1940’s the taming of Norma Jeane
Throughout her life, Marilyn worked on her appearance. In the 1940’s, looking back at old photographs of the youthful Norma Jeane, it’s clear to see she was as interested in fashion and make up as much as any other teenage girl at that time.
However, this was not the refined elegant, classical look that Marilyn was later to own, this was an eclectic mix of styles, patterns and colours, sometimes worn all at once! The lines of her silhouette were often fussy; she liked flounces and frills, tweeds and stripes, with neck scarves and head scarves. Norma Jeane wore an assortment of suits, skirt and pant suits, floral tea dresses, baggy trousers, check blouses and shirts, her love of all things check continued throughout her life.
One thing Marilyn never appeared to have a huge interest in was jewelry, this is ironic when you consider even today, the character she played in one of her most well known films Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a diamond chasing gold digging, tiara loving good time girl and ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ which is considered the most famous song from that film, will always be associated with Marilyn. The real Monroe however, owned a small amount of jewelry that she wrapped in a cloth and stuffed into the toe of one of her shoes – in complete contrast to the character of Lorelei Lee, Marilyn preferred a good book or a Frank Sinatra record to collecting or wearing jewelry.
Early 1940’s photographs of Marilyn are of course, mainly in black and white – only later, when she was working at Radioplane Munitions Factory did the colour photographs of Norma Jeane begin appearing in abundance. A group of photographers were sent to take picture of women working for the war effort – in a letter to Grace Goddard dated 4th June 1945 Norma Jeane tells her about the event
‘…After they finished with some of the pictures, an army corporal by the name of David Conover told me he would be interested in getting some color still shots of me. He used to have a studio on ‘the Strip’ on Sunset [Boulevard]. He said would make arrangements with the plant superintendent if I would agree, so I said oaky. He told me what to wear and what shade of lipstick, etc., so the next couple of weeks I posed for him at different times’
The colour photographs show a young woman who was not afraid to be bold – favouring primary colours of bright red, green, blue and yellow and no fear of striking patterns – this was to change as Norma Jeane transitioned and Marilyn Monroe developed.
PART 2 - to follow