Marilyn in Style: From Bombshell to ‘Feminine Casual’

On the She Knows blog, Alyssa K. Davis selects some of Marilyn’s best looks ‘that aren’t the famous white halter dress.’ For her first major red-carpet appearance at the 1951 Academy Awards, Marilyn wore a romantic off-the-shoulder tulle gown; and for the 1953 premiere of Call Me Madam, she chose a white satin variant on Travilla’s ‘diamond dress’ from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

After moving to New York in she wore a copper-toned lamé Norman Norell sheath to the opening of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway; and for the East of Eden premiere she chose another skintight design by George Nardiello, with a fishtail back detail.

Like many stars of her era, she often wrapped up in fur coats or added fur stoles to her evening gowns for an extra touch of glamour – but for ethical reasons, fur is less popular today. For the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, Jean Louis dressed Marilyn in an elegant mode reminiscent of America’s first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. (The fur trim is pure Hollywood frippery, however.)

Marilyn’s offscreen style, described as ‘feminine casual,’ included loose-fitting blouses and sweaters, capri pants and oversized coats. Glimpsed in mid-1950s photo shoots with Nahum Baron and Ed Feingersh, this look was less overtly sexy, and more akin to the likes of Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly.