In the 1953 classic, 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes', Marilyn played showgirl Lorelei Lee alongside Jane Russell. In the iconic musical performance of 'Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend’, Marilyn wore a stunning hot pink ensemble created by fashion designer, William Travilla. This gown, accessorised with matching gloves and a dramatic bow feature, became one of the most iconic dresses in film history, and even had an influence on other style icons including Madonna’s recreation of the scene in the music video for ‘Material Girl’. Although perhaps the most recognisable, the pink gown is not the only exquisite example of style in 'Gentlemen
Other memorable costumes include this sensational orange gown, also designed by Travilla. The neckline, silhouette, and feminine style to the dress is reflective of the pinup fashion trends of the 50s.
Marilyn dazzled on film yet achieved understated elegance whilst off-duty. Minimalist fashion statements were preferred by Marilyn and her favourite key pieces included capri pants, headscarves with sunglasses, turtlenecks, and beautiful coats. A perfect example of Marilyn’s effortless style is this modest scarf and glasses ensemble. This look radiates glamour, as the contrasting glasses and scarves create a powerful simplicity.
Due to the curve-embracing nature of his designs, Marilyn often wore pieces by Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci.
In the 1953 thriller, ‘Niagara’, Marilyn played Rose Loomis, and in one unforgettable scene, wore a fuchsia, curve-hugging dress, as she sang ‘Kiss’. The eye-catching dress, paired with the alluring music, created a truly stunning scene. This gown arguably had a significant influence on fashion trends and style through the decades that followed. Noteworthy designs that were reminiscent of the ‘Niagara’ dress included the off the shoulder Christina Stambolian black dress worn by Princess Diana in 1994, known as the ‘revenge dress’. The parallels in both design and sentiment created a powerful little black dress that combined 90s fashion with classic 50s style.
Many of Marilyn’s costumes in ‘Niagara’ exuded an element of power through femininity. Her outfits from the movie seemed to match with the schemes against her husband, as the power expressed through style was reflected in the plot. An example is the tailored skirt-suits worn by Marilyn, paired with bold red lipstick. These skirt suits bear similarities to Jackie Kennedy’s style, however, Marilyn’s suits were much tighter and more body hugging.
When Marilyn presented at the 1951 Oscars, she chose a tulle gown borrowed from the 20th Century Fox wardrobe department. The fabulous, dark, off the shoulder gown was only lightly accessorised. The absence of heavy jewellery made the intricate detailing beneath the layers the focal point. Marilyn’s gown even inspired one of the most popular fashion icons of 2021, Billie Eilish. Her Oscar de la Renta gown for the 2021 Met Gala encompassed the iconic style of the 1951 tulle dress, whilst keeping the sophisticated style through minimal accessorising. Whilst there were differences, such as the lighter colour and the addition of a boned corset, Eilish’s dress took great inspiration from the neckline and draped tulle on Marilyn’s.
In the 1961 film, ‘The Misfits’, written by Arthur Miller, also her husband of five years, Marilyn played the character of Roslyn. The costumes in the film take on a very casual and everyday style, as the film is set in the desert in Reno, Nevada. Marilyn’s wardrobe therefore consisted of denims, shirts, and more simple designs. However, this style introduced a sense of sincerity to Marilyn’s character, Roslyn, who shared parallels with Marilyn herself. The outfits in this movie are less classic and have elements of modern style.
As the film was in black and white, the costumes were memorable due to their designs and shapes, rather than colours. The poignancy of Marilyn’s character is amplified by the fact that ‘The Misfits’ was her final completed film before her death in 1962.
Marilyn Monroe remains a true American fashion icon and her style holds its influence to this day. She showcased many different looks and styles over the years, whether that be in film or reality, yet never failed to shine, not just for her beauty and fashion choices, but for her kindness, sensitivity, and strength. In the words of Marilyn:
"We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle"
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