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.”