Do you know much about Marilyn Monroe? Do you consider her a pawn of Hollywood? I didn’t know much, until I visited Bendigo Art Gallery for the Marilyn Monroe exhibition.
Marilyn Monroe is often referred to as the sexiest woman of all time, so the opportunity to have a look first hand at her clothes was exciting. As I didn’t know much about her, I was keen to find out what made her tick.
Firstly, I was sad to read of such a tough childhood. Shortly after her birth, she was placed in foster care by her mother. At seven she raised by her schizophrenic grandmother, who was only able to care for her for a year. She then became a ward of the state. At eight, family friends Doc and Mrs Goddard took her in and raised her until she was sixteen. Doc Goddard was offered a job interstate and as she was officially a ‘ward of the state’ they couldn’t take her with them. So, rather than move into an orphanage again, she chose to marry her 21 year old neighbour. Please don’t say ‘people did that then’. I remember what I was like at 16 and heaven help me, I’m glad I wasn’t encouraged to marry the boy I dated.
Anyway, a few years on, hubby heads off into the armed forces and, working in a munitions factory, she gets an opportunity to be photographed. She looks young, and innocent. Although, she had already worked out that if she wore a ‘sweater’ then boys and men looked at her differently.
Those early photos were on display in Bendigo. And she had a cheesy grin in several and in one a sexy smile (with her mouth slightly open). One thing led to another and she was given a Hollywood role, bleached her hair and donned the eyeliner, fake lashes and red lipstick. And the introduction of her signature sexy hip sway.
I admire that she learnt quickly and could see what worked for her figure and face, and her look became a style of its own. But she didn’t stop there. I was impressed to discover that she took advantage of her popularity and started her own production company (really unusual for a woman in the 50’s). Marilyn Monroe was a entrepreneurial business woman! Good on her!
I also was pleasantly surprised to discover the clothes that she purchased to wear around her home and to private functions were in muted tones, black and ivory. They do not have the plunging necklines to show off her assets, or be overtly short. They were stylish and understated. In stunning silk crepes and silk jersey knits. When she dressed herself Marilyn had a lovely personal style.
There were also a series of photographs by Eve Arnold which are beautiful candid moments when Marilyn Monroe was relaxed and I felt there was a warm and tender side to the ‘show girl’.
I was saddened to read she married a second time for only nine months. But after she married play-write Arthur Miller, she appeared happier and more relaxed. It was sad she had a miscarriage and had been most concerned the unborn child may inherit schizophrenia. And so sad she died alone, possible suicide, of an accidental overdose.
From the exhibition, my favourite items were:
- A beautifully hand beaded neckline on the burgundy (it appears purple in photos) crepe silk beaded dress she wore when performing for the troops in Korea (the event in which she realised she was popular)
- The sun ray pleats on the famous gold lame dress, although the finish (especially around the armholes) is sloppy
- A stunning two tone burgundy and nude silk chiffon gown (in the photograph above).
Biggest surprise was the number of wardrobe dresses in which the hem was unfinished and was just raw fraying silk (but it is showbiz darling!).
Biggest disappointment is the book of the exhibition as it only shows publicity shots that anyone could find on google, and the dresses from her private collection are not included (I’ve been advised by the gallery they couldn’t get hold of the items months in advance in time for the book).
Favourite spot to eat… The Epicurean.
Overall, a worthwhile a trip to Bendigo (until 10 July 2016).
ps It was lovely to view so many sexy gowns made with pure silk. At Mussared, we too use only pure silk.