin Benach told Insider they almost did a completely different outfit for Quinn here.

‘It wasn’t even really on the page or decided amongst us that it would be the same Marilyn outfit,’ said Benach. ‘There were talks of it being something totally different and new, like way more Harley.’

The idea to transform the iconic look and update it came to Benach while in a research library. 

‘I remember the moment where I just went, “Oh my God, the best idea is just to take the exact Marilyn outfit and put her in pants. Turn it into pants,”‘ said Benach. ‘It was just a light bulb moment. It hit and I told [director] Cathy [Yan] and Cathy was like, “Brilliant. Done. Do it.”‘

Blancpain Launches Marilyn-Inspired Watch

Blancpain’s Saint-Valentine 2020 watch (left) and the 1930s original (right)

In November 2019, the Swiss watchmaker Blancpain hosted an exhibition of Marilyn’s personal property, including one of their 1930s designs purchased for $225K at Julien’s Auctions during their 2016 sale of items owned by Monroe, at their Manhattan store (see here.) The platinum and diamond watch is more ostentatious than Marilyn’s other jewellery, and its provenance is unclear though it’s said to have been a gift from either Arthur Miller or Joe DiMaggio. Now Blancpain has used the watch as inspiration for their limited edition Saint-Valentine 2020 model, available now for a cool £30, 140, as Tracey Llewellyn reports for London’s Telegraph.

Gene London 1931-2020

Gene London, the television personality turned fashion designer who owned one of the world’s largest Hollywood costume collections, has died aged 88. Born Eugene Yulish in Cleveland, Ohio, he presented a children’s television programme on WCAU Channel 10 in Philadelphia from 1959-77.

When the show was cancelled, Gene moved to New York and started a second career as a dress designer, opening a retro boutique, ‘Gene London: The Fan Club’ on West 19th Street in Manhattan. He also worked as a fashion consultant in film, television and theatre, and as a spokesman for Mikimoto jewellery.

After closing his store in 2001, Gene unveiled over fifty costumes from classic movies which he had collected as a hobby and would showcase in exhibitions over the coming years.

In 2011, Gene appeared on Four Rooms, a UK television show about auctions and collectibles, presenting ‘Myself, Exercising’, an original watercolour by Marilyn Monroe. He was offered £150,000 for the painting, but turned it down.

Gene also owned this photo-booth image of a 13-year-old Norma Jeane, which she had sent with a letter to her older half-sister, Berniece Baker Miracle.

A year later, Gene attended a screening of the biopic My Week With Marilyn, showing filmgoers the original dress worn by Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl (one of four copies.)

“‘You can see by this dress that Marilyn’s figure was ample,’ said London pointing to the white gown. ‘She’s very curvy which was the style then, no longer the style now.’

London said he had his eye on this dress when he was buying other costumes from a man in Wisconsin.

‘The one thing he wouldn’t give me was this dress,’ said London, ‘I wanted it the most of all of them.  He said nope, that’s going to my children.’

But London said the grandchild called 25 years later.

‘I adored the way she acted,’ said London about Monroe. ‘I adore the way she sang “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”  I just love her.  It’s hard to explain why. I just do.'”

ES Updates

The green blouse and black pencil skirt worn by Marilyn in Bus Stop were featured in Designing Hollywood, an exhibition at the Allentown Museum of Art in 2019.

Among the other items in Gene’s collection were an orange camisole worn by Marilyn in a 1953 glamour shoot.

Gene London died suddenly after a fall at his home in Reading, Pennsylvania on January 19, 2020. He is survived by husband John Thomas, and will be buried alongside his parents in Cleveland.