Marilyn Monroe's pink dress

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Marilyn Monroe's pink dress
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Movie Trailer Screenshot (34).jpg
DesignerWilliam Travilla
Year1953 (1953)
TypePink dress

Marilyn Monroe wore a shocking pink dress in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, directed by Howard Hawks.[1] The dress was created by costume designer William "Billy" Travilla and was used in one of the most famous scenes of the film, which subsequently became the subject of numerous imitations, significantly from Madonna in the music video for her song "Material Girl".[2]


Marilyn Monroe Burlesque Costume.jpg
Marilyn Monroe wearing her original costume for the musical number "Diamonds are A Girl's Best Friend".jpg

When the costume designer William Travilla, known simply as Travilla, began working with Marilyn Monroe, he had already won an Oscar for his work in Adventures of Don Juan in 1948. Travilla designed the clothes of the actress in eight films, and later claimed to have had a brief affair with Monroe.[3] In 1953 Travilla designed the costumes for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Originally, Monroe was to wear a breathtaking show girl costume, costing close to $4,000 (1953 dollars).[4] It had jewels sewn onto a black fish-net bodystocking up to the breasts, then covered in nude fabric, embellished with a mass of diamonds.

During production, it became public knowledge that Monroe had posed nude for a calendar in 1949, before she became well-known. Travilla was given strict instructions to design a new, less revealing costume in order to distance Monroe from the scandal. He designed the pink dress as a last minute replacement.[5][6]

The pink dress was worn by Monroe in the role of the character of Lorelei Lee in the famous sequence in which the actress sings the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", the choreography accompanied by several suitors in dinner clothes.

The pink dress was auctioned at Profiles in History on 11 June 2010, with an estimated price of between $150,000 and $250,000 and described as "the most important film costume to ever come to auction".[7] The dress ultimately sold for $310,000. However, according to a few Marilyn Monroe historians the dress sold at auction was not the original one worn by Marilyn Monroe during the musical number.

The dress was lined with black felt to remain rigid during the dance number. The dress sold at auction did not have the black felt on the inside. The dress sold at auction was likely one worn in rehearsals or publicity photos since it is lacking the black felt on the interior and was clearly not the one worn during the filming.

Travilla's notes reveal that she wore two identical copies in that scene as it took a long time to shoot and the dress being floor length was very prone to getting dirt on it. Due to the fact there was no digital retouching back when the movie was filmed, Travilla had to get 2 dresses made so Monroe could change into the spare one when the one she wore showed dirt. The dress is incredibly heavy and could not handle too much wearing.[8]

Another issue with the dress is the fact that the colour of the one sold at auction doesn't match the colour of the dress she wore on screen. In many other examples of proven authentic costumes, the costumes look very much the same today as the way they did when worn by Marilyn in her films. Most often the colors match, as do the materials and fabrics.

Lot 832: Marilyn Monroe pink satin gown from the “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. This pink satin gown was worn by Marilyn Monroe as the gold-digging “Lorelei Lee” in one of cinema’s most memorable song and dance sequences as she performed “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”. This Travilla-designed pink silk satin strapless gown features black satin lining on the oversized bow attached at back. Features integral brassier with rear zipper closure (concealed with bow overlay) and interior Fox cleaning tag. Also comes with the original pair of screen-worn opera-length tubes worn over Marilyn’s arms (gloves are shown for display only) and pink satin belt with “M. Monroe A-698 1-27-3-7953” written on the inner leather lining. Originally designed to be a two-piece garment, this lot features an additional bonus having the original top made for this dress (featuring interior bias label handwritten “1-27-3-7971 M. Monroe A 698-74”) that was not used in the production. This design was discarded due to the top and skirt separating when Marilyn raised her arms during the number. The gown exhibits slight toning in areas, common in silk garments from this era; otherwise in fine condition. The leather backing on the belt is cracked and missing in areas and silk exhibits fraying on edges. Marilyn’s public appearance dress worn at President John F. Kennedy’s birthday tribute sold at auction in 1999 for an astounding $1,267,500. This remains as the single most important screen-worn gown in film history to ever reach the auction block. Indeed, Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” performance has reached such an iconic status that several notorious entertainers have copied it—right down to the pink strapless gown![9]

William Travilla, quoted in Dressing Marilyn by Andrew Hansford, stated that "Apart from the two side seams, the dress was folded into shape rather like cardboard. Any other girl would have looked like she was wearing cardboard, but on screen I swear you would have thought Marilyn had on a pale, thin piece of silk. Her body was so fabulous it still came through." [10]

Marilyn Monroe at Ciro's

Marilyn Monroe wore a white version of this dress (without the bow) to the premiere of her film There's No Business Like Show Business (1954). She was photographed extensively wearing this dress with a white fur stole and with a pair of matching opera gloves.


