13 daring looks worn by Marilyn Monroe that secured her place as a Hollywood icon

·9 min read
Marilyn Monroe in looks from "The Seven Year Itch" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."
Marilyn Monroe in looks from "The Seven Year Itch" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."Sunset Boulevard/Corbis and Getty Images
  • From onscreen to the red carpet, Marilyn Monroe has become a symbol of old-Hollywood glamour.

  • With Kim Kardashian and Margot Robbie recreating looks from her, Monroe's legacy still lives on.

  • Take a look back at some of the actress' most daring looks that defined her style.

One of Marilyn Monroe's most memorable looks is the ivory cocktail dress she wore in "The Seven Year Itch," which blew upwards with a gust of wind from the subway.

Marilyn Monroe holding down her dress during filming of "The Seven Year Itch."
Marilyn Monroe holding down her dress during the filming of "The Seven Year Itch."Getty Images

The halter-neck sleeveless cocktail dress with a plunging neckline was a style popularized in the 1950s and 1960s. According to The Guardian, "The Seven Year Itch" dress was one of many designs by costume designer William Travilla, who once dismissed the garment as a "silly little dress."

The Guardian added that in 1971, Debbie Reynolds paid $200 to add the dress to her private collection of Hollywood memorabilia. When she sold the dress at auction in 2011 to avoid bankruptcy, it fetched $4.6 million at auction, $3.6 million more than anticipated.

While performing a scene in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," Monroe wore a plunging gold lamè halterneck gown with a low back and pleating.

Marilyn Monroe in a gold pleated gown.
Marilyn Monroe in a gold pleated gown.Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Monroe dazzled in a gold lamé halterneck gown with sun-ray pleats and a deep V neckline. She was sewn into the dress, which The Telegraph reports was another Travilla design, for her role in the 1955 movie "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

While the actress is only seen wearing the gown for a few seconds from behind, likely because it was so daring, she later asked to wear the garment to the 1953 Photoplay Awards. Travilla refused, calling the design "way too sexy and flashy" for real life, The Telegraph reported.

The publication added Monroe asked the head of 20th Century Fox for permission and was allowed to wear the dress. Joan Crawford called Monroe's outfit "vulgar" but the actress made front-page news the very next day.

Monroe also wore a bright pink strapless silk gown with a giant bow on the back and matching tall gloves in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."
Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Monroe didn't have just one Hollywood glamour moment in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Vogue reported that she wore another Travilla design that's still mimicked to this day. The actress performed "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" while wearing the hot-pink bustier dress complete with a giant bow on the back, evening gloves, and generous amounts of diamond jewelry.

Madonna famously paid tribute to the iconic look in her "Material Girl" video, while Kylie Jenner recreated the look for Halloween 2019, which was shared by the official Marilyn Monroe Instagram account at the time.

Margot Robbie also wore a bodysuit version in the 2020 movie "Birds of Prey," Insider previously reported.

Another career-defining look Monroe is remembered for is the gold crystal-embellished Jean Louis gown she wore to serenade President John F. Kennedy on his birthday in 1962.

Marilyn Monroe first wore the Jean Louis dress in 1962 for her iconic "Happy Birthday" performance.
Marilyn Monroe first wore the Jean Louis dress in 1962 for her iconic "Happy Birthday" performance.Bettmann/Contributor

Monroe has become synonymous with the rendition of "Happy Birthday" that she sang to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 at a Madison Square Garden fundraiser. Equally iconic was the glittery nude maxi gown with a scoop neck that she wore alongside a white fur coat onstage.

Insider recently reported that the gown was a Bob Mackie design, which is now held by Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum in Orlando, Florida.

Kim Kardashian made history at the 2022 Met Gala on May 2 as the first person to wear the dress since Monroe sang in it. The dress once again became widely talked about, showing it still has the dazzling same effect decades later.

Starring in "Niagara" in 1953, Monroe wore a hot-pink midi dress with a chest cutout and bow tie. She also wore a red version of the design on set.

Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Niagara" in a red version of her iconic pink dress.
Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Niagara" in a red version of her iconic pink dress.Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

For the 1953 movie "Niagara," director Henry Hathaway hired stylists Dorothy Jeakins and Charles Le Maire to dress the characters, Vogue reported. For the famous scene where she sings the love song "Kiss," the pair styled Monroe in a typical 1950s cut hot-pink midi dress with a chest cutout and a small bow in the center.

According to Vogue, the satin dress was also designed in a matching red color, both of which were vibrant and daring choices to depict her as an anti-heroine.

Monroe was seen in a striking two-tone beaded gown on the set of "There's No Business Like Show Business" in 1954.

Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) posing in a white beaded gown, on the set of "There's No Business Like Show Business."
Marilyn Monroe posing in a white beaded gown on the set of "There's No Business Like Show Business."Gene Lester/Getty Images

While black-and-white photographs make it hard to decipher the color of this gown, the design spoke for itself. The high-drama embellished garment had a square neckline and a fitted bodice, while the skirt was tight before fluting out into a darker hem formed of cascading material that gathers on Monroe's left hip.

