Pass the peroxide and work on that wiggle – fashion is having a Marilyn moment. Some 85 years after her birth, and almost 50 after her mysterious death, the potency of Monroe’s bombshell image — the platinum pin curls, the beauty mark, the ripe figure — continues, unabated. For proof that she’s working her trendsetting magic once again, one need only peruse the raft of recent magazine covers, from Harper’s Bazaar UK (Kate Winslet with tousled peroxide halo and black liquid eyeliner), to the cover of British Vogue (Rihanna with waved blonde bob) and, most recently, the October cover of American Vogue (Michelle Williams, star of My Week with Marilyn – the new film behind this Monroe-mania – in plunging ball gown, curled hair and creamy cleavage).
What’s more, this month marks the opening of Picturing Marilyn, an exhibition of portraits of Monroe that has just opened in New York, and next year will see Naomi Watts playing the legendary actress in another big screen biopic. It’s clear this season gentlemen – and women – prefer blondes. Read on if you want to assume Monroe’s sex kitten mantle.
1. Do the wiggle
If you’re going to channel Marilyn Monroe’s style, there’s no better place to start than that wiggle. Of course, most Monroe fans know that it didn’t come naturally – she had her cobbler shave a half-inch off one heel to emphasize the wink in her walk – and the story is now part of Old Hollywood lore.
Still, the starlet did have her footwear favourites. It was, in fact, Monroe’s own pair of sling-back sandals paired with the famous white dress from The Seven Year Itch. But it was Salvatore Ferragamo, “shoemaker to the stars,” who crafted the majority of Monroe’s heels, including the supremely sexy suede and crocodile “Viatica” pumps seen in Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Ferragamo still offers reproductions of this style and if the $2,900 price tag gives you pause, just remember Monroe’s bon mots: “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
2. Spritz her scent
While Monroe once famously said: “What do I wear to bed? Why Chanel No. 5 of course,” the iconic actress has been recast as a Dior doyenne as of late. The Parisian brand recently premiered a new fragrance ad campaign for its J’Adore fragrance in which Charlize Theron, through the magic of CGI, mingles with Monroe, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich before a runway show. Whichever perfume you prefer, be sure to spritz something sensual and feminine to capture Monroe’s intoxicating beauty. And recall what Time magazine wrote of Marilyn Monroe’s birthday salute to JFK: “When she came down in that flesh-colored dress, without any underwear on…you could just smell lust.”
Read more steps to Monroe style on the next page…
3. Try her tomboy style
For all her sex kitten status, Marilyn Monroe’s off-duty style was remarkably understated and demure. In the 1950s, her off-screen wardrobe – consisting mostly of Capri pants, natural-coloured chambrays and matching shirts – was striking for its cool, pared-down colours, its modernity and simplicity. On the set of The Misfits, Monroe showed this tomboyish side wearing jeans, a white shirt, and a denim jacket. Hers was a simple, confident, typically American style that is easy to replicate.
In the mid 1960s, Monroe developed a passion for juicy hues and collected Pucci in multiples. Equally au courant was the black polo turtleneck, cat-eye sunglasses and tan leather carryall she often wore on trans-Atlantic flights. Add to that a belted camel coat worn draped over the shoulders rather than fastened, (a look that’s having a mini revival of its own), and the result is appealingly adult and elegant. For an updated version, throw on a Max Mara-style trench coat over a white blouse and skinny jeans (or a pencil skirt) and you have Monroe’s contemporary chic style.
4. Embrace show-stopping eveningwear
Even in full bombshell mode, Monroe’s dress choices were deeply feminine. There’s the iconic pink satin gown that she wore in the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes — and which was famously copied by Madonna in the “Material Girl” video — as well as that pleated halter from The Seven Year Itch, but it’s the ‘skin-and-beads’ birthday gown that remains most unforgettable. The flesh-colored sheath encrusted with 2,500 rhinestones embraced her body as tightly as any of Monroe’s three husbands, and she literally had to be sewn into it. A sequined gown, ubiquitous this party season, is a sure bet to channel Monroe’s sex goddess image.
5. Show your shape
Monroe’s dress measurements were 37-23-36 – an unusually dramatic hourglass shape by any standard. If you weren’t born with this kind of perfect pin-up figure, turn to ResultWear, the recently launched line of haute shapewear that features the Marilyn slip as part of the collection. Red carpet lovelies like Sofia Vergara, Halle Berry, Kim Kardashian and Michelle Williams wear the saucy undergarments to enhance their killer curves.
6. Be a bombshell beauty
Monroe’s beauty look was an exercise in contrasts and construct. From her platinum hair – devised in 1950 by Max Factor – to her beauty-marked pale skin to her bright red lips, it was a combination that spelled glamour with a capital G. Her makeup, which she often did herself, oozed sex appeal and she mastered the art of accentuating her features with the use of illuminating powders, highlighters and contouring creams.
Her most meticulous beauty trick – and the one most worthy of attempting – was her technique to create the illusion of plumper lips without the needle. To get her perfect red pout, Monroe reportedly layered five different shades of lipstick and gloss, lining the lips and slightly overdrawing the shape in the cupid’s bow. After precisely painting her lipstick on with a lip brush, she strategically placed the darker reds on the outer corners and the light reds in the middle of lips for dimension. Finally, she highlighted the cupid’s bow and bottom lip with a cream highlighter for even more volume.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.