The satin dress, designed by William Travilla, is a strapless, floor-length shocking pink dress with straight neckline, with uncovered arms and broad shoulders and side slits. Jeweler Harry Winston loaned the diamond jewelry Marilyn wore in the performance [11] The dress is decorated with a big bow stuffed with ostrich feathers and horsehair on the back and a belt, both in the same shade of her dress. To make the dress easier to perform in (and to appease the censorship board) Travilla, himself lined the garment with black felt which remained rigid during choreography. As Monroe dances the underlayer is revealed. Although it was a practical decision, it ties the costume into the black tuxedos worn by the male ‘escorts’ and ensures that the dress stands out against the red backdrop.[12]

Monroe was originally going to wear a pair of black opera gloves with black Salvatore Ferragamo pumps but Travilla decided to change the colour of the gloves and shoes to match the gown.
Original Sketch of Marilyn Monroe wearing her pink dress for the musical Number "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend" this sketch by William Travilla showes Monroe wearing matching pink gloves.jpg

The dress was complemented by a pair of long opera length gloves to match, many genuine diamond jewelry loaned by celebrated jeweler, Harry Winston [4] and pair of satin stiletto-heeled shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo. The dress is peau d'ange satin and is a shade of pink often identified as "shocking pink".

Impact on popular culture[edit]

Over the years the pink dress has become an icon of fashion and film, and like her white dress is often imitated and parodied. One of the most famous of all is the one represented by the singer Madonna in the music video for her 1984 hit "Material Girl".[13] The singer later admitted to hating the dress as it was difficult to wear during the movement. In 1990, Ayesha Walker (a Marilyn Monroe impersonator Who is now known as Lorelei Lei after the character in the film) walked down the aisle in Healing Church in Chatham wearing a replica of the pink dress.[14]

In a segment entitled "Material Girl" in the 1997 Playboy Video, Playboy's Voluptuous Vixens, SaRenna Lee capitalized on her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe by appearing in a pink dress designed for her zaftig shape.

Mexican entertainers Thalia and Aida Pierce each wore similar shocking pink dresses. Thalia wore a replica of this dress while performing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" in Spain in 1991, and Pierce wore a similar pink dress in a 2001 episode of Humor es...los comediantes as a tribute to Monroe (2001 would have been Monroe's 75th birthday).

In the computer game The Sims: Superstar expansion pack published in 2003, the player can see the character of Marilyn Monroe, dressed in the same famous shocking pink dress. It was also produced as a Mattel Barbie doll with Barbie wearing Monroe's pink dress.[15]

In the third episode of the second season of the American television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch wears a blue version of the dress while singing "The Math of Love Triangles." Parodying Monroe's performance of "Diamonds Are A Girl's Bestfriend" [16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Willam Travilla biography". Film Reference. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  2. ^ "Marilyn Monroe's 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' dress up for auction". The Telegraph. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  3. ^ "She was the easiest person I ever worked with". Loving Marilyn. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b Hansford, Andrew. Dressing Marilyn. pp. &#91, page&nbsp, needed&#93, .
  5. ^ Kobal, John (1974). Marilyn Monroe: A Life on Film.
  6. ^ St. Clair, Kassia (2016). The Secret Lives of Colour. London: John Murray. p. 127. ISBN 9781473630819. OCLC 936144129.
  7. ^ "Marilyn Monroe's Pink Satin 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' Dress to Be Auctioned". 4 May 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  8. ^ 'Dressing Marilyn' by Andrew Hansford, published by Goodman
  9. ^ Profiles in History Auction Catalogue
  10. ^ 'Dressing Marilyn' by Andrew Hansford, published by Goodman
  11. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey (25 January 2010). The genius and the goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. University of Illinois Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-252-03544-9. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  12. ^ "Marilyn Monroe Pink Gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Sells at Auction for $310,000.00, But Was It The One?". The Marilyn Monroe Collection. Archived from the original on 18 December 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  13. ^ Mansour, David (1 June 2005). From Abba to Zoom: a pop culture encyclopedia of the late 20th century. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 305. ISBN 978-0-7407-5118-9. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  14. ^ Weekly World News. Weekly World News. 23 October 1990. p. 6. ISSN 0199-574X. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  15. ^ O'Brien, Karen (6 November 2006). Toys & Prices 2007. Krause Publications. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-89689-333-7. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  16. ^ Villarreal, Yvonne. "The midnight bath behind the making of 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's' big Marilyn Monroe parody".