Remembering Marilyn’s ‘Diamond Dresses’

From left, Marilyn’s rejected costume from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; and her ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress

Marilyn didn’t own a great deal of expensive jewellery, but her public image will always be associated with diamonds. In an article for Palos Verdes Pulse, Greg Schreiner – owner of a vast Hollywood costume collection, and president of Marilyn Remembered – celebrates her ‘diamond dresses.’

“In 1999, I traveled to New York to participate in the Christie’s auction of the Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe. I had my eye on the iconic dress that Marilyn wore to sing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy. It was a fabulous gown of nude soufflé and thousands of Swarovski Crystals that resembled diamonds. There was no estimate listed and I had hopes that perhaps by pooling all of my savings I might have a chance at this treasure. The designer for this spectacular gown was Jean-Louis who made his mark designing for many of the top movies including Marilyn’s last movie, The Misfits. Marilyn had paid $1440 for this creation which is around $20,000 in today’s dollars.

There was a collective gasp from the audience the night the dress was unveiled at the auction and when bidding was done, the dress was sold for 1.26 Million dollars! Obviously my budget did not allow for this expense. The dress was again put up for auction at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles and this time sold for 4.8 Million dollars making it the most expensive dress in history. I may not have acquired this legendary fashion, but, in a way, I was still able to almost get it.

In 2001, a replica of the gown was made for Sarah Lafleur to wear in the movie, The Women of Camelot. In the movie, Sarah portrays Marilyn Monroe as the film recreates that infamous evening. This version of the diamond dress was designed by Arthur Rowsell.  My copy of the gown was featured in a Marilyn Exhibit at the Ferragamo Museum in Milan in 2012.

Another ‘diamond’ dress is the original design by William Travilla for Marilyn to wear while singing ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. We all remember her in the iconic pink dress, but the original was composed of mostly rhinestone ‘diamonds’. The studio had second thoughts about using this version and thus the pink version become the one seen on the screen. Only the bottom half of the costume and the fan survive today and are in my collection.”