The History of Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress

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This white dress, worn by Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch, has to be one of the most iconic dresses in Hollywood cinema history. The famous dress was created by costume designer William Travilla. Known as Travilla, he began working with Monroe for the film Don’t Bother to Knock in the year 1952 at 20th Century Fox. And in total, Travilla designed Marilyn Monroe’s clothes for a total of 8 films.

The dress appears in the scene from the film The Seven Year Itch in which Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell (her costar) exit the Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theatre on Lexington Avenue in New York City, having just left a movie theater. They hear a subway train passing below the sidewalk grate, Marilyn steps on it and asks “Ooh, do you feel the breeze from the subway? Isn’t it delicious!” as the wind blows the dress up, exposing her legs.

Did you know that the scene was scheduled to shoot on the street outside the Trans-Lux at 1:00 am on September 15, 1954? But unfortunately, it didn’t happen, because Marilyn Monroe and the movie cameras caught the attention of hundreds of fans. So, what did they do? Director Billy Wilder decided to reshoot the moment on a set at 20th Century Fox.

“The dress is a light-colored ivory cocktail dress in a style that was in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. The halter-like bodice has a plunging neckline and is made of two pieces of softly pleated cellulose acetate (then considered a type of rayon) fabric that come together behind the neck, leaving the wearer’s arms, shoulders and back bare.

The halter is attached to a band situated immediately under the breasts. The dress fits closely from there to the natural waistline. A soft and narrow self belt was wrapped around the torso, criss-crossing in front and then tied into a small neat bow at the waist, at the front on the left side. Below the waistband is a softly pleated skirt that reaches to mid-calf or below the calf length. There is a zipper at the back of the bodice, and tiny buttons at the back of the halter.” (Taken from Wikipedia)

After Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962, Travilla kept the dress locked up with many of the costumes he made for her, to the point the collection was rumored lost. After he died in 1990, the clothes were displayed by his colleague Bill Sarris. It joined the private collection of Hollywood memorabilia owned by Debbie Reynolds at the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum.” (Taken from Wikipedia). The dress went up for auction in 2011 as part of a collection of Hollywood memorabilia held by famous actress Debbie Reynolds and sold for $4.6 million (or $5,520,000, with added fees).

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