The Most Famous Dress in the World

The following is an excerpt from Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla by Andrew Hansford (Applause Books), as posted on The Random Thoughts of Crazy Mandy.

The design that Travilla created for the dress was far quicker than the filming of the scene; he was so inspired that he produced the entire costume ensemble for The Seven Year Itch out over one weekend. When asked to create the costumes for this movie Travilla had been delighted on many levels. First, there was the obvious pleasure in working with Marilyn but, as important, was that the movie was shot in New York. Travilla loved New York and spent a lot of time there and he knew just how to evoke the feeling of the Big Apple.
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After his frenzied weekend of designing Travilla showed Marilyn his ideas and, as she always did, she approved them all. The role she was to play was simply “The Girl”; sensuous and beautiful, her character still had to possess a sweet and innocent demeanour. So Travilla had to portray Marilyn as pure and lovely, almost talcum-powder clean. Achieving this effect on a humid, sunny afternoon in New York was not an easy task.
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The script presented challenges too. Travilla knew the halter-neck dress with its sunburst pleats would have to blow up at some point in the movie. So the fabric he chose was an ivory coloured rayon-acetate crepe, heavy enough to flow beautifully as she walked but still light enough to blow up in an interesting way. It is clear just by looking at the pictures that the dress did not blow up vertically like so many of the copies have done; instead it billowed, allowing her to pose seductively among the pleats of the skirt. Travilla never normally used manmade fabric, but with pleating this posed a challenge, as 100 per cent natural fabric would not hold such stiff pleats so, for all his pleated creations, a special fabric with just a small amount of manmade fibre in it to maintain the structure had to be made.

Keep reading this excerpt on Mandy’s blog

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 thrillerDon’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.

Q&A with Andrew Hansford

Today marks the 50th year anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death.

Andrew Hansford is the author of Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla (Applause Books). This is an excerpt of an interview posted on Chic Galleria. Please visit the site for the full interview.

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.

Keep reading this interview on Chic Galleria!

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 thrillerDon’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.

William Travilla Dressing for Television

The following is an excerpt from Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla by Andrew Hansford (Applause Books).

In the spring of 1975 Bill Sarris arrived to drag Travilla back into designing and he resurfaced with a vengeance, working on his fashion label alongside Sarris and taking on more and more freelance costume design. One of the first design jobs he did was the television mini series Moviola in 1980. His first episode, called “This Year’s Blonde”, was dedicated to Marilyn Monroe’s years as a struggling actress. The second, devoted to the stars of Gone With the Wind, was entitled “The Scarlet O’Hara Wars”. For this he won his first Emmy. He found it amusing that his first foray back into costume design was based on the golden era of Hollywood, the period in which he had started out, noting, “Women wanted glamour again and I was able to give it to them.”

His career hit a new high in the early 1980′s with a series of costume designs as iconic in their way as those he had created for Marilyn’s films. He was asked to redesign the look of the clothes in a show already airing on television: Dallas. Watching the series, Travilla was shocked to see that the supposedly glamorous characters were “wearing polyester”. Thanks to a huge budget, he transformed them, making them more befitting their status as super-rich oil tycoons. Those strikingly designs helped the characters and the show achieve legendary status. Not only did Travilla win an Emmy for Dallas, but his designs for the show’s female leads were credited with increasing the show’s ratings.

Donna Mills and Andrew Hansford

Donna Mills and Andrew Hansford 2012

Travilla also designed for many well-regarded TV mini-series in the ’80s, including The Thorn Birds, Evita Peron and The Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Story. He relished designing for Knots Landing and for a show, set in a high-end department store, called Berrenger’s. In the second part of his long and successful career as costume designer he dressed a stream of stunning women, striking up friendships with many. These included Donna Mills, Linda Gray–whom he adored, saying, “she is as beautiful inside as she is outside”–and Sharon Tate, whom he declared “one of the nicest and most beautiful women I have ever met”. He found them, like Marilyn, “a pleasure to dress”. Travilla was nominated for an Emmy Award six years running (1980-86) and won twice, for “The Scarlett O’Hara Wars” episode of Moviola and for Dallas. He was nominated for an Oscar four times and won once. In the course of his career he dressed more than 200 stars and designed costumes for 120 movies and television shows, as well as creating hundreds of personal dresses for celebrity clients.

