Marilyn Monroe Outfits That Meant More Than You Realized

There's no denying that Marilyn Monroe is a style icon. The Hollywood bombshell became a 1950s superstar after appearing in films like "All About Eve," "Some Like It Hot," and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Known for her curvy figure, blonde hair, and flawless skin, Monroe's look quickly became iconic — a look that would not have been complete without her incredible wardrobe.

Monroe famously wore size 16 clothing, which, by modern standards, would be about a size 8 to 10. Unlike many other starlets of the time, she wasn't stick-thin, something that only made her look more iconic. As the actress told Movieland magazine in 1952, "I believe your body should make your clothes look good. You can't put on womanliness; you have to be womanly" (via The Guardian).

Most of us can probably still picture many of Monroe's most famous outfits — the billowing white dress from the photograph of her standing over a grate, the sleeveless pink number she wore while singing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," or the slinky nude dress she wore to wish John F. Kennedy a happy birthday probably come to mind. But you may not have realized that, in fact, many of Monroe's most famous outfits have several layers of hidden meaning.

An iconic Marilyn Monroe dress allegedly led to her divorce from Joe DiMaggio

In the 1954 film "The Seven Year Itch," Marilyn Monroe famously appears in a scene where her white dress is accidentally blown up around her legs when she walks over a subway grate in New York City. The image of Monroe laughing and holding down her billowing skirt became a cultural phenomenon that is still widely recognized to this day.

While we all know the dress, you may not know the story behind it. The famous scene was shot at 1 a.m. in New York City over top of a real subway grate (via The Guardian). Apparently, it took around three hours to get the final shot. Over the course of the evening, up to 5,000 fans gathered to watch the filming. At the time, Monroe was married to baseball player Joe DiMaggio. As the photographer George S. Zimbel once said, DiMaggio was apparently very upset by the scene, which he felt was "exhibitionist." He even stormed off the set. Rumor has it that the couple had a huge fight after the scene was shot, and he ended up filing for divorce soon after — all because of the dress.

Marilyn Monroe's famous pink gown became a cultural phenomenon

If Marilyn Monroe's white dress is her most famous look, then her second most famous outfit is probably the elegant pink gown she wears in the film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" — namely, in the scene when she sings "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."

The dress ended up in the 2010 Hollywood Auction 40. As the auction house CEO Joe Maddalena explained in an interview, the dress has an incredible legacy and has become more and more meaningful as the years have gone on. "This is obviously from the most important dance sequence in Marilyn Monroe's career," he said. "You know, Madonna did a rendition of this in her video." He went on to explain that the dress had been owned by one collector since the 1960s. "It's priceless ... This is important. This is a cultural icon," he said.

According to Vogue, the dress eventually sold for £213,000 (roughly $290,000).

Marilyn Monroe's favorite casual outfits caused problems with her management and PR team

When most of us think of Marilyn Monroe, we probably picture her in a satin gown, covered in expensive jewels. But Monroe didn't always dress like a glamorous bombshell. In fact, her favorite clothes to wear at home were incredibly laid-back. Some people who worked with Monroe even saw her natural sense of style as "slovenly." 

Eventually, this sense of style began to pose issues. Photographer Milton Greene was a close friend of Monroe. Eventually, he decided she needed a wardrobe makeover. "You have something that looks fantastic on screen, but you walk around like a slob," he reportedly told her. "Look at Katharine Hepburn — she has a certain style ... You need a certain something, something other than cheap blonde sexpot" (via Vogue). So, Greene and his wife helped her find comfortable, casual clothes that fit with her public image as a glamorous actress. As the magazine reported, they eventually worked with the designers George Nardiello and Norman Norell to create a whole new wardrobe filled with "skintight," glamorous outfits.

So, next time you see a picture of Monroe in a laid-back outfit, you'll know that her friends probably didn't approve!

The famous dress she wore to JFK's birthday started a rumor they were having an affair

In 1962, Marilyn Monroe got on stage in front of a large audience and sang "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy. Her performance went down in history. Not only did Monroe sing in a slow, sultry voice, she also wore a close-fitting nude dress covered in 2,500 crystals — in fact, the dress was so tight, she was reportedly sewn into it. As Antique Trader noted, when Monroe first revealed the dress on stage, it looked for a moment as though she were naked.

