With figure-hugging shapes, spectacular red carpet costumes, and minimalist off-duty outfits, the blonde beauty was recognized for her sensual but gentle distinctive style, which toed the line between sex symbol and demure femininity. It is brought up again with excellent effect in Andrew Dominik’s Blonde, an unconventional reimagining of the actor’s glamorous but sad life that releases on Netflix on September 28. Ana de Armas plays Monroe in the film, and she dresses in stunning recreations of several of her most iconic outfits. Even though Monroe only spent a little over two decades in the public eye, her influence on fashion has not faded.
Monroe immediately comes to mind when considering someone with red lips as a beauty mark. Her appearance is not only frequently mimicked but also easily recognized, as seen by Madonna’s Monroe cosplay from her “Blonde Ambition” era and the abundance of Monroe impersonators. The most recent example of this fascination was Kim Kardashian’s choice to attend the 2022 Met Gala while wearing the same renowned bedazzled nude outfit that the actor wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
“What do you consider to be most American? And that’s Marilyn Monroe,”
Kardashian said of the dress in a Vogue interview.
“The day she sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK is, in my opinion, the most iconic Marilyn Monroe moment.”
However, over 60 years after Monroe’s passing at the age of 36, fashion historian and author of Classic Hollywood Style, explains why Monroe still has such a strong influence on the fashion industry. Caroline Young highlights a few important things to think about. Monroe presented a carefully designed on-screen character that was sensual, beautiful, and flashy, according to Young. This was the aspect of Monroe that was most frequently photographed, and it is what we most connect with her style, even though it did not always mirror Monroe’s real outfit.
While Monroe preferred simple sheath dresses or slacks and turtlenecks when she was at home, pictures of her in eye-catching attire on red carpets or in classic on-screen moments, like when her white dress billowed out as she stood over a subway grate for The Seven Year Itch filming, are much more well-known.
According to Young, Monroe’s premature passing has led to the memorialization of the images that are still available to her. Young says, “Her image has been intertwined these on-screen moments where she’s wearing incredible clothes that stick out.” Her reputation has been ingrained in the culture as a result of those incidents. You have to question if those pictures would still be so well-known if she had survived to old age.”
In Blonde, the outfits aid in distinguishing between Norma Jeane, or Marilyn Monroe as she was known to the world, and the frightened and private moments of Marilyn’s public persona. Many of Monroe’s most famous on-screen fashion moments were carefully recreated by costume designer Jennifer Johnson for the movie, including her renowned hot pink strapless column gown and matching opera gloves she wore to sing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and her notorious pleated white halter dress from the subway grate scene in The Seven Year Itch.
According to fashion historian and assistant curator of fashion at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Darnell-Jamal Lisby, Monroe also owes a considerable portion of her impact on fashion to her strong ties with costume designers. He mentions designers like William Travilla, who created some of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic looks both on and off the screen, including the hot pink gown she wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the white halter dress from The Seven Year Itch, and the gold lamé gown that had to be custom-made for her to wear to a movie premiere (this outfit landed Monroe on the front page of newspapers the next day).
According to Lisby, “the relationship between a costume designer and an actress or starlet is quite close.” “The one [between Monroe and Travilla] is a perfect illustration of how that romance evolved in a fashion marriage, which helped create the Marilyn Monroe we see today,” Lisby claims that Monroe was also aware of the power of presentation. For instance, Monroe skillfully managed the media, generating news on her terms, and exploited how she portrayed herself to the public as a strategy to further her profession. She was aware that the figure-hugging, crystal-encrusted nude dress she was wearing, created by a young Bob Mackie for Jean-Louis, would attract a lot of attention and generate scandalous news coverage.
According to Young, Monroe opened the path for influencers and public personalities like Kardashian to use presentations to generate headlines using this skill—using clothing to create talked-about situations. Because of her beauty and distinctive appearance, Marilyn Monroe has become one of the celebrities we most often connect with extravagant outfits. Over the years, many other blonde bombshells, from Gwen Stefani to Billie Eilish, have copied Monroe’s style.
Young claims that
She paved the path for moments to be crafted that would be splattered on the top pages. She was arguably one of the first to utilize clothes as a tactic for attracting attention, and she was quite clever about it. She just understood precisely what she was doing at those times and was far sharper than others gave her credit for.
Lisby contends that Monroe’s history serves as a source of inspiration for fashion designers even today, rather from only being a factor in how Monroe designed her appearance during her lifetime.
According to Lisby,
As an American fashion icon, she certainly has a very distinct position, and with good reason. Even though there have been a great number of other fashion icons throughout history, Marilyn Monroe stands out for the amazing amount of inspiration she provided for numerous costume and fashion designers throughout the years.
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