Saturday, June 12, 2010

Marilyn Monroe Pink Gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Sells at Auction for $310,000.00, But Was It The One?

A pink gown, believed to have been worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes sold for $310,000.00 at auction on June 11, 2010.

But is it real? Is it in fact the dress Marilyn Monroe wore? My personal opinion is that it cannot be verified or proven 100% that this is the dress Marilyn wore when she performed "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend," which is perhaps her most famous singing and dancing film appearance ever.

My assessment is based on a number of factors.

1) The color and fabric of the dress sold is different than the dress Marilyn wears during this number (see images below). Note also that the belt on the dress sold at auction does not match the color of the dress sold at auction.

The dress Marilyn actually wore in the film (below) is a vibrant and shiny fabric, quite unlike the material of the dress sold at auction (above). In many other examples of proven authentic costumes, they look very much today the same way they did when worn by Marilyn in her films. Most often the colors match, as do the materials and fabrics.

2) According to representatives of the Travilla estate, black felt was glued to the inside of the dress that Marilyn wore for this number by Billy Travilla himself. This was done so that the dress had a certain stiffness and movement that was desired for this particular dance number. The dress that sold at auction does not appear to have black felt glued to the inside of the fabric.

3) I happened to meet a man who worked as a security guard for Fox Studios for many years. He had access to all areas of the Fox lots, including storage facilities. He recalls seeing the pink Travilla designed dress that Marilyn wore during this scene, and it was in fact tattered and frayed, and was disintegrating from the heavy dyes that were used to obtain the hot pink color, and also from the glue used to affix the black felt to the inside of the dress. Sadly, the dress that Marilyn actually did wear during her performance of "Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend" may possibly not even exist anymore.

4) Note photo below: The pink "Diamonds" dress is distinctly absent from this picture taken of a storage container full of costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe in her films. Granted, other costumes are missing also. However, several original Travilla pieces can be seen in this photo.

5) A certain film costume collector that is quite well known also happens to have a pink Travilla dress from the film.

The dress that sold at auction is likely a copy of the dress that Marilyn actually wore. We'll never know for sure if this was in fact the dress Marilyn wore in the number, though personally I don't believe that to be the case. What is undeniable is the fact that there is more than one pink dress as there are actually two known to exist today.

From the Profiles In History Catalog:

Lot 832: Marilyn Monroe pink satin gown from the "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. This pink satin gown was worn by Marilyn Monroe as the gold-digging "Lorelei Lee" in one of cinema's most memorable song and dance sequences as she performed "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend". This Travilla-designed pink silk satin strapless gown features black satin lining with oversized bow attached at back. Features integral brassier with rear zipper closure (concealed with bow overlay) and interior Fox cleaning tag. Also comes with the original pair of screen-worn opera-length tubes worn over Marilyn's arms (gloves are shown for display only) and pink satin belt with "M. Monroe A-698 1-27-3-7953" written on the inner leather lining. Originally designed to be a two-piece garment, this lot features an additional bonus having the original top made for this dress (featuring interior bias label handwritten "1-27-3-7971 M. Monroe A 698-74") that was not used in the production. This design was discarded due to the top and skirt separating when Marilyn raised her arms during the number. The gown exhibits slight toning in areas, common in silk garments from this era; otherwise in fine condition. The leather backing on the belt is cracked and missing in areas and silk exhibits fraying on edges. Marilyn's public appearance dress worn at President John F. Kennedy's birthday tribute sold at auction in 1999 for an astounding $1,267,500. This remains as the single most important screen-worn gown in film history to ever reach the auction block. Indeed, Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" performance has reached such an iconic status that several notorious entertainers have copied it—right down to the pink strapless gown!


Anonymous said...

How very sad....the fact that the dress auctioned did not have the black felt inside is what convinces me it's not a genuine garment worn by her!!!
Over the years I'd read that the censors demanded the dress be made of upholstery satin!! which is why it appeared so 'stiff'...the heavy satin would prevent 'jiggling' which the censors were very much against!!! So...upholstery satin lined with the black felt? overkill? maybe...but whoever bought this garment must be kicking themselves right now!!!

Emmanuel Odera said...

I love this article, is really good... if you need a draw of marilyn tell me ;).... i recreated the travillas draw sketch for these dress... (i se the draw in internet and i recreated in photoshop)...
A question, the dress in the travilla's exposition is not the marilyn too? havent the black felt inside... and the belt r strange...
Thanks for the article ;)

Andrew Hansford said...

Great article. Let me help clarify a couple of things. I was asked by the press if this was the original dress. I did a lot of research and found the follwing: it had all the right tags and studio numbers so I have to assume it was a Travilla, however and how many time I have said this is amazing, he allways made a few of the dresses to check shape and wearability especially in this gown as it was so complicated to create. The dress she wore did have felt lining, this one has not - so no it was not worn in the film. I may have been tried on by her. But it stops there. The dress in the Travilla collection is a prototype and has so many corrections and alterations on it, including at least three cut out linings, which I can only assume did not work. Hense the felt. From his notes he stated she wore two identical copies in that scene as it took so long to shoot and of course no retouching then, any dirt on it and on with the next one.
The dress is incredibly heavy and really could not handle to much wearing. So you are right in the fact that the one seen years ago was so tattered and worn.
I am still amazed it fetched so much money..

Hope this helps

Travilla Estate.

MaleSewer said...

Yeah what did it for mke was the fact that the photo of the look a like and the picture of marilyn did not have the same body shape. MArilyns body looks like (no disrespect) the wasp bodies that the barbies had, while the look alike (still no disrespect) has more of a pearish shaped body and her chest to waist isnt angular enough for the dress to fit the way it does on her