Revamping Marilyn’s Cable-Knit Sweater

‘You fellows are always talking about sweater girls. I don’t know what the fuss is about. Take away their sweaters and what have they got?’ – Marilyn Monroe, 1952

French designer Gerard Darel, who acquired Marilyn’s famous cable-knit sweater in the Christies’ auction of 1999, has used it as the inspiration for his autumn collection – though as you can probably tell, his model isn’t blessed with Marilyn’s sumptuous curves.

Marilyn finally whipped off her sweater to reveal a sheer black leotard, after singing ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ in the 1960 musical, Let’s Make Love, co-starring the French-Italian singer and actor, Yves Montand.

Airbrushing, Then and Now

“You know what? I want to look as good as the pictures I see in magazines, but it’s not going to happen. This is how it has always been, and this is how it will always be. We are all smart enough human beings to know that the images we see in magazines or on album covers aren’t real. The fact is that we don’t want to see imperfections, we don’t want to see reality. If I watch a Marilyn Monroe movie I want to see her looking stunning, and in those days it was probably worse than it is now because they actually retouched the negatives so that no bad pictures could ever be seen. I grew up admiring those idealised images, and those women were Barbie dolls compared to what we are looking at today…’

Kylie Minogue

Photo montage by Tiina at Everlasting Star

Debbie Reynolds to Sell Collection

Debbie Reynolds, star of classic movies including Singing in the Rain (1952), is to put her collection of Hollywood memorabilia, worth about $5 million, on auction, after failing to find a buyer.

Miss Reynolds, 78, owns several Monroe-related items, including the famous white dress designed by Travilla for The Seven Year Itch (1955.)

‘Most people collect for themselves … but she collected for the public,’ Reynold’s son, Todd Fisher, told Knoxville News. ‘She collected for all of us. She collected for the American people to preserve the history of their industry.’

On his Marilyn Monroe Collection Blog today, Scott Fortner asks, ‘Will the Seven Year Itch subway scene dress come up for auction? If so, will it outsell the “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress, which sold for $1.3 million in 1999?’

Marilyn in Washington

Marilyn and Arthur Miller in Washington, 1957

“I recently traveled to Washington, DC for vacation, and visits to museums, monuments and even walking down the streets of the US capitol provided associations to Marilyn in varying ways. From Abraham Lincoln to Emilio Pucci, Marilyn’s connection to Washington is evident.”

Scott Fortner recounts his trip to Washington and mulls over the city’s long association with Marilyn, from her girlhood admiration for Abraham Lincoln to her controversial friendship with John F. Kennedy.

Marilyn herself visited Washington on at least one occasion, in May of 1957 with her husband, Arthur Miller, who was later convicted for contempt of Congress after refusing to name associates who had been Communist Party members.

Marilyn supported Miller throughout his trial, and the guilty verdict was repealed in 1958.

Vintage newsreel footage

The Sugar Kane Hairdo

“Now this is actually a lot easier than it may seem. If your hair is already of the correct length, all you need is a good set of medium barrel hot rollers!

I recommend using hot rollers of about a 1 inch diameter. When you’re putting them in, be sure to hold them up and out from your head when you start rolling, so that they go all the way down to the base of your hair and don’t just hang there.

Make sure not to use too big of sections or the heat won’t adequately penetrate all of the hair. You also want to be sure to roll them in the direction you want the curl to go.

For instance, in the pic above the curl goes toward her forehead and under, so you want to roll the hot roller toward your forehead and under when putting it in.”

Rockabilly Online

Marilyn in Playboy: ‘The Juiciest Morsel’


“December 1953. Marilyn Monroe appears on the cover, and as the centerfold, of the first issue of Playboy magazine. Her three-page write-up begins with her measurements; even then, the dispute over them raged. They “have been reported as 35” 24” 37”, 37 ½” 25” 37 ½” and 37 ½” 23” 37”. Sometimes she’s 5’ 4” tall and weighs 120 pounds, but she may shift unexpectedly to 5’ 5 ½” and weigh in at 118.” Her BMI is thus either 20.6 or 19.3, both normal today. Even during a late-life depression, when her weight was a supposed 140 lbs, she was still in the normal range. According to Playboy, Monroe is “the juiciest morsel to come out of the California hills since the discovery of the navel orange.”

