December 9, 2022

What Happened To Marilyn Monroe’s Famous Pink Dress?

In a career full of iconic moments, Marilyn Monroe’s performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was one of the most memorable. Part of what made the scene unforgettable was Monroe’s eye-catching pink dress.

There’s some mystery about where the dress ended up. Supposedly, there were two copies made for the film, and the one sold at auction in 2010 wasn’t the one Monroe actually wore on camera. According to Cultura Colectiva, the one worn in the film was lined with felt to keep it stiff as Monroe danced. The one sold at auction was lined with black satin, according to the auction’s catalog (via Live Auctioneers).

However, The Vintage News says rumors the auctioned dress wasn’t the real thing were never proven. In fact, the dress was auctioned with a top from an earlier version of the outfit, which was a two-piece. The catalog notes that the two-piece was not used in the production because the top and skirt pulled apart when Monroe raised her hands while dancing (via Live Auctioneers).

A controversy and a change of wardrobe

Monroe’s pink dress was designed by William Travilla, who made costumes for eight of her movies and later claimed to have had an affair with her. Travilla won an Oscar in 1948 for “Adventures of Don Juan” costumes. By 1953, he was designing for Monroe (via Cultura Colectiva).

But Travilla was initially told to make something very different for the scene, according to CNN. He described the original design to A&E as “fishnet hose over her nude body. The breasts and the hipline [were] covered with diamonds put together by a jeweler.”

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This design (pictured above) was scrapped after nude photos of Monroe emerged, shocking 1950s America and sending the film’s studio into a frenzy. Travilla designed the pink dress at the studio’s request to distance Monroe from the scandal. Monroe herself was much calmer, telling a reporter, “A few years ago, when I had no money for food or rent, a photographer I knew asked me to pose nude for an art calendar… I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve done nothing wrong” (via CNN).

The centerpiece of an auction

The dress was sold at the Profiles in History auction on June 11, 2010. Also up for grabs at the auction were the Wicked Witch of the West’s hat from “The Wizard of Oz,” Johnny Depp’s scissorhands from “Edward Scissorhands,” Darth Vader’s lightsaber from “Return of the Jedi,” and Steve McQueen’s shotgun from “The Magnificent Seven.” Marilyn Monroe’s pink dress, however, was expected to be the most expensive item, according to The Telegraph at the time.

In an interview about the dress (via YouTube), auction house owner Joe Maddalena shared that it had been in a private collection since the 1960s, and the original buyer had gotten it from 20th Century Fox.

As The Telegraph reported, the dress was expected to fetch around $251,000. Though other dresses of Monroe’s had sold for over a million dollars, this one was priced lower because of the economy at the time, still recovering from the 2008 recession, Maddalena explained. In the end, the dress sold for around $310,000, and according to The Vintage News, it was sold to an apparently anonymous buyer — their name is not available online.

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In his interview, Maddalena said the dress was more important than many of the “cool” or “fun” items he sold and called it a “cultural icon.”