"Dressing Marilyn" by Andrew Hansford with Karen Homer
Reviewed by David Marshall James
This has become my insta-fave book about Marilyn Monroe, because it is so representative of the dream and the drive that propelled her into the stardom that she so fervently craved.
As an up-and-comer at Twentieth Century Fox studio, on the edge of Beverly Hills, during the early 1950s, Monroe sought the guidance of resident (and Oscar-winning) designer William Travilla, and theirs became a friensdship fashioned in the cinematic heavens.
Travilla dressed such stars as Ann Sheridan, Loretta Young, Judy Garland (the heavily embroidered pantsuit that she appropriated upon departing "Valley of the Dolls" was worn throughout her 1967 engagement at New York's Palace theater), and, later, Linda Gray (for "Dallas") and Donna Mills (for "Knots Landing").
MM reached her sensational stardom in Travilla's designs for many of her most-famous films, including "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953), "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953), "Bus Stop" (1956), and "The Seven Year Itch" (1955), in which he outfitted MM in the uber-iconic, "Isn't it delicious!" stand-over-the-subway-grate-and-catch-the-breeze dress.
Many of this volume's stunning "test shots" have seldom, if ever, been published. The biggest jaw-dropper (and that's saying quite a mouthful, here) has to be the $4,000 creation that didn't make the cut for the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" production number from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."
This faux-diamond-dripping piece has to be seen to be believed. It's a real 180-degree twirl from the readily recognizable, deceptively simple, pink gown in which MM proclaimed the virtues of men who bestow big baguettes upon their "little pets."
Author Andrew Hansford has been granted unprecedented access to Travilla's collection of patterns, design sketches, notes, and actual dresses. Some of the fabrics used in MM's gowns are no longer available, or are difficult to locate.
Ditto the craftsmanship involved in their creation, including intricate pleating and complex "underneath support."
You'll be oohing and aahing at MM modeling Travilla's glam designs. My fave: The gown in which she sang (yes, she did her own vocals) "After You Get What You Want" in "There's No Business Like Show Business" (1954).
Isn't this delicious-- a book that does both MM and Travilla justice, a book that both would have surely loved.
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