Marilyn's Beauty and Style
I want to grow old without facelifts. I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I have made..."
Most people that have come into contact with Marilyn Monroe, either directly or indirectly, muse over what made her stand out above the other beauties of Hollywood and the world (past and present) What was it that raised Marilyn Monroe to Iconic Goddess status? Even people that knew her well searched for the answer - the photgrapher Bert Stern, who photographed her over two sessions, which became know as 'The Last Sitting' in 1962, stated:
“My eye roved her face, searching. I couldn’t find the secret of her beauty in any one feature. She didn’t have a great nose like Liz Taylor, or perfect lips like Brigitte Bardot. She didn’t have gorgeous almond-shaped eyes like Sophia Loren. And yet she was more to me than all of them put together”
Norma Jeane had an innate understanding of beauty or maybe, it was the hours she spent at Grauman’s as a young child, watching the ethereal beauties of the day gliding across the silver screen, with translucent skin, deeply dark, vibrant mouths, heavy lidded smoky eyes, with brows groomed and arched to impossible perfection. Her first husband Jim Dougherty declared that she would wash her face up to 15 times a day to keep it clean and prevent blemishes. Her intimate personal beauty routine has long since become the property of the ever persistently invasive public. After all, if we can share Marilyn’s secrets – maybe we can apply them to ourselves and share some of her Goddess qualities, and how refreshing is it to know that this woman worked hard at her appearance, how demoralising would it be to learn that she effortlessly became Marilyn Monroe, that there was no maintenance, no upkeep, no level of focus or effort to hold it all together.
In this section we will look at Marilyn’s physical attributes, beauty routine, hair and clothes in detail. There will also be a page devoted to how you can obtain the Monroe look just for fun occasionally or for serious everyday style – people often get confused with Marilyn’s image – they think it wasn’t a natural look, when they recall her face they often think of the pouting red lips, the heavily eye lined, false eyelash sweep that Marilyn wore in certain photographic sessions. However, for the main part, Marilyn’s makeup and dress was minimalist – she was unpretentious and natural but even appearing beautifully ‘natural’ takes skill!
Exploding the Myths...
Contrary to popular belief the young Norma Jeane wasn’t a Dickensian neglected looking child, photographs from that time show a well dressed little girl who was indulged in nice clothes and treated to the art of making up by both her Mother and her mothers best friend (and Marilyn’s eventual guardian) Grace McKee Goddard. Norma Jeane was regularly taken to the hairdressers and even the Director of the Orphan’s home allowed her to experiment with makeup.
Whilst her emotional and mental needs may not have been met, it does appear that her material needs as far as appearance was concerned were amply supplied as a matter of priority.
One of the most ridiculous myths is repeated time and time again - apparently Marilyn Monroe was a current English size 16! Once and for all - Marilyn was not at any time during her career an English dress size 16. Whilst she certainly did battle with her weight, there is no doubt about that, even during her pregnancies she was not wearing a size 16. I would love to be able to subscribe to this myth being a size 16/18 myself! It would be so wonderful for me to identify with Marilyn figure wise - but unfortunately I can't.
During her career Marilyn's weight certainly fluctuated - anywhere from between 115lbs to 140lbs at her very heaviest. At her death Marilyn weighed a very light 117lbs.
Marilyn's measurements were naturally as varied as her weight - they also varied as to who was giving out the details!
In 1945 when she signed up with the Blue Book Modelling Agency, Norma Jeane confidently related her statistics as follows: (information taken from The Complete Marilyn Monroe by Adam Victor)
Measurements: 36-24-34, size 12
Hair Colour: medium blonde "too curly to manage, recommend bleach and permanent"
Eyes: blue and "perfect teeth"
In her first national feature in a 1951 issue of Collier's magazine, starlet Marilyn was billed as 37-23-34.
In her earliest studio biographies Marilyn's height is up by half an inch to 5'51/2. By 1955 she was advertised as 38-23-36, a set of measurements corroborated by Marilyn's costume designer William Travilla.
In the 1960's when she was at her heaviest, she was 140lbs and here is where the myth started. Whilst filming Lets Make Love Marilyn was considered to be her most curvaceous and a size 16. However, a 1950's dress size would be the equivalent of a modern day size 12 or even as small as a size 8! So, whilst it may seem empowering for woman kind to hear that the greatest sex symbol of all time wore a voluptuous size 16 - sadly for us modern day 16's we are trying to compare ourselves with a petite size 12 or even size 8 in some instances! We are setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration looking in the mirror and hearing the media telling us we should look like Marilyn Monroe - we are left bewildered and wondering why we don't or not looking truthfully and consoling ourselves that we are the same size as Marilyn but in fact we're deceiving ourselves.
Having had the opportunity and privilege of seeing Marilyn's costumes and personal clothing I can tell you for certain she was tiny, even during peak weight times, Marilyn was definitely a slim woman.