Why Marilyn Never Faltered With a Halter

Halter tops, dresses and swimwear are coming back this summer, Vogue reports, citing Marilyn’s ‘subway dress’ from The Seven Year Itch (1955) as inspiration. However, Marilyn favoured the halter-neck throughout her career, starting with this yellow bikini used in photo shoots with Bruno Bernard (1945) and Bob Beerman (1951.)

This close-fitting, pink halter dress was designed by Dorothy Jeakins for Niagara (1953.) Although Marilyn doesn’t wear it in the film, she posed by the Falls for publicity, and later wore it to a New York press conference, and at a charity baseball game in Hollywood.

As her star continued to rise, Marilyn wore a daring halter dress to the 1952 Miss America pageant. In February 1953, she sported a revealing gold lamé gown to the Photoplay Awards, and scandalised Joan Crawford. (Both were designed, like the ‘subway dress’, by Travilla.) And in June, she wore a white halter dress while signing her name in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

After moving to New York in 1955, Marilyn wore this chessboard-patterned, halter-necked towelling bikini top for her famous ‘Ulysses’ photo shoot with Eve Arnold, and on days at the beach among friends.

By the late 1950s, the halter-neck was as synonymous with Monroe as the off-shoulder neckline was with Bardot. Marilyn wore a red halter dress with floaty skirt on her honeymoon in Jamaica, and for her final photo session with Milton Greene. She would wear a similar design in pale pink for a scene in Let’s Make Love (1960.) For photo sessions with Richard Avedon, and at public events, she chose figure-hugging, sequined halter gowns in various colours.