Marilyn Monroe's pink dress

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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 1985 song "Material Girl".[2]

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


Original sketch

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.

Original version of the dress.

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 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. Travilla's notes reveal that Monroe wore two identical copies in the scene as it took a long time to shoot and the dress, being floor length, was very prone to getting dirt on it.

The only pink dress known to survive 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 $370,000. It was described in the auction catalog as follows:

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.[8]

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.


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.

The dress is constructed of pink peau d'ange silk fabric, lined with black silk/satin, and was designed by William Travilla. Strapless and floor-length, the gown features a straight neckline and a side slit to allow for movement. The "bow" is part of the dress construction, not added on as a separate piece. The bow feature is also lined with black satin and is pleated in back on one side of the gown and folded over and attached to the other section. Marilyn wore short pink gloves that were constructed in such a way that the palms of the gloves are suede. There were "arm tubes" constructed of the same pink silk peau d'ange fabric to match the gown. The jewels Marilyn wore were costume and not authentic diamonds.

Impact on popular cultureEdit

Madonna on the cover of the magazine Music Connection showing her own version of the dress.

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 1985 hit "Material Girl".[9]

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.[10]

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 Best Friend" [11]

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ Vogel, Michelle (2014). Marilyn Monroe: Her Films, Her Life. McFarland. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-7864-7086-0.
  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. ^ Profiles in History Auction Catalogue
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ O'Brien, Karen (6 November 2006). Toys & Prices 2007. Krause Publications. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-89689-333-7. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  11. ^ Villarreal, Yvonne. "The midnight bath behind the making of 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's' big Marilyn Monroe parody".