According to the website Liz Dress, which sells replicas of Monroe's outfits, a color photo shows the dramatic gown to be a light blue that transitions into a deeper blue.

The actress often turned to minimalist slip dresses offscreen, including this black satin number worn at a party at her California home in 1956.

Marilyn Monroe wearing a black satin dress with spaghetti straps in 1956.
Marilyn Monroe wearing a black satin dress with spaghetti straps in 1956.Archive Photos/Getty Images

While retaining her sense of style, Monroe opted for simpler outfits offscreen such as this simple black satin slip dress with spaghetti straps. She added a touch of glamour with silver drop earrings.

According to Vogue, Monroe was given a makeover by Anne Greene, the wife of photographer Milton Greene, in 1954. The publication added that Greene bought Monroe pieces from Anne Klein and commissioned the designers George Nardiello and Norman Norell to create a wardrobe for the actress.

In her book "Marilyn In Manhattan: Her Year Of Joy," cited by Vogue, Elizabeth Winder wrote: "The result was a capsule collection of black sheaths and slips, sexy but simple and perfectly in tune with Marilyn's aesthetics."

Winder added that Monroe then had cheaper versions of the couture looks made.

Attending the 1954 premiere of "There's No Business like Show Business," Monroe walked the red carpet in a white satin strapless gown with matching gloves and a fur stole.

Marilyn Monroe at the premiere of the film "There's No Business like Show Business."
Marilyn Monroe at the premiere of the film "There's No Business Like Show Business."Murray Garrett/Getty Images

Monroe paired the glamorous gown with matching satin pumps. While little is known about the belted dress' designer, the garment was similar to the pink number the actress wore for her "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" performance.

Monroe was not afraid of outfit repeating and previously wore the dress to the Hollywood premiere of "Call Me Madam" on March 25, 1953, Glamour reported.

Monroe wore a sparkly purple midi dress to entertain US troops in South Korea in 1954.

Marilyn Monroe entertaining U.S. troops in South Korea in 1954.
Marilyn Monroe entertaining US troops in South Korea in 1954.Getty Images

In January 1954, Monroe married baseball player Joe DiMaggio in San Francisco, and headed to Japan on their honeymoon, Mashable reported.

According to the publication, a year after the Korean War, Monroe took a four-day solo detour from her honeymoon to the recently divided Korean peninsula.

Mashable added that she received a tour of American military bases and performed 10 shows for approximately 100,000 servicemen. During one of the shows, Monroe wore this deep-purple sequined dress that was typical of her signature style.

For a 1951 trip to the beach, Monroe was photographed in a polka-dot bathing suit.

Actress Marilyn Monroe wearing a polka dot bikini, circa 1951.
Marilyn Monroe wearing a polka-dot bikini, circa 1951.Archive Photos/Getty Images

There aren't many details about who designed the polka-dot bikini and matching shorts with ruffles, but, according to InStyle, the ensemble was one of many iconic swimsuit moments the actress had.

Monroe was always styled in more luxurious looks onscreen, such as her 1950 "River of No Return" yellow silk gown with a high slit, red chest embroidery, and a matching underskirt.

Marilyn Monroe reclining on a piano during "River of No Return" (1950).
Marilyn Monroe reclining on a piano during "River of No Return" (1950).Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Monroe wore the asymmetric dress as Kay Weston in the final scene of "River of No Return," where she sings the theme song of the same name. According to Julien's Auctions, the dress was created by costumier Helen Rose for Betty Grable in the 1943 film "Coney Island" but Travilla added the red beading and back bow to change up the design for Monroe to wear a decade later.

The listing adds that in 2019, the auctioneer estimated the gown would sell for between $60,000 to $80,000 but it fetched $175,000 — more than twice this bracket.

Arriving at what is now LaGuardia airport in 1961, Monroe honored her chic reputation in an over-the-knee dress with a wool coat over her shoulders.

Marilyn Monroe arriving at New York International Airport (now LaGuardia).
Marilyn Monroe arriving at New York International Airport (now LaGuardia).Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hollywood icons didn't appear to do off-duty looks and Monroe was no exception. Arriving at New York International Airport, the actress wore a simple yet flattering short-sleeve dress with a patterned coat resting on her shoulder. She paired the look with black sunglasses and white heels.

In 1955, Monro was photographed in a romantic deep-red lace evening down with black satin gloves.

Marilyn Monroe in a red brocade evening gown and long black gloves, using a white fur stole as a pillow.
Marilyn Monroe in a red brocade evening gown and long black gloves, using a white fur stole as a pillow.Gene Lester/Getty Images

The statement dress with a sweetheart neckline and spaghetti straps fit like a corset and flared out below the knee. She elevated the glamour of the photo by lounging on the floor and using one of the fur stoles she often wore as a pillow.

According to Getty Images, the shot was captured by photographer Gene Lester but it's unclear if the images were used for any other purposes.

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