“Billy Dear, please dress me forever…”

She is the worlds most famous blonde, her legendary status is forever captured on film, the classic costumes worn by Hollywood’s ultimate starlet are collectively remembered. There are songs in her honor, memorabilia a plenty and movies that strive to capture the essence of our Marilyn Monroe. She may be gone, but she will never be forgotten, her extraordinary fame granted her eternal immortality.

‘Clothes maketh the man’ or so one William Shakespeare wrote, little did we know however that some hundred years later, another less well known William, was about to, without realization, redefine that famous quote and that his genius would allow clothes to also maketh the women, particularly if that women is Marilyn Monroe.

Little is known of the man behind many of Monroe’s most iconic dresses, his greatness is hidden by the shadow of her success. But without him the most famous dress in cinema would not have been possible. Who is this ominous man responsible for helping create the glamorous façade that would, ultimately, catapult the breathtakingly beautiful Marilyn to the dizzying heights of superstardom and beyond?

William Travilla, known professional as simply Travilla, is the costume designer who envisioned and brought to life the dresses that are now synonymous with Marilyn Monroe. Travilla creations oozed style, class, elegance and sex appeal – all attributes Marilyn Monroe possessed in abundance.

The pair met in 1950 while Travilla was working as a costume designer for Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn asked to use his fitting room and the rest was history as they say. The duo continued a working relationship and Travilla went on to design costumes for Monroe on eight movies. Although, it was rumored the relationship wasn’t purely professional, Travilla himself said the two, despite both being married at the time, conducted an affair. Marilyn however never confirmed Travilla’s claims.

The dress that made Travilla’s name and the dress that epitomizes Monroe above all others is the ivory, hand pleated, halter she dons in ‘seven Year Itch’. The dress was made from two pieces of rayon that came together behind the neck leaving the shoulders and back bare. Boned in metal and cut on the bias, the dress complimented perfectly Monroe’s sensuous form. The dress had its staring moment when Marilyn Monroe stood atop a New York City subway grate in a scene that is forever etched into our memories, and is now consider one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. The pleated skirt billowing up around the actresses womanly form caused such a stir amongst the city during filming that the crew where forced to film the scene on a sound stage and it was that provocative scene that started the feud, that would end in divorce, between her and husband Joe De Maggio.
Monroe’s dress is so prolific and holds so many memories.

The history of that dress tells stories that may have forever stayed a secret, stories that run deeper than the eye can see. Here at MSL we love stories and we love the history that a single dress can posses. All women have a dress or garment that shapes their lives or evokes wonderful memories so why not pay homage to your treasured piece and go ‘Behind The Seams’ to see what you will uncover. Go on, have your Marilyn moment…


Sophie Maguire

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