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Marilyn Monroe: The Timeless Enigma of Beauty & Style

Marilyn Monroe's timeless allure as a beauty and style icon is demonstrated by the high demand for her memorabilia

June 10, 2024

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Lot #1182 MARILYN MONROE | 1956 CECIL BEATON PHOTOGRAPH

In the gleaming complexity of Hollywood's Golden Age, Marilyn Monroe emerged as a luminous star, captivating the world with her enigmatic beauty and effortless style. Decades after her untimely passing, her allure remains undiminished, an eternal flame flickering in the collective memory. This enduring fascination extends beyond her films and photographs, reaching into the realm of tangible artifacts.

Monroe's memorabilia is among the most coveted in the world, a demonstration to her enduring status as a cultural icon. Julien’s has made headlines with record-breaking sales of her personal belongings, from her iconic dresses to her handwritten notes.

Monroe's photogenic prowess was not merely a product of chance or genetic lottery. It was a symphony of elements – her expressive eyes that sparkled with mischief and vulnerability, her radiant smile that could melt the coldest heart, her voluptuous figure that challenged conventional notions of beauty, along with her signature platinum blonde hair.

Lot #1183
A Ceil Chapman three-quarter black jersey evening dress belonging to Marilyn Monroe. Monroe was photographed wearing the dress as she and Joe DiMaggio attended an event hosted by Bob Hope. Hope hosted a gathering on December 16, 1953 to honor two-star general William F. Dean after the general appeared as a guest on Hope's television show.

A three-quarter length strapless form-fitting dress, composed of black jersey cut on the bias. The dress features asymmetric gathering throughout, a boned bodice, and a black silk taffeta structural fanned applique at the left hip that goes until the hem. There is a Ceil Chapman label present at the side zip closure, no size tag is present.

Interestingly, Marilyn references this dress, or a very similar one she owned (also sold by Julien's as Lot 27 in our November 17, 2016 auction titled "Property from the Estate of Lee Strasberg"). The quote is from an article which appears in the July 1952 issue of Modern Screen magazine, and reads:

"My only other new cocktail dress is a black silk by Ceil Chapman which has a big puff at the side and drapes tightly around my legs. I like its slimming effect."

Ceil Chapman began her eponymous label in label in 1940, quickly becoming the designer for cocktail dresses. Chapman's client roster included Elizabeth Taylor, Deborah Kerr, and Jayne Mansfield. Her cocktail dresses were known for their sculptural fit as well as their ease of wear.

The lot comes with the original auction hang tags from "The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe," October 27-28, 1999.

But beyond the physical attributes, there was an intangible quality that made Monroe so irresistible to the camera – a magnetic charisma that transcended the two-dimensional confines of a photograph. She possessed an uncanny ability to connect with the viewer, her gaze seemingly piercing through the lens, inviting them into her world.

This mystique extended beyond her on-screen persona. Monroe's off-screen style was equally captivating, a blend of classic elegance and playful sensuality. Her wardrobe, a curated collection of figure-hugging dresses, tailored suits, and casual separates, became iconic, inspiring countless imitations.

Lot #1188
A 1982 later print with a semi-gloss finish, depicting 12 images of the nude star as she poses holding a geometric-print scarf; lower margin with penciled annotations by Stern reading "12/15 Marilyn 1962 Bert Stern;" verso with Stern's further annotations reading "Taken / 1962 / 12/15 Bert Stern / Marilyn Monroe / Contact Sheet #1;" verso also displays black ink credit stamp reading in part "1982 Bert Stern;" rolled. Please note the very large size of this piece; futhermore, please note there are evident tears and/or rips on the 3rd images from the left in the top and middle rows.

35 x 47 inches

Marilyn Monroe

The "Marilyn Monroe look" was more than just clothes, however. It was an attitude, a confidence that radiated from within. Whether she was posing for a glamorous photoshoot or running errands in jeans and a t-shirt, Monroe exuded a certain je ne sais quoi that made her the epitome of chic.

Her influence on fashion is undeniable. The "Marilyn dress" – the ivory pleated halter neck gown she wore in "The Seven Year Itch" – is one of the most recognizable garments in history. Her love of diamonds, red lipstick, and high heels has become synonymous with Hollywood glamour.

Lot #1183
A red lace evening gown designed by John Moore for Talmack worn by Marilyn Monroe for the Gigi premiere on July 10, 1958, at the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles, CA (Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer 1958). Monroe was also photographed in the body-con flamenco-style dress by photographer Gene Lester for a series of images taken on January 1, 1955. 

A form-fitting flame red lace evening dress with an asymmetric flared skirt at the hips, lined with tulle to create volume and a wide hem. The gown has built-in bra cups with a conical shape that creates a sweetheart neckline; there were two spaghetti straps but only one strap remains, which has come detached at the back of the bodice. There is a Talmack, John Moore, New York label, but no size tag or composition tag present.

John Moore was a well-known New York designer who worked for Elizabeth Arden, Jane Derby, and Talmack. He garnered the prestigious Cody Award while designing at Talmack in the 1950s before starting his label in 1963, which ceased production in 1971. Moore and Marilyn were friends as well as designer and muse; the designer would often write to Marilyn encouraging her to visit him and see his recent designs that were designed with Monroe in mind.

This dress is in fragile condition with the fabric shredding at both the lining and exterior fabric, stains, discoloration throughout, and structural damage to the skirt and lining. There has been light restoration work with applique done to the lace at the left bracup and basting done to the seams at the skirt, which has come undone.

The dress was gifted directly to the consignor by Anna Strasberg, who became executor of Monroe's estate following the death of her husband Lee Strasberg.

Links to images of Monroe wearing the dress are available upon request.

Marilyn Monroe

Monroe's style was not confined to the realm of fashion, however. She was also a trendsetter in beauty, her signature makeup look – winged eyeliner, arched brows, and bold red lips – becoming a timeless classic.

Yet, despite her immense popularity and undeniable influence, Monroe remained an enigma. Her life was a paradox – a whirlwind of fame and fortune, marred by personal struggles and a tragic end. Her vulnerability, often masked by her glamorous facade, only added to her pull.

Lot #1179
A hand-tailored piece; made of tan wool, straight and knee-length, side zip closure, back kick pleat; one of the star's signature "every day" skirts, though this one is unfinished with stitching still evident at the waistband and hem.

PROVENANCE Former Lot 381, "From the Archives of Marilyn Monroe's Personal Property," Julien's Auctions, Los Angeles, November 16, 2018

Marilyn Monroe

In the decades since her death, Monroe's legacy has only grown stronger. Her image has been reproduced countless times, her life story has been the subject of numerous books and films, her memorabilia has been sold for exorbitant sums at auction, and her style continues to inspire designers and fashionistas alike.

Marilyn Monroe was more than just a beautiful woman or a talented actress. She was a cultural icon, a symbol of feminine power, and a walking proof to the enduring power of beauty and style. Her mystique remains as potent today as it was during her lifetime, a reminder that true icons never fade away.

Monroe’s lore continues in TCM and Julien’s Hollywood Legends: Danger, Disaster & Disco auction, and features an intimate selection of Monroe’s cherished items. Register and bid today to secure your chance to own a real piece of the actress from her life to yours.

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