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.
Memories of Marilyn lingered on the catwalk at last night’s Golden Globes. Marilyn herself won awards for Some Like it Hot, and as ‘World Film Favourite’. However, it was her appearance at a different ceremony – the Photoplay Awards in 1953 – that inspired the stars last night.
Jessica Chastain, reported to be cast as Marilyn in an as yet unmade big-screen adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, wore a Versace gown reminiscent of MM’s iconic gold dress, but in a darker shade.
But singer Lana Del Rey – who has referenced Marilyn in several songs and videos – went the extra mile, wearing a vintage design by Travilla, who created the original gown in 1952.
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.
Artist Tom Tierney, who created over 400 ‘paper dolls’ books, died on July 12 at his Texas home, reports the New York Times. He was 85.
He briefly knew Marilyn in 1958 when they were both living in New York, Tierney told Michelle Morgan, author of MM: Private and Undisclosed. Tierney’s neighbours at the time were magazine editors Jack Hamilton and Charles Schneider, and Marilyn often attended ‘interview parties’ in their apartment with husband Arthur Miller.
“Marilyn was a very quiet girl and Miller did all the talking,” Tierney recalled. “They came on several occasions so that I finally felt comfortable chatting with them, especially Marilyn.”
One day, Tierney met Marilyn on the stairs while he was taking out the garbage. She instantly offered to help. “She was definitely a sweetheart,” Tierney commented, “and I’ll never forget our brief acquaintance.”
Originally published in 1979, Marilyn Monroe Paper Dollswas the first in the series to make the Times bestseller list – and is one of the few Marilyn-related books to remain in print ever since.
In 2012, Tierney was commissioned by William Travilla’s estate to create a book dedicated to the famed designer’s costumes for Marilyn. (More info here.)
The Life archive has taken a look back at the career of actress Sheree North, who replaced Marilyn after she refused to appear in Fox’s How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955.) The parallels between them are also noted in a separate article by Jen Carlson for LAist.com.
Monroe didn’t take the threat very seriously, telling columnist Earl Wilson rather impishly, “Sometimes I kid the fans. They say, ‘Oh, you’re Marilyn Monroe!’ I say, ‘Oh no, I’m Mamie Van Doren’ – or, ‘Sheree North’ – if I’m in a real hurry.”
Six years Marilyn’s junior, Sheree was groomed by the studio as a stand-in for their rebellious star. This was not her decision, as she had no wish to dethrone MM. She later became a respected character actress, even playing Gladys Baker in the TV movie, Marilyn: The Untold Story (1980.)
In 2008, three years after her death, a photo of Ms North being dressed for her role in How to Be Very Very, Very Popular by costume designer Travilla was misidentified as Marilyn in a number of leading newspapers, including the Telegraph.
Everyone’s favourite cartoon mom, Marge Simpson, has a Marilyn moment in this illustration by artist AleXsandro Palombo for Vogue, in a series of classic fashion recreations celebrating 25 years of The Simpsons:
“‘There is a Marge Simpson in every woman and with this tribute I wanted to ignite the magic that is in every women; the strength, femininity, elegance, eroticism and beauty,’ Palombo told us. ‘I made a strict and careful selection of what, in my opinion, has really influenced the style of the last 100 years. Each of these dresses really changed the course of the history of costume, giving a new aesthetic vision that has anticipated major changes in our society. We may not consider these clothes as art, but the aesthetic vision that they emanate has played an important role in giving strength to the path of emancipation of women since 1900. In many cases it’s the dress that has transformed a woman into an icon, but in many others, it’s the personality of the women that has enlightened the dress.'”
UPDATE: Here’s another famous MM pose, based on Ed Feingersh’s 1955 photo of Marilyn dabbing on her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5…
The Travilla auction (hosted by Julien’s) is set for this Friday, November 8. The Telegraph looks at some key items, and on a related note, also profiles Salvator Ferragamo, who designed shoes worn by Marilyn and other stars.
“Christine, born and raised in the USA but now based in Liverpool, became an expert in Marilyn fashion when she was principal designer for an off-Broadway show devoted to the tragic star.
‘I did the costumes for that show and, although it was only small and it didn’t run for long, they got a huge amount of press attention,’ she explains. ‘I had girls from all over the world contacting me to do Marilyn Monroe costumes and I became the go-to designer for anyone who wanted to look like her.
‘Then in 1999, Christie’s were having a big auction of Marilyn’s personal property in new York and I was asked to be a stylist for the displays.
‘I got to actually handle her dresses which was a real privilege, it was just heaven,’ laughs Christine. ‘I didn’t want to go home at night! The designer who did most of them was a guy called William Travilla, he did the famous white one from The Seven Year Itch amongst others, and he was like a god to me.’
Christine spent numerous hours, not just styling the dresses for sale at the multi-million dollar auction, but examining them inside and out.
‘The construction inside these dresses was just a wow,’ she smiles. ‘She had that lovely curve at the back and designers sculpted the dresses onto her to accentuate her hourglass shape. The work inside them was just amazing, with all the boning and detail, and it was just inspiring.'”
The exhibition is presented in association with Julien’s Auctions. It was previously announced that the exhibition was a preview for the Icons and Idols: Fashion sale, but please note: the auction date has now been moved to November 8th.
“The never before seen collection was bequeathed to the partner of the late designer when he passed in 1990, this exhibition is the first time it will be seen anywhere in the world. Some of the Marilyn Monroe highlights of the ‘Collection of William Travilla’ exhibition include a Monroe/Andy Warhol Blue Tribute Dress which was created for an Andy Warhol memorial service at the Beverly Hilton and mimics the famous Seven Year Itch dress, a Marilyn Monroe Gentlemen Prefer Blondes inspired gown by Travilla featuring the gold lame sunburst halter gown design, (a Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes Travilla sketch), Travilla’s There’s No Business Like Show Business Academy Award plaque. a 1953 Travilla Gentlemen Prefer Blondes costume sketch and a Marilyn Monroe Seven Year Itch inspired Travilla gown along with several other pieces.”