Nearly as famous as Marilyn Monroe are her on-screen outfits. As she sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” she pictured the hot pink strapless dress she was wearing. Or the white halter cocktail dress in “The Seven Year Itch” billows over a subway grate. The fictionalized “Blonde” has inspired many designers, and Monroe’s iconic dress has been recreated.
They have been remade, reinterpreted, and used as references countless times in everything from high-end films and music videos to low-cost costume shops and everything in between. The white subway dress she wore for the sequence brought in $4.6 million at auction in 2011, and the “tour” version sold for $120,000 a few years later. It should go without saying that “Blonde” costume designer Jennifer Johnson was under tremendous pressure to create the iconic costumes for the Wednesday Netflix release just right.
Although “Blonde” may be a dramatized account of Monroe’s life, the costumes are replicas of real-life ones. Without the original reference garment on hand, Johnson and her crew were forced to recreate the great majority of the dresses that star Ana de Armas dons in the movie as Monroe. A jacket from the movie “Niagara” held at Western Costume in Los Angeles, the only Monroe piece she could inspect in person, did not make the cut.
Instead, Johnson turned to the films themselves, images from the 750-page “bible” for the production that director Andrew Dominik had created and a small booklet by William Travilla, the longstanding studio costume designer in charge of many of Monroe’s most iconic film looks.
It was crucial to maintain the quality of construction of the original garments so they didn’t feel like a cheap replica or like a costume, according to Johnson. “We obviously couldn’t get the same fabrics,” she said.
She read in Travilla’s book that in a last-minute panic, he got hold of some green felt intended for a pool table from another department and lined the pink “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” dress with it. Monroe was singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” as she down the stairs. Although she didn’t use the pool table method, she could relate to Travilla’s struggles because she had experienced a similar situation.
Despite the inconveniences, she claimed that it is “always easier to make it” when money is available than to locate something vintage.
Finding existing items is difficult, she noted. “Vintage fashion is becoming obsolete. It’s practically vanishing off the face of the earth.
The white pleated dress immortalized in “The Seven Year Itch,” another Travilla work, was by far the hardest to duplicate. Because the technique, which calls for unique molds, is no longer widely used in the United States, pleating became incredibly difficult.
Johnson stated, “We had a lot of failures. “It’s amazing how much fabric it required to make that dress’ dramatic arc and explosion with the subway grate… We must have used 50 yards or so of fabric because the pleating was off. Although the molds were poorly made for the pleating, they had a great appearance. That required a lot of wasteful research and development.
But in the end, it was worthwhile to watch it in the movie, where it plays a crucial and terrifying supporting role in a reproduction of the unforgettable scene.
Andrew is a visionary, and Chayse Irvin, our incredible cinematographer, shot it in a lovely way, according to Johnson. “In the movie, that is just straight-up clothes porn. You can enjoy the quality of the dress in the superb slow-mo.
The sequins and glam of Monroe’s on-screen outfits were very different from her off-screen style, which was much more understated. Johnson and Dominik determined that she should have a type of off-duty uniform, consisting mainly of Capri pants and turtleneck sweaters, some of which were antique purchases from Los Angeles costume shops.
Her desire to be regarded seriously as an actor and artist was something Johnson stated was “very important” to him. She was “kind of channeling French or beatnik style.”
However, not everything is entirely accurate. Johnson prioritized naturalism, which included designing the clothing to match de Armas’s form and the modern viewing public. They did not include the infamous marbles Monroe sewn inside her bra. She concluded it would be confusing to modern eyes.
“Those outfits are so recognizable that they may easily eclipse the actor and become the focus. And I’ve always wanted it to enhance Ana’s outstanding performance.
There may be no other person in pop culture history whose sense of style is as closely associated with her person as Marilyn Monroe, from her golden hair to her signature pleated white halter dress. The blonde bombshell was well-known for her unique sensual but delicate look, which straddled the line between sex symbol and demure femininity with figure-hugging silhouettes, dramatic red-carpet costumes, and simple off-duty clothes. Andrew Dominik’s Blonde is a creative re-imagining of the actor’s sparkling but sad life. It is revisited to excellent effect and will be available on Netflix on September 28.