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.
The legendary Moon of Baroda diamond – valued by its current owner at between $500,000 and $750,000 – is now on display at Christie’s in Los Angeles until October 20, and will be auctioned in Hong Kong on November 27 alongside a signed photo of Marilyn wearing it, as Jordan Riefe writes for the Hollywood Reporter.
“‘It’s gorgeous,’ said Marilyn Monroe when first gazing upon the Moon of Baroda; not a heavenly body to match her own, but a diamond, a rare 24.04-carat canary yellow gem pulled from the legendary Golconda mine, outside Hyderabad, in 16th-century India.
Monroe was on a publicity tour for her breakout 1953 comedy Gentleman Prefer Blondes with its unforgettable song, ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ when the Moon of Baroda became her best friend, on loan from Meyer Jewelry Company in Detroit.
Meyer Rosenbaum loaned it to the legendary actor for publicity purposes surrounding Howard Hawks’ classic comedy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, co-starring Jane Russell, and photos of Monroe wearing it went viral.
What won’t add to its price is a rumored curse alleging that if the gem travels overseas, bad luck will come to its owner. Its 19th century stint in Austria ended with the death of Maria Theresa, and others claim that Monroe’s fortunes took a southward turn after wearing it in 1953, when Gentlemen Prefer Blondes launched her to stardom.”
UPDATE: The Moon of Baroda diamond has been sold at auction in China for $1.3 million – more than double its low estimate, as Christie’s reports.
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.”
Marilyn is at the centre of an exhibition of some of the world’s most iconic photographs, on display in Manhattan until May 25, as Carl Glassman reports for Tribeca Trib.
“If only size mattered, then Marilyn Monroe would be the star of this eclectic display of photographs, simply titled ‘Photo Show,’ now at the Hal Bromm Gallery. Upon entering the Tribeca art space, she greets you nearly from floor to ceiling in 10 poses, wearing that come-hither look and little else. The set of framed color photographs, faded into reddish hues, is from Bert Stern’s famed 1962 series, ‘The Last Sitting’ … While Marilyn may be the show’s dominant presence, she is just the opener in an unusual mix of artists and eras that come together in a logic all its own.
Others include … Philippe Halsman, represented by his own famous—maybe the most famous—Marilyn portrait.”
Meanwhile at Christie’s NYC, ‘Crucifix IV’, a chromogenic print by Stern from 1995, is among the lots from the Yamakawa Collection, to be auctioned on April 6.
Two of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn prints will be auctioned in London later this month. The print shown above will be at Sotheby’s on March 27, while this rare unpublished proof from 1978 will be at Christie’s on Match 28.
A Jewish daily prayer-book acquired by Marilyn at the time of her 1956 marriage to Arthur Miller will be auctioned at William Doyle Galleries of New York as part of their Rare Books, Autographs & Maps sale on Tuesday, November 7. The book, which numbers some 648 pages, is described as ‘quite worn’ and includes a few notations in pencil, apparently by Marilyn herself. It was originally sold at Christie’s in 1999. The estimated price this time around is $4,000-$6,000. For more information on Marilyn’s conversion, read this excellent article by Simone Esther.
Legendary fashion writer Suzy Menkes reports on Christie’s current online sale, ‘The Art of the Pin-Up‘ (including images of Marilyn by Andre de Dienes and Bruno Bernard) for Vogue, noting that the perky innocence of that era is now a thing of the past…
“I can imagine that in the wartime period of hard times, advertising posters with sex appeal brightened the dim streets … Marilyn Monroe in her early days was a curvy young thing on the beach, using her parasol as a support for her pose – bottoms up!
But suddenly, my smile was wiped out by this thought: the cheeky and cheerful images, from an era of playful innocence, looked alarmingly like Miley Cyrus doing her twerking, Beyoncé performing in barely-there outfits of sexual titillation, Kim Kardashian revealing her ever-famous posterior, and Britney Spears sexing up her once teen-girl appearance.
Would I ever buy a pin-up picture? Marilyn in 1949, snapped by Andre de Dienes, might be a cute purchase to enliven my study wall. Although bids can start at £300, Christie’s is putting a starting bid of £1,400 on Marilyn Monroe.
But there is something dispiriting about the idea of Miley and co continuing to distort their bodies as sexual titillation 80 years after Marilyn stepped out on that sandy beach. A century, a millennium and a feminist revolution have happened since then.”
David Gainsborough Roberts’ collection of Marilyn’s costumes and personal items is well-known to fans. I was lucky enough to see it at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire in 2005 (the ancestral home of Marilyn’s poet friend, Dame Edith Sitwell.) He has also exhibited his Monroe collection at the American Museum in Bath, and London’s Getty Images Gallery.
However, Mr Roberts has also purchased items belonging to many other stars, historical figures, and even a few notorious criminals. A selection of his acquisitions – including Marilyn’s red beaded dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – is on display until September 2nd at Christie’s, South Kensington. In an interview with the celebrated auction house, he revealed how the red Travilla dress spurred a lifelong pursuit:
“It was 1991, I’d bought several things at Christie’s, and this Marilyn dress came up. The model was a good friend of mine, Pauline Bailey. I bid £16,000, something like that, and the press went bananas, she jumped up and down – I must have looked terrified! It took off from there, the next day I arrived back here in Jersey and my mother said to me ‘what have you been doing? The phone hasn’t stopped.’ And I said ‘believe me, seven days from now, Marilyn Monroe, Pauline Bailey and me – nobody will give a damn’ and the phone hasn’t stopped since 1991.”
Another MM lookalike, Suzie Kennedy, appeared at the opening of ‘Famous and Infamous’ yesterday, reports the Daily Mail.
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.’