The performance quickly spread rumors that Monroe and Kennedy were having an affair. It's no wonder it became "one of the most iconic moments in entertainment and political history," largely thanks to the dress, which remains a cultural icon in its own right. In 2016, the dress was sold for a staggering $4.8 million at an auction (via BBC News).

Her pink dress in Niagara made a statement about modern feminism

In 1953, Marilyn Monroe starred in the film "Niagara." In one scene, she wears a bold, hot pink dress with a small cutout in the stomach area. While this dress may not be quite as iconic or memorable as some of Monroe's other looks, it does have a fascinating story.

According to Vogue, the dress was carefully designed by costumers Dorothy Jeakins and Charles Le Maire. They wanted to design a dress that would show Monroe's character's fiery, flamboyant personality. They first considered dressing her in red but realized that hot pink was the best option. In fact, Monroe wore this pink dress just a few months before wearing her other famous pink dress in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," so pink became her signature color.

The decision to dress Monroe in pink started a huge movement in fashion that has lasted to this day, with girls and women everywhere wearing the color, even Queen Elizabeth. In fact, many believe that the decision to dress the blonde bombshell actress in pink eventually turned the color into the feminist statement it is today in fashion.

Marilyn Monroe once wore a potato sack to get back at the press

Marilyn Monroe was famous for her glamorous, elegant, sophisticated style. But, apparently, not everyone was impressed with her looks. According to Hollywood legend, Monroe once arrived at a party in a slinky red dress that one reporter described as "cheap and vulgar." He reportedly added that she would have looked better wearing a "potato sack." As the story goes, the producers of her next film decided to get back at the reporter by releasing a photoshoot of Monroe wearing just that: an Idaho potato sack. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it's also possible that the photoshoot was simply making a fun comment on how Monroe would look amazing in anything.

Either way, Monroe's form-fitting potato sack look was a hit. According to Timeline, one potato farmer even reached out to thank Monroe for the great publicity! If this isn't an example of Monroe being a bold trendsetter, we don't know what is.

This famous mermaid dress was actually made for her by a little-known designer and close friend

Many actresses like to work with one designer over and over again — someone who understands their image, their body, and their unique style. For Marilyn Monroe, that designer was Norman Norell. Norell designed many of Monroe's outfits, but one of his most interesting and meaningful creations is the gorgeous emerald green mermaid dress covered in sequins that Monroe wore to the 1962 Golden Globe Awards. Rumor has it that Monroe also wore earrings given to her by Frank Sinatra.

As Vogue explained, Norell never received the recognition or acclaim he deserved in the fashion world. So, this dress remains one of his best-known creations. Monroe's look was a huge success, and her dress is still considered one of the best red carpet looks in Golden Globes history. It even sold at an auction in 1999 for $96,000.

Marilyn Monroe's jeans in The Misfits made a huge impact on how women saw this wardrobe staple

Jeans have always been a staple of women's fashion — right? Well, not exactly. In fact, the real beginning of jeans-as-fashion-for-women arguably started around 1961 when Marilyn Monroe famously wore a pair of jeans in the film "The Misfits."

"The Misfits" was Monroe's final film role, so she was already established as a fashion icon in Hollywood. Of course, jeans weren't exactly the look that her fans had come to expect — but Monroe made the simple look work perfectly. In fact, prior to this film, Levi's were more commonly associated with cowboys and farmers. As noted in an article on the Levi Strauss & Co. website, one scene in particular that shows Monroe gardening in jeans led to a huge increase in the sales of Levi's for women. In just a few years, Levi's became a common look for teen girls — and jeans have remained popular ever since.

Marilyn Monroe picked out the famous outfit she wears in Bus Stop

In one of her most revealing outfits, Marilyn Monroe donned a tiny green body suit covered in a fish scale pattern and trimmed with gold tassels and a black tulle train. It was a sexy, seductive look perfect for her saloon performance of "The Old Black Magic" in the 1956 film "Bus Stop."

Fans of Monroe probably assume this was just another outfit designed for her by the film's costume designers. However, it turns out, there's a little more to the story. In a 2016 interview on "Lorraine," Martin Nolan, the executive director of Julian's Auctions, explained the significance of the outfit. Apparently, the designer, William Travilla, was going to design a new outfit for the scene, but Monroe didn't want the costume to feel too new. "She felt the item should be more vintage for her character," he said. "So, she actually raided the archives of Twentieth Century, and she found [the dress] ... a design by Charles La Maire." Talk about being dedicated to your role!