What is the secret of Marilyn Monroe’s pink dress in the movie “Men Prefer Blondes”?


Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Remember the movie “Men Prefer Blondes”, when showgirl Lorelei Lee left her fiance stunned and appeared on stage in a pink satin dress and lots of diamonds? Hollywood babe Marilyn Monroe performed the role of Lee and sang “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, a scene widely imitated in the decades that followed.

As memorable as the song, Monroe’s strapless pink dress with matching gloves and a giant pink and black bowtie became one of Hollywood’s most popular looks after the film’s release in 1953.

But the dress was, in fact, a last-minute alternative, as the original, daring dress was abandoned.

What is the secret of Marilyn Monroe's iconic look in a song "Diamonds are a girl's best friend"؟
The pink silk satin dress has been widely imitated since its design in the early 1950sCredit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd./Alamy

Four years prior to the film’s release, Monroe, an unknown actress, posed nude for a photo shoot, receiving only $50 for a series of photos that would later appear in the calendar.

Photographs taken by photographer Tom Kelly showed the actress sprawled across a red velvet bed sheet with her face tilted toward the camera.

In a four-part documentary series, “Paraphrased: Marilyn Monroe,” shown on CNN, Monroe said Kelly assured her that no one would recognize her in these photos. However, her curly blonde hair and distinctive red lips were unmistakably identifiable in the bold photos.

By the time the calendar appeared in 1952, a picture of Monroe in Hollywood had begun to spread.

What is the secret of Marilyn Monroe's iconic look in a song "Diamonds are a girl's best friend"؟
Madonna inspired her look from the famous Monroe dress in the music video for “Material Girl” in 1985Credit: Alamy

She was soon recognized as the nude model herself, which sparked a backlash in conservative America during the 1950s, and drew negative attention to the then-rising star. But Monroe overcame that incident, winning the public’s sympathy with her honest and transparent style.

“A few years ago, when I had no money to buy food or pay rent, a photographer I knew asked me to do a nude photoshoot for an art calendar,” Monroe told United Press International’s Allen Mosby.

The film studio 20th Century Fox, which released Men Prefer Blondes the following year, asked Monroe to deny attributing the photographs to her, but she refused, explaining to Mosby that the calendar was hanging in garages around town. Why does she deny that she is the heroine of those pictures?

She added, “I’m not ashamed of it, I did nothing wrong.”

By acknowledging the nude photos, Monroe was able to control the situation, and save her public image, in the face of those who tried to shame her.

“The nude calendar scandal has really put her at the forefront of the sexual revolution,” explained Sarah Churchill, professor of American literature in the new documentaries.

Controversy at the last minute

What is the secret of Marilyn Monroe's iconic look in a song "Diamonds are a girl's best friend"؟
Original illustration of Monroe’s iconic look by TravellaCredit: William Travilla/Public Domain

Costume designer William “Billy” Travella, who worked with Monroe on 11 films including “Men Prefer Blondes”, later explained to A&E that the images caused a panic inside the film’s studio, as executives feared they would destroy those films. Images Monroe’s career, and the film’s investors withdrew as a result.

Initially, Travella was commissioned to design the “sexiest, sexiest, almost nude woman on screen” look, a very different look from the popular pink satin dress.

The costume designer noted to A&E that “the outfit was a mesh dress over her bare body, and the chest and hip line were covered in diamonds.”

Travella said they were preparing to shoot the scene, when a calendar carrying pictures of a nude Marilyn Monroe swept the markets.

And while Monroe has never been photographed wearing the original outfit, there are rare photos, and she’s wearing it to try it on.

Travella noted that he was instructed to “get rid of the costume” by the producers, who feared that the film would “lose the box office”, so he designed the pink dress, or the “ultra-covered dress” as a safer alternative.

However, the studios concerns about nude pictures faded when the film grossed $5.3 million at the box office, propelling Monroe to full stardom.

Another movie starring Monroe was released in the same year, “How to Marry a Millionaire”, and it earned another $8 million.

Dispel the cliche about “dumb blonde”

What is the secret of Marilyn Monroe's iconic look in a song "Diamonds are a girl's best friend"؟
American singer Normani wore a bolder version of the famous pink dressCredit: Megan Thee Stallion/Normani/Atlantic Records

Although it was a second choice, the pink dress became a popular cultural phenomenon, selling for $310,000 at auction in 2010.

Many stars praised the look and the sexy song, as some emphasized the material idea behind the song, such as Madonnas 1985 video clip entitled “Material Girl”, while others turned it into a national anthem for women’s empowerment, as did singers Megan Thay Stallion and Normani in their song. Diamonds”.

Singers such as Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello and Kylie Minogue sported looks inspired by the dress for different shows, while American actor James Franco wore a version of the dress as co-host for the 2011 Academy Awards.

What is the secret of Marilyn Monroe's iconic look in a song "Diamonds are a girl's best friend"؟
In 2011, American actor James Franco wore his own version of the famous pink dress while co-hosting the Academy Awards.Credit: Gary Hershorn/Reuters/Alamy

And Monroe has been nimble with her career, and she wasn’t just a “dumb blonde” — as she made clear through her handling of the nude photo scandal.

In the Paraphrasing: Marilyn Monroe documentary series, Churchwell references an unwritten line that Monroe created for her character, Lorelei Lee, insisting, “I can be smart when it matters, but most men don’t like it.”


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