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Stylish Reads: ‘Dressing Marilyn’


Stylish Reads: ‘Dressing Marilyn’

August 5th marked the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. Though half a century has passed, the influence of the bombshell that graced a number of Hollywood classics is indisputable. Both with her charisma, smile, and the the way she carried her outfits with such flair and confidence, the impression that she left on the world is undeniable.

British author Andrew Hansford, introduces us to the man behind Marilyn Monroe’s outfits, costume designer William Travilla. While he may be responsible for designing some of the most famous dresses, and styling one of the most iconic figures, few have taken the time to get to know the man behind the scenes, that is, until Hansford’s book ‘Dressing Marilyn.’ The author, who was entrusted with and now manages Travilla’s estate, presents a different perspective on the obsession with Marilyn’s wardrobe and allows Travilla’s legacy to live on by nourishing our continued infatuation with Marilyn.

The book begins with a background into Hansford’s personal acquisition of the dresses from Bill Sarris, Travilla’s long-time business partner and friend, and then takes us through a biography of the costume designer. Hansford goes on to chronicle some of the most stunning pieces worn by Marilyn including the famous, the classics, and some of her personal dresses. In discussing the process of designing her exquisite outfits, the author also reveals other secrets of Marilyn’s dressing room, such as her brief relationship with Travilla. While the second half of the book reads like a catalogue of Marilyn’s outfits, Hansford not only shares details of the outfits and design influences, but also gives us insight into the movies, and cultural references that help us to understand how fashion-forward Travilla really was at a time when his risqué pieces were not a norm.

Below: Marilyn and Travilla in a publicity shot for her role as Lorelei Lee in Gentleman Prefer Blondes. The intimacy of their relationship is evident even in a still photograph.

Below: A test shot of the intricate diamonds costume that was originally designed to be worn for the song and dance routine, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the 1953 film, Gentleman Prefer Blondes.  It was later replaced by the famous pink dress.

Below: Travilla’s sketch of the Spanish influenced costume for Marilyn’s “Heat Wave” performance in the 1954 musical, There’s No Business Like Show Business.

Our eyes are treated to original sketches, costume test shots, prototypes of dresses (including Travilla’s notes on fabric detailing), and even images of the original pattern for THE White Dress! A book that you can go back to time and time again, this is a must have for any fashion aficionado and Marilyn fan. Hansford shares a slice of fashion history, and feeds our obsession with Marilyn and her style.

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Tomris is a fashion blogger from Izmir, Turkey. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Communication Studies. Her experience with fashion and style includes modeling, blogging, working as a personal stylist, and interning at The Source Magazine in NYC. She loves to travel and lived in Brussels and Istanbul before relocating to The Triangle. She joined the STYLE team in April 2012. In August 2013, she took on the role of Triangle Market Editor. Contact:


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