Over at Beam Fashion, Nadja Beschetnikova looks at the stories behind Marilyn’s three ‘most expensive dresses’ (which sold for the highest prices at auction.)
“Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend
‘Apart from the two side seams, the dress was folded into shape rather like cardboard. Any other girl would have looked like she was wearing cardboard, but on-screen I swear you would have thought Marilyn had on a pale, thin piece of silk. Her body was so fabulous it still came through’ – Travilla
The Seven Year Itch
Travilla called it ‘that silly little dress’. The dress indeed has a simple sewing pattern with a typical silhouette for a cocktail dress, which was in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. Although the designer never paid much heed to his creation, it’s now one of the most famous dresses of all time.
Happy Birthday Mr President
Jean Louis had originally designed a version of the dress for Marlene Dietrich. Her live performances always had almost a magical effect to the audience thanks in no small part to her fascinating outfits. This backless flesh-colored gown remains an example to emulate for modern celebrities and pioneered the trend for ‘naked’ dresses.”
The ‘nude’ beaded dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 will be auctioned at Julien’s next month, with bids starting at $1 million. There are also several other items on offer from the historic gala, including Marilyn’s own ticket and program.
Legendary costume designer Bob Mackie began his career as a sketch artist for Jean Louis, and his drawings of Marilyn’s dress are also up for sale. At the time of his first attempt, Mackie didn’t know who the dress was for (although he was already working with Jean Louis on Marilyn’s costumes for Something’s Got to Give.)
Five colour photos from the collection of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, and an eight-minute film comprised of clips from the night’s entertainment, take us back to the events of 1962.
Illustrator LeRoy Neiman captured Marilyn’s unforgettable performance in art.
Producer Clive David kept a commemorative tile signed by various stars in attendance, including Marilyn, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Benny and Maria Callas. It would be Marilyn’s last major public appearance, triggering over fifty years of rampant speculation.
UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.
With a cover featuring Marlene Dietrich, this comprehensive study devotes separate chapters to the many designers who worked with Marilyn, including Renie, Elois Jenssen, Orry-Kelly, Charles LeMaire, Jean Louis, William Travilla and Dorothy Jeakins.
For Hollywood costume fans, Creating the Illusion will make a great companion to Christopher Nickens’ excellent 2012 book, Marilyn in Fashion.
A backless, floral shift dress worn by Marilyn in her final, shelved movie, Something’s Got to Give – as designed by Jean Louis – is a highlight of an upcoming Julien’s Auctions Hollywood Legends sale, set for June 26-27, with an estimated value of at least $400, 000, reports Artfix Daily.
“The figure hugging silk crepe dress is printed with scattered painterly roses in shades of persimmon and deep cherry with a plunging V back. The interior of the studio constructed dress has hand finished details, is lined with ivory soufflé and has boning to the waistline.”
Another item on offer is a script owned by Marilyn, entitled Frankie and Johnny. Could this be an early version of the eponymous 1966 film starring Elvis Presley – opposite Donna Douglas, best-known as Ellie Mae Clampett in TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies?
“Other highlights chronicling the personal life and career of the world’s most intriguing screen icon include rare items including a Marilyn Monroe black velvet bustier (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000), a black silk underskirt from the Estate of Marilyn Monroe (Estimate: $6,000-$8,000), Marilyn Monroe’s personal copy of behind-the-scenes footage of The Misfits (Estimate: $3,000-$5,000), Marilyn Monroe Frankie and Johnny script (Estimate: $10,000-$20,000), a 1961 black and white photograph of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable on the set of The Misfits ($5,000-$7,000), a photo layout sheet of four Marilyn Monroe color photographs (Estimate: $5,000-$7,000), a Marilyn Monroe owned hat (Estimate: $7000-$9000), a Marilyn Monroe side view x-ray from Cedars of Lebanon Hospital/Drs. E. Freedman and S. Finck dated 11-10-54 which was used by the radiology resident at Cedars for teaching which Marilyn was aware of. The x-rays are said to be from her visit to the hospital for her chronic endometriosis (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000). Also included are a collection of signed vintage gelatin silver photographs of Marilyn Monroe by Bruno Bernard known as Bernard of Hollywood (Various estimates), Marilyn Monroe eyeliner pencils (Estimate: $800-$1,200), a Marilyn Monroe cosmetic jar (Estimate: $2,000-$4,000), a Marilyn Monroe signed white glove (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000), a Marilyn Monroe grave marker (Estimate: $2,000-$4,000) and many more items from the life and career of Monroe.”
The Mexican beach jacket worn by Marilyn during her last photo session – with George Barris in July 1962 – is one of the inspirations behind Max Mara’s Fall 2015 collection, reports Women’s Wear Daily.
Among the wrapover sweaters and coats, I also noticed designs similar to the Jean Louis costumes worn by Marilyn for her role as ‘bohemian’ Amanda in Let’s Make Love (1960.)
Of course, today’s catwalk models can’t fill out a sweater quite like Marilyn did – and by the way, when did smiling go out of fashion?
This floral-print dress, designed by Jean-Louis and worn by Marilyn in the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give, was bought on Ebay last year for $57,000 by Deborah Burke of Stamford, Connecticut.
The dress was featured on last week’s Final Offershow, on the Discovery Channel. A preview video was posted on MSNBC. (Spoiler: one collector offered Burke $800,000, but she decided to hold out for a million, reports Huffington Post!)
The ‘nude’ sequinned dress, designed by Jean Louis and worn by Marilyn on John F. Kennedy’s birthday in 1962, features in 100 Unforgettable Dresses, a new book by Hal Rubinstein (as well as Travilla’s white halter-neck dress from The Seven Year Itch.)