August marks 50 years since Marilyn Monroe’s death. There will be a special memorial for her in Los Angeles, so this book comes at a perfect time, showcasing previously unseen material, including original sketches, patterns, rare costume test shots, and photographs of Marilyn wearing the dresses. It also includes insights from lost interviews with William Travilla, one of the most sought after designers during the golden age of Hollywood, who revealed Marilyn’s fashion secrets. He was known to create unforgettable outfits for Paul Newman, Dionne Warwick, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Lauren Bacall, Sharon Tate, Faye Dunaway, Joanne Woodward, Barbara Stanwyck, Betty Grable, and many others.
Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla is argumentatively one of the best coffee table books I’ve come across so far. It goes above and beyond to provide the background story behind each costume and dress that Marilyn Monroe is famously known for wearing, such as the enthralling pink dress in which Marilyn sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to the timeless white dress from The Seven Year Itch, which arguably contributed to the collapse of Marilyn’s marriage to Joe DiMaggio. I am pleasantly surprised that this book is just $19.79 on Amazon, when I am sure that people would be willing to pay more to have it in their collection.
An extremely rare photograph of Marilyn, Travilla, and an unidentified African American. At the time, the picture was cut in the middle and only the right-hand half used, never including the unidentified gentleman, as this was an age of racial segregation.
The story of this photo, as Travilla and Bill Sarris tell it, is that he and Marilyn spent the evening at an almost exclusively black club in Los Angeles – something that just wasn’t done in 1952. The studio was outraged, especially after her nude photograph scandal in March of that year, and the fact that she had just been on the April cover of Life magazine and hailed as ‘The Talk of Hollywood.’ As a result of being ‘caught on camera,’ they fired Travilla from the film they were working on. But Marilyn – one of Travilla’s closest friends – stood up and said ‘If he goes, I go.’ And of course, they let him stay, but they were successful in keeping this picture out of the press.”
“Marilyn was ahead of her time in terms of racial equality and civil rights. Even Ella Fitzgerald credits Marilyn with getting her into some of the ‘upper-crust’ jazz clubs of the day. She knew how to throw her weight around and it fits that she would stand up for Travilla.
Whether you’re a Marilyn Monroe fan and/or simply adore the impeccable and timeless fashion during the heyday of Hollywood, I highly recommend buying a copy of Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla. This book is bound to be a highly coveted collectible someday.
Andrew Hansford has been involved in fashion for many years, having worked as a model and established his own business in the beauty industry. However, his life changed dramatically in 2007 when, after a phone call from a friend, a box of dresses designed by William Travilla for the screen legend Marilyn Monroe arrived on his doorstep. Since then, Andrew has worked with the Travilla Estate to help Travilla regain the renown he deserves. Andrew now manages Travilla’s archive and has been responsible for six exhibitions showcasing Travilla’s stunning work.
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