This elegant black shift dress with a chiffon midriff launched a fashion craze when Marilyn wore it at London’s Savoy Hotel, quipping that while the dress was not her idea, her midriff was. Writing for the Hollywood Reporter, Vince Boucher notes that the couturier – the subject of a new exhibition at Drexel University in Philadelphia – was James Galanos, who went on to dress First Lady Nancy Reagan in the 1980s.
“Hollywood is represented in a brown-tweed suit from the fifties from Rosalind Russell with a portrait collar and empire-effect belt with trapunto stitching and in a violet jacketed gown similar to one that Diana Ross wore to the Academy Awards. And in a group of black dresses, there is a 1993 mini with a sheer midriff, a motif the designer returned to again and again, all the way back to a black sheath with chiffon inset worn by Marilyn Monroe at her 1956 press conference for The Prince and the Showgirl, as shown in the exhibition catalog.”
In the late 1940s, Galanos was hired as a sketch assistant by Columbia Pictures’ costumier, Jean Louis (who would also design for Marilyn.) By the 1950s, Galanos was designing collections for Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, and Neiman Marcus in New York. He later settle in Los Angeles, and was known as the ‘master of chiffon.’
Marilyn’s wool crepe cocktail dress was purchased at Bergdof Goodman department store in Manhattan, and was sold at Christie’s in 1999. It was also featured in ‘A Short History of the Little Black Dress’, an article posted on the Real Simple website in 2011.
A dress owned by Marilyn will be auctioned at the annual Hollywood Legends sale hosted by Julien’s in Las Vegas on June 23 to save a valuable collection of items belonging to her idol, Abraham Lincoln, as Ray Long reports for the Chicago Tribune. The dress is authenticated as it was previously listed in the famous Christie’s auction of Marilyn’s estate back in 1999, where it was purchased as an addition to the Lincoln collection. (I think it may be Lot 215, shown between two other black dresses on P160 of The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe.)
“Struggling to pay back a loan used to buy Abraham Lincoln artifacts, the foundation that supports the 16th president’s library in Springfield [Illinois, Lincoln’s birthplace] is selling a black wool dress once owned and worn by movie star Marilyn Monroe.
The three-quarter-length, long-sleeved dress with a scooped neck is the centerpiece of nine items the Lincoln foundation is putting on the block … The auctioneer estimates the dress is worth $40,000 to $60,000, but could sell for much more.
It’s a windfall the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation could use. The group acquired the Monroe dress as part of a private collection of more than 1,000 items from Louise Taper 11 years ago. The foundation financed the purchase with the help of a $23 million loan … The foundation raised private money and whittled the debt down to $9.7 million, but officials said they’ve run into trouble on the loan, which comes up for renewal in October 2019 …
Proceeds from the auction of the non-Lincoln items, including the Monroe dress, seven photographs of the 1950s bombshell shot by noted photographer Arnold Newman, and a bust of Chicago poet Carl Sandburg that she owned, could help make the loan payments.”
The French fashion designer, Agnès B, has revealed in a video posted by The Awl that she was given a private view of the Christie’s auction of Marilyn’s personal property in 1999. She was touched by the simple elegance of Marilyn’s possessions, a world apart from today’s celebrity culture of ‘bling.’
“When Christie’s auction house announced the sale of Marilyn Monroe’s personal estate, my interest was piqued…I have always enjoyed watching Marilyn wiggling and whispering across the screen. I relate to her desire to self-educate. I identified with some of the grimmer aspects of her childhood…I always empathized with her ballsy struggle to replace dismal aspects of her past with a life of glamour.”
After seeing Marilyn’s personal possessions on display, Doonan realised that she was anything but a Material Girl:
“The majority of her clothing showed surprising wear and tear. She had worn it all repeatedly and there just wasn’t that much of it.
Shoes? Yes, there were several pairs of black suede Ferragamo stilettos with worn heels. But Marilyn—brace yourself for another shocker—was more into books than shoes. Her poignant desire to cultivate her mind and give herself an education resulted in an extensive library of first editions. Take that, Carrie Bradshaw!
This stunning lack of materialism made me love and respect her more. What do you need in life other than a good book, a few capri pants, and a cotton sundress or two?”