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 thrillerDon’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.

Dressing Marilyn Monroe

 

Guest blogger: Andrew Hansford, author of Dressing Marilyn (Applause Books)

 

I was very nervous when it came to writing ‘Dressing Marilyn’. Marilyn Monroe has a huge following and I wanted to make sure I did her justice.  Everyone has their opinions of Marilyn and they change dramatically. However I met some amazing people along the way who made the process very enjoyable.

William Travilla and Marilyn Monroe made an incredible team, the star of the silver screen and the genius of Travilla culminated in some of the most recognised costume in cinematic history. Everyone knows his dresses but very few know him, he hated publicity, saying on more than one occasion I am a designer not a celebrity.

Their partnership was one of total trust, he knew exactly how to dress her, she never questioned his opinions, including when designing the costumes for ‘The seven Year Itch’, she did not even want to see the sketches beforehand she knew he would make her beautiful. And we all know what that movie did for her stardom. He pushed the limit of the sensors by dressing Marilyn in the most seductive way without showing a thing. His designs were a labour of love and knew exactly how the world needed to see her. He is the man who made Marilyn Monroe the screen legend we all see today.

Never has a partnership lasted the test of time, Marilyn still the most talked about, copied and written about star and Travilla the man who dressed her and what dresses are so often desired or copied? All of his!!

This book turned into a labour of love and I hope and pray that everyone associated with Travilla and Marilyn are happy and proud of the result.

Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla by Andrew Hansford (Applause Books)

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 thrillerDon’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. Available from Amazon.com, B&N, independent bookstores, and ApplauseBooks.com.

Dressing Marilyn Monroe

U.S. Launch of Dressing Marilyn, from Applause Books, Set for April 2012

Andrew and 'Marilyn'

Launch party for the UK edition of the book

William Travilla was one of the most sought-after designers of Hollywood’s Golden Age, creating outfits for Jane Russell, Paul Newman, Judy Garland, and Lauren Bacall, and earning an Oscar in 1949 for his work in Adventures of Don Juan.  But his most famous client was undoubtedly Marilyn Monroe.

 In April 2012, Applause Books will take fans of Hollywood glamor and fans of fashion back in time with the United States publication of Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by Andrew Hansford.

Dressing Marilyn will feature previously unseen material, including original sketches, patterns, and costume test shots, along with insights from lost interviews with Travilla that will reveal the fashion secrets of a Hollywood goddess.

 

Author Andrew Hansford on "This Morning" in the UK

 Hansford, the manager of the Travilla archives, explains how Travilla’s life was turned upside down after meeting Marilyn Monroe, and how he became her exclusive designer and friend for many years.  He takes the reader into a world of glamor and sophistication, revealing how Travilla – with the help of the white dress that was no match for a subway grate in The Seven-Year Itch, the stunning pink dress in which Marilyn sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and many other equally memorable creations – helped transform Marilyn into one of moviedom’s most memorable sex symbols.

 “Writing about such an incredible part of America’s history — The Glory Days of Hollywood — teases and excites the reader to know more about this glorious time,” Hansford explained.  “My focus is on Travilla’s early career and his friendship with his muse Marilyn Monroe. Never has a partnership lasted the test of time like these two, Marilyn, still the most talked about, copied, and written about star, and Travilla the man who dressed her.”

Marilyn's Oscar

 

In addition to print and broadcast publicity and marketing to coincide with the book’s North American debut in April, Dressing Marilyn will be a centerpiece of festivities celebrating Marilyn Monroe on the 50th anniversary of her death in August.