I nearly cried. I really did. Infact, when walking to the tucked away location, so quiet you wouldn’t know it was a stones throw away from Oxford Street, I felt nervous! And then there it was! In big pink letters marilyn was brandished in every window, and I walked into the quiet and unassuming gallery. It was very peaceful, almost unlikely for all the beauty that was there! For there were 12 of her dresses, and all that stands between you and that beautiful women that was, is a pane of glass.
So here is the dress list on display, and the great thing is, every example there gives us hourglass ladies something to learn from this incredible woman (and her stylists)!
Black dress – personal dress worn to premiere of ‘The Rose Tattoo’ with James Dean – 1955
What can we learn from it? This dress is beautifully simple but just look at the shape! As the old saying goes, ‘there’s no style without fit’. Ladies your hourglass figures are fantastic – every girl should have a simple but elegant dress in her wardrobe. A modern day realistic equivalent would be a black spaghetti strap maxi in a stretch material.
Flower corset dress – Photo shoot for Life Magazine – 1958
What can we learn from it? This is a beautiful dress costume and there are quite a few things to note! Notice how the foundation of this costume is a panelled corset – every woman should have one! Then the bust – added detail on the top to draw the eye, and clever draping along the base of the corset enhance Marilyn’s hourglass shape. The added volume in both these areas makes the waist appear even smaller whilst drawing the eye to your best assets!
Lanvin and Costello evening gown – personal dress
What can we learn from it? This dress is fitted at the bust and waist, before flaring out. A typical princess shape, it is very feminine and would skim the tummy and hips, whilst still emphasising the smallest part of your waist. A key thing to remember is not to buy anything that flares out from the bust – (unless you are pregnant!) this drowns out your smallest part and so you lose definition of your shape – making you seem bigger than you really are!
Pink dress – for the film ‘Niagara’ – 1952
What can we learn from it? This was named ‘the wiggle dress’ and you can see why. Very form fitting but with plenty of room for the boobs! Halter-necks are usually a good option for hourglasses – quite balancing without taking anything away from your figure! The collar here is a nice touch.
Silk jersey dress – personal dress
What can we learn from it? A beautiful example of draping and accentuating! It can be hard to get both these right, but here again as with the flower corset dress seen above, the draping on the hips and bust accentuate these areas. Then the ruching on the waist pulls everything in to show off that shape! Fabric is also very important – this is made from silk-jersey so it would have given in all the right places and remained form fitting in others! And apparently we aren’t the only ones learning from it!
Look at these pictures of Nigella and Christina Hendricks in Vivienne Westwood gowns. Look familiar?
Green corset dress – for the film ‘Bus Stop’ – 1956
What can we learn from it? You almost look at this and think what could you possibly learn, it’s just so sexy! But look closely and there’s still plenty. Obviously you have the corset base – flattering for all waistlines and then the bust and detail on the hip are a different colour – again differentiating these areas from the waist and drawing attention. Fringing on the bust and hips also adds volume to these areas.
Red sequinned gown – for the film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ – 1953
What can we learn from it? My favourite! I just adore the film! And this dress is like the signature on it (that and the fabulous black lace dress Jane Russell wore). The deep v draws the eye down for a slimmer silhouette whilst the larger gap between the breasts draws attention here whilst minimising the waist. A modern day equivalent if you aren’t a fan of having a neckline to your navel would be a colour block dress with a lighter colour around the bustline and darker around the waist, thus minimising this area.
The grecian style waist drape is flattering on the tummy area and the maxi again, draws the eye down the body. Too many gaps can ‘chop you up’ into unflattering sections whislt this is a clean smooth line. Another trick for when you can’t always wear a glitzy maxi dress (!) to draw the eye down, wear the same colour close to your face as your shoes.
Also – don’t be afraid to have a signature look! I love pulling out the sequins for a glitzy event, don’t be afraid to shine!
Beaded black dress – for the film ‘Some Like it Hot’ – 1959
What can we learn from it? This is so sexy, and was so daring for the time! On closer inspection there are some flesh coloured mesh panels sewn within the dress to help conceal modesty. Its’ always better to look seductive without actually showing everything off – think nude colour bases with black lace on top. Also detail – always beautiful and can transfrom what could be an everyday dress into something really special! And a cheeky side note? This dress is the closest thing to nipple tassels we ever saw Marilyn in and men are still talking about it today! Try some on your husband!
Silk & chiffon gown – for the film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ – 1957
What can we learn from it? A beautiful fitted gown, this emphasises the importance of having something made to measure or altered to fit you in certain fabrics, like silk. Silk is beautiful but looks really striking when it fits! I was so sad to see the damage on this one!
Sequin corset costume – for the film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ – 1953
What can we learn from it? Volume again on the bust, lighter colour on the hips and diamante detailing here. Again the clever trick of adding volume to your assets while minimising your waist. The hat is cute too – don’t be afraid to accessorise!
Sequinned gown – for the film ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ – 1954
What can we learn from it? Striking gown – the colour really complemented Marilyn’s skin tone. Try to find what colours suit you and stick with them, don’t just buy something because the colour is great on the peg! They may not be the colours you would choose but if you pick the right ones, they can light up your face! An interesting note with this one – the pleated insert was added as some countries found it immodest without. I think it looks great – extra inserts can add style, uniqueness and added modesty to your outfit!
Negligee – for the film ‘Niagara’ – 1952
What can we learn from it? Always wear nice nightwear! You don’t have to feel exposed either – this is long in length and quite simple.
Sadly this exhibition is now closed but it’s sister exhibition at Westfield Stratford has some beautiful, never before seen photos of Marilyn that are well worth seeing. Copies can be bought too – prices start at £65 for a 10 x 8 image on resin. For more information click here to visit the Getty Images website! You’ll have to hurry though – Marilyn at Westfield closes on the 3rd June.