Marilyn in Costume

In today’s LA Times, fashion pundit Freddie Lieba salutes 22 seminal film frocks that bewitched the world. Three of the selections are from Marilyn Monroe’s movies, including this Dorothy Jeakins dress from Niagara (1953).

“Marilyn Monroe plays a femme fatale in this film, and the pink taffeta dress was simply perfect for a seductress—there was both a bow and a cutout near her bosoms. They also famously cut off a little of her high heels to make her hips wobble more and pitch her walk a bit differently and make her somehow look sexier. It was a very risqué look at the time. Niagara was banned by churches when it was first released.”

Can you guess what Freddie’s other choices were?

Find out

The Marilyn Eyebrow

The British pop star, Cheryl Cole, has told Company magazine of her most recent beauty SOS:[/caption]

“I had a disaster last year. I tried to pluck my eyebrows like Marilyn Monroe’s. I saw a programme on her and thought: ‘She’s amazing. I want her eyebrows.’ But I went too far. Everyone was asking if I’d had Botox.”

Perhaps she should have tried this Marilyn Eyebrow Stencil. According to a product review by Tinkerbelll at PopSugar, “Marilyn had a contoured shape in her eyebrows that gave her forehead a wider look … These eyebrows even out the shape of my face, because I have a wider jaw and rounder cheeks, similar to Marilyn’s.”

Marilyn’s Ceil Chapman Dress in Las Vegas

Photo by Ethan Miller

Marilyn Monroe’s Ceil Chapman evening gown is displayed next to Anna Nicole Smith’s custom painted Marilyn Monroe dresser at Julien’s Auctions annual summer sale at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino June 24-27, 2010, in Las Vegas,Nevada.

Scott Fortner has noted on his blog that while beautiful, the gown is partially damaged due to neglect over the years since Marilyn died. Sadly, this is true of many of Monroe’s former possessions – but still, they continue to sell at high prices. Another Chapman gown belonging to the star sold at Christie’s for $100,000 in 1999.

Some info on Ceil Chapman from Vintage Bulletin:

“Ceil Chapman began her career in New York, her first company was ‘Her Ladyship Gowns’ started in 1940 with partner Gloria Vanderbilt. The she went on to another company labeled ‘A Chapman Original’ which later became simply ‘Ceil Chapman’. She was a popular, talented designer through the early 1960’s. Known for her exquisite draping that enhanced the female form, she became a favorite among many stars of the era, such as Deborah Kerr and Elizabeth Taylor. Rumor has it she was the favorite designer of Marilyn Monroe.

Her specialty was evening, formal wear, done in silks, taffeta, chiffon and organdy, embellished with beading and lace. She designed a great deal for movies and television.”

Marilyn’s Gold Dress in Philadelphia

Marilyn Monroe’s legendary gold dress, designed by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), features in Icons of Costume, exhibition of Hollywood wardrobe design, at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Philadelphia until September 5th.

Marilyn wore the dress while singing ‘Down Boy’, but most of the scene was cut.

Nonetheless, Marilyn modelled the dress for some of her most famous studio portraits, and caused a sensation when she was once again sewn into it for her appearance at the Photoplay Awards in March 1953, to accept her award as ‘Fastest Rising Star’.

Philadelphia Enquirer

Michener Museum

‘Diamonds’ Dress Sells for $310,000 at Profiles in History

But is it the same dress that Marilyn wore, asks collector Scott Fortner today…

“The dress Marilyn actually wore in the film (below) is a vibrant and shiny fabric, quite unlike the material of the dress sold at auction (above). In many other examples of proven authentic costumes, they look very much today the same way they did when worn by Marilyn in her films. Most often the colors match, as do the materials and fabrics … The dress that sold at auction is likely a copy of the dress that Marilyn actually wore. We’ll never know for sure if this was in fact the dress Marilyn wore in the number, though personally I don’t believe that to be the case. What is undeniable is the fact that there is more than one pink dress as there are actually two known to exist today.”

UPDATE: A last word from Andrew Hansford, author of Dressing Marilyn, a book about Travilla’s costumes…

 “I was asked by the press if this was the original dress. I did a lot of research and found the following: it had all the right tags and studio numbers so I have to assume it was a Travilla, however and how many time I have said this is amazing, he always made a few of the dresses to check shape and wearability especially in this gown as it was so complicated to create. The dress she wore did have felt lining, this one has not – so no it was not worn in the film. I may have been tried on by her. But it stops there. The dress in the Travilla collection is a prototype and has so many corrections and alterations on it, including at least three cut out linings, which I can only assume did not work. Hense the felt. From his notes he stated she wore two identical copies in that scene as it took so long to shoot and of course no retouching then, any dirt on it and on with the next one.”

Marilyn Pin-Up Party in Yuma, Arizona

Over the last 11 days, it has truly been a delight to hear about the many celebrations of Marilyn Monroe’s 84th birthday. Last weekend, Poisonous Pinups of Yuma, Arizona hosted a birthday bash for the queen of all calendar girls – Marilyn Monroe.

Poisonous Pinups can offer rockabilly, psychobilly, retro, pin-up, hot rod and rock & roll fashions for both sexes, and are located at 2615 E. 24th Street #3. It’s between Pacific Avenue and 3E, on the same street as Smitty’s Body Shop and Paradise Pools.

Report and photos from Yuma Sun

Why Do Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?

Frank Powolny, 1953

Carole Jahme sheds the cold light of evolutionary psychology on the allure of blonde women…

“Blondes do not seem to have lost any of their popularity since the end of the last ice age. Research suggests that blondes feature more often as Playboy centerfolds than they do in women’s magazines, and the percentage of blondes in each type of magazine exceeds the base rate of blondes in the normal population.

This would suggest that the selection pressures that shaped the standards of Western female beauty in the late-Palaeolithic are still the same today…”

The Guardian

Fans Celebrate at ‘Marilyn Square Park’

On June 1st, a celebration for Marilyn Monroe’s 84th birthday was held at Madison Square Park, New York, hosted by the Erno Laszlo skincare company. In her lifetime Marilyn favoured Laszlo’s skincare products, and according to the Angel of Beauty blog, was acquainted with him personally:

“Erno Laszlo was a great part of Marilyn Monroe’s life. When newspapers around the world carried the pictures of her death bed, Laszlo’s Active pHelityl Cream were to be seen on the nightstand. Apparently Marilyn Monroe treasured the quiet, intimate conversations with Dr. Laszlo, and scheduled them often.”

Among the guests were no less than thirty blonde lookalikes, handing out red lipstick and T-shirts while a brass band played music from Marilyn’s era. (Source: DNAInfo)

Photo by Julia Dinh
Photo by Christopher Rosco

Marilyn’s presence also graced the opening of a new Erno Laszlo store in London’s Covent Garden at the weekend.

Official Website

Devotees Blog

Fashion Maverick: Double Denim Marilyn

Eve Arnold, 1960

‘Is double denim ever acceptable?’ asks Guardian reader Sarita. Style agony aunt, Hadley Freeman, replies, ‘Yes. If you are Marilyn Monroe, and only if you are filming the final scene of The Misfits.’

Pondering why Marilyn got away with this apparent fashion crime, Hadley concludes: ‘…put her in an evening dress, you see, and her prettiness gets lazy. Give her a hurdle that she has to overcome, and her beauty mojo speeds up and bursts past the finishing line. Or, you know, something.’

Marilyn also rocked the denim look in Clash by Night (1952) and River of No Return (1954).

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