Book of Odds

Marilyn: The Last Glamour Queen

Extract from Glamour: Women, History, Feminism by Carol Dyhouse

“As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, film stars still inspired emulation – especially those stars who seemed to offer a new kind of fresh, youthful sexuality, less worldly than traditional glamour, but more intriguing than a femme-fleur. Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn were the icons of the time.

The most prominent screen glamour girl of the period, Marilyn Monroe, had a childlike, vulnerable quality, described by Diana Vreeland as ‘fluffy zaniness’. But Monroe herself embodied many of the contradictions of the era. In the early days of her career, photographed by Tom Kelley nude and stretched out on red satin, she came close to being labelled as ‘cheesecake’. She appeared to lack the self-possession that had distinguished many of the screen goddesses of the 1930s, and she seemed more innocent than other pin-up girls. Monroe was never the girl next door however, and could be capable of a sharp realism. ‘I guess I’ve always had too much fantasy to be only a housewife,’ she confessed on one occasion, adding, ‘Well, I also had to eat. I was never kept, to be blunt about it. I always kept myself. I have always had a pride in the fact that I was on my own.’

Perhaps one of the last high moments in the classic Hollywood celebration of glamour was when Marilyn Monroe, in a memorable public performance, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to John F. Kennedy in Madison Square Garden in May 1962. She wore a gown by Jean Louis in nude marquisette covered with rhinestones, described by Adlai Stevenson as ‘skin and beads’. In 1999 the gown sold at auction by Christie’s for $1.2 million.”

Lois Banner on Marilyn’s American Beauty

Marilyn by Richard Avedon, 1957

From American Beauty by Lois W. Banner (1983)

“The most important film representative of the 1950s voluptuous woman was Marilyn Monroe, who differed from the others by combining with sensuality strains of childishness reminiscent of the adolescent stars. She thereby created a powerful combination that encompassed the era. Technically unschooled and often intellectually vacuous in her film characterisations, she nevertheless possessed both the shrewdness of the classic chorus girl (a character she often portrayed in film roles) and the intuitive genius of a child, able to see more clearly to the heart of a matter than others more sophisticated around her. As a down-and-out member of a seedy female band in ‘Some Like it Hot’, she taught fleeing mobsters Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon the meaning of friendship and love; as a chorus girl in ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, she taught the same lesson to Laurence Olivier, the head of a fictional kingdom. Most of the other voluptuous film stars had dark hair, but Monroe’s was peroxided a light blonde – a colour that invoked traditional images of angels and virtuous women, reflected the light locks of the era’s adolescent film stars, and both legitimised and heightened her sensuality.

Previous exemplars of female sensuality had also had blonde hair: one thinks of the British Blondes in the 1860s and Jean Harlow in the 1930s. But Monroe differed strikingly from the Lydia Thompson troupe and from Harlow. They were tough, wisecracking, even masculine in type. With a slight, lisping voice, a soft curvaceous body, and a seriousness about life, Monroe projected an intense femininity and an inner vulnerability. Her sensual posturings were reminiscent of Mae West, although with no hint of the parody that West intended. Monroe regarded her body with dead seriousness. Long before she was acclaimed as movie actress and sex queen, she had posed for the first nude centrefold in ‘Playboy’ magazine, destined to become a trendsetter in liberalised sexuality and a showcase for the bodies of beautiful women. [Actually, Monroe had posed for a trade calendar – the shots were acquired by Hugh Hefner four years later, after her rise to fame.]

Monroe’s popularity ensured the triumph of the vogue of dyed blonde hair, which cosmetics companies had been promoting. Sales of hair colouring soared; platinum blondes seemed everywhere. The widespread dying of hair to be light blonde indicated women’s acceptance of a model of looks and behaviour that had them be feminine, sensual, and unintellectual. Women were to seem like children, expressing their adulthood primarily through their sexuality. The ‘dumb blonde’ who ‘had more fun’ now became the dominant image of beauty for American women.”

Dr Banner is currently working on two new books about Marilyn.

Read my comparison of Monroe and Harlow, ‘American Bombshells’.