On Instagram stories, I asked my followers to vote for their favourite costumes out of options I gave them. Here are the designs out of the 12 I put to vote…
Based on the percentages, we have a chart of the top costumes (two were a draw so there are 11 costumes in total).
10. NIAGARA (1953) BLUE SUIT
The pale turquoise suit designed by Dorothy Jeakins is one of the many costumes that Marilyn wore off-screen. Greg Shriener from Marilyn Remembered Fan Club states, “People tend to equate movie costumes with theater clothes… Film clothes, those worn by stars, must be designed to fit beautifully and tailored so that every seam and hem will look flawless in a close-up. The clothes Marilyn wore from studio wardrobe were superbly crafted and fit her as if they were from a top designer’s salon”
9. NIAGARA (1953) MAGENTA DRESS
Another beautiful costume for Niagara was designed by Dorothy Jeakins. Worn during one of the movie’s most famous scenes where she sang “Kiss”. Marilyn also wore this stunning, low-cut, magenta dress at the home of bandleader Ray Anthony who held a party in Marilyn’s honour.
8. RIVER OF NO RETURN (1954) JEANS
Marilyn was one of the first actresses to were jeans in Hollywood. She wore jeans in three of her movies (Clash by Night, River of No Return and The Misfits). “I have always felt comfortable in blue jeans: they’re my favourite informal attire.” In the film, she wears a pair of tight blue jeans, with a blouse/frilled undershirt and boots. Still looking feminine in denim, Marilyn still shines as Kay Weston and this is probably because she is in her favourite type of attire, making her feel comfortable in the role.
7. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) SILVER DRESS
After working as a window dresser in Sydney, Orry-Kelly came to Manhattan. Instead of pursuing his original plan of acting, he became a set and costume designer for Broadway. Marilyn’s silver dress which she wears to perform “I Wanna Be Loved By You” is described by Orry-Kelly as “nude soufflé’s draped on the bias to lift her breasts and push her tummy in.” The dress was incredibly revealing, with Billy Wilder needing to arrange the lighting to hide Marilyn’s exposed nipples. On the back of the dress is a pink heart applique.
6. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) BLACK DRESS
For the final scenes of Some Like It Hot, Marilyn wore the same nude illusion dress but with black beading instead of silver. She also had black butterfly designs on the skirt and shoulder. Apparently, Marilyn had to be lifted to the piano for this scene as the dress was very form-fitting. Two years after the film’s release Barabara Nichols wore the dress in The George Raft Story. Orry-Kelly won the 1959 Academy Award for costume design for his work on this film.
5. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953) ONE PIECE
William Travilla, born in Los Angeles, designed five years worth of costumes for Marilyn. In 1954 he told Screen Life, ” No matter how you dress her, she looks sexy.” He never disregarded any suggestions Marilyn made which is probably why they worked so perfectly together. The stunning one-piece swimsuit in the fashion house scene has Marilyn jump from the screen, showing off her petit yet curvaceous figure. She also wore this for promotional photographs for the movie.
4. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953) MAGENTA DRESS
This dress was worn during the restaurant sequence in How To Marry A Millionaire. Its single strap and narrow beltline is embroidered with sparkling beading. Marilyn, was incredibly resistant to full skirts, still looked absolutely stunning in the gown. She wasn’t the only one who didn’t like the skirt designs. All three of the movie’s stars refused but Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable eventually agreed. Marilyn didn’t. But Travilla was used to this with Marilyn so designed this full-length tight skirt.
3. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953) PINK DRESS
Another one of Travilla’s masterpieces! For the Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend number, the proposed design was originally a full body stocking embellished with gems and crystals of all sizes and shapes. With most of Marilyn’s body exposed it was decided she should wear something less revealing despite it fitting with Lorelei’s showgirl career in Paris. Instead, Travilla adorned Marilyn in a stunning pink, strapless gown which had to be designed around the choreography of the musical number. The dress was accessories with opera gloves and rhinestone bracelets and a necklace.
2. MISFITS (1961) CHERRY DRESS & BLACK DRESS
Both of these dresses are absolutely stunning (they drew in the votes) and are both designed Jean Louis.
The black dress (in which there were multiple copies made) was in fact later part of Marilyn’s private wardrobe. She can be seen wearing it at an event with Frank Sinatra after the film’s release in 1961. Her dress, with the jacket, was sold at Christie’s in 1999. Apparently, in one of the versions of the dress, there is some padding in the chest to give the illusion of firmer, rounder breasts in order to “enhance the impact” of the design.
The cherry dress is probably the most famous costume from The Misfits. White rayon with red cherries dotted across it. With the self-tie shoulder straps, tulip hem and deep V bodice the costume perfectly complement Marilyn’s figure.
1. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953) RED DRESS
Although this is probably not the number one choice out of all of Marilyn’s costumes, it beat its opponents in the vote by a landslide (the Niagara suit). And you can see why. For Gentlemen Prefer Blondes‘s first number Two Little Girls From Little Rock, Jane Russell and Marilyn both dazzle in their red sequin gowns. The sequins get larger as it goes down towards the hem creating an illusion of length helped by the split skirt showing the stars’ legs. The low cut neckline is also an illusion with sheer body toned fabric. The silver sequins on the sleeves also give the impression that Jane and Marilyn wearing diamond bracelets. The dress was bought at auction for $1.2million in 2011. But sadly, not by me.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I will be posting some different costumes.
Sources: Marilyn in Fashion by Christopher Nickens and George Zeno.