In honor of the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death, author and model Andrew Hansford has wrote Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla. It is a fantastic book full of pictures and information on all the dresses he designed for Marilyn. Read below for more information on this incredible book, an interview with the author, and an excerpt from it.
William Travilla is one of the best costume designers of all time and Marilyn Monroe his most famous client. Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla focuses on the striking dresses that Travilla designed for Marilyn, from his early work on the thriller Don’t Bother to Knock and the gorgeous pink dress in which Marilyn sang Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend to the legendary white dress from The Seven Year Itch, which arguably contributed to the collapse of Marilyn’s marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Featuring Travilla’s original sketches, rare costume test shots, dress patterns, photographs of Marilyn wearing the dresses, plus exclusive and never-before-seen extracts from interviews with Travilla, this book offers a fresh insight into the golden age of Hollywood.
I recently was able to ask the author a few questions. He talks about the book, working with William Travilla Estate, and how he got started in fashion.
How did you get started in fashion?
I started many years ago when I worked as a model in Europe.
Whose idea was it for this book?
It was my idea. I knew after all the thousands of people who came to see the exhibitions would like to know more. I was asked all the time about their relationship and details of the dresses.
Can you talk a little more on the book?
It was a pleasure to write. It came from the heart and I hope people see the friendship between the two. Not just ‘another’ Marilyn book but one that shows the true side of her.
You have been working with the William Travilla Estate for about five years now. How has the experience been?
Amazing. I have met some incredible people. I have learnt so much and would now like to learn more. Fashion was different then, not throw away like now. Seeing such beautiful designed and made dresses is a dream and something you will have to go a long way to find now. True cuture! That word is thrown around nowadays and means nothing.
Do you have any upcoming projects as well?
Not in regards to Travilla but I am presently working on a book of Michael Jackson.
The Heat Wave Dress
The following is an excerpt from Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla by Andrew Hansford, reprinted with permission of the publisher. The excerpt is about The Heat Wave dress from the film There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954).
As costume designer, William Travilla had plenty of censor issues. The dress as shown in the sketch had nothing around Marilyn’s midriff, however the censors insisted that Travilla add a piece of fabric to cover her belly button. Although the designer did as he was asked in the actual costume, he never did add that part to the sketch. Even with this addition, it is hard to believe that such a risqué dress made it past the censors – but it did and Travilla must have had tremendous fun creating such a flamboyant outfit.
It is easy to see where Travilla’s inspiration came from for this raunchy design which is almost flamenco in style. He loved Spain and enjoyed watching the Spanish dancers on his many trips there. The design started with a hat, a close- fitting black turban with a huge, wide-brimmed plaited hat, which wasn’t actually made of straw, but appeared to be. The ends of the straw were left raw to give the hat movement and, to add even more drama, huge silk flowers were attached to the hat. It was only after the hat was completed that Travilla took it to another level and added the flowers that hung around Marilyn’s face.
The top of the outfit was essentially a sheath of black that was tied in the middle by a vivid pink and black chiffon scarf that crossed Marilyn’s chest, draping down the back. Attached to the top were large black sequins that moved as she did.
The skirt started with an extremely tight band of fabric that gathered around her bottom at the back and pulled round to the front in a deep, revealing V-shape, with black sequins sewn to it; the undergarment was attached to this. From the front V, travelling round to below her bottom, was a voluminous skirt of hand-printed white fabric with huge black flowers. Attached to these flowers were hundreds of large sequins scattered and sewn randomly. The interior of the skirt is the same fabric as the scarf – a plain pink chiffon, gathered and attached in many layers travelling from top to bottom. These layers also had hundreds of scattered sequins, this time transparent ones.
Sadly the film was not a success either critically or commercially, but it did enable Marilyn to take on what was to become arguably her most successful role – the Girl in The Seven Year Itch.”
The book is now available everywhere including here: Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla
and from the publisher.
Nicolas Mirabelli is a college graduate from the University of Washington with a degree in English. His passions are creative writing, movies, music, comedy, and adventures. He connects his passion for movies and writing and writes screenplays in his spare time and hopes to become a successful screenwriter. You can follow him on Twitter here, or Facebook here.