Marilyn Monroe’s off Duty Style and why she dresses for me
The following interview appeared in Motion Picture magazine in January 1954. It comprises questions sent in by readers to Helen Hover, who then ‘quizzed’ Marilyn.
Q: Is it true you dress for men?
MM: Don’t most women dress for men? Isn’t it true that men and women have mutual appreciation of each other?
Q: Why do you wear low cut gowns?
MM: I haven’t really noticed.
Q: What are your measurements?
MM: Bust 37, waist 23.5, hips 37.5 – or so they tell me.
I DRESS FOR MEN says Marilyn Monroe
I wonder why most women dress for women? I think that’s a mistake; for myself it would be, anyway. I happen to like men, so I usually like the same things they like. Therefore it’s a matter of simple logic that, of course, I dress for men! Also, I am aware, that I am a woman, and I enjoy being a woman. I don’t think I could dress like the illustrations in the high – fashion magazines. For that you require what is thought as a Vogueish figure , and is, I believe, a boyish type figure and I don’t have a boyish figure. To begin with, I believe your body should make your clothes look good – instead of using clothes to make the body conform to what is considered fashionable at the moment, distorted or not. That’s why I don’t care for ” unorganic” clothes- clothes that have no relation to the body. Clothes, it seems to me, should have a relationship to the body, not be something distinct from it. I don’t feel that ruffles mean femininity. You can’t put on womanliness; you have to be womanly. Part of being a woman is the desire to please a man, a very important part. That’s nature, and you can’t get away from it. In the 20th Century-Fox picture I am doing with Cary Grant , “Monkey business”, I wear only two dresses . They’re daytime dresses, somewhat on the tailored side. But they prove you don’t have to be obvious to be feminine. Billy Travilla has designed them first, to follow natural body lines, and second, without any attempt to disguise the fact that there is a body underneath.I have been criticized for wearing as little lingerie as possible. Yet, I have also been accused of appearing in the Twentieth Century-Fox commissary in lingerie. It happened while I was making “We’re Not Married” – in which I wear a one piece black bathing suit. One day I went directly to lunch in that suit, with a robe worn over it. The shooting schedule called for me to wear the bathing suit all day, so I kept it on. The robe must have done a pretty good job of covering me, because the next day a column carried the report that I had lunched in bra and panties! The only people who have criticized my clothes so far are women. It all started when a columnist disliked a dress I wore to a cocktail party and said I would have looked better in hopsacking. The studio then released a picture of me as “the girl who looks good even in hopsacking”. Later, still carrying the ball, a columnist criticized another cocktail party dress I wore, saying I should have worn a gunnysack. But I wore the very same dress for 10,000 Marines at Camp Pendleton, and they seemed to like it. At least, I heard no complains! This was a strapless beige lace dress that dipped, not too much in front and had a fishtail effect in back. How wrong can you go with simple beige lace?Men like simplicity in clothes, and so do I. There’s nothing so startling about that. Many famous women have followed the basic rules of selecting suitable, timeless clothes that they can wear for years. And in basic colors like black, white, grey and red. Red gets response! Busy prints or busy lines in a dress get tiring.Of course, it’s natural for women to respond to the freshness of fashion edicts; like this is a purple season, or the bouffant silhouette is it. There’s something feminine in that, too. Personally, I get the same satisfaction out of changing my hair. Since before “ The Asphalt Jungle”, when it was longer, I have kept it shorter, but I try to do different things with it. So far as clothes are concerned, I’ll pass up the blandishments of writers, and stick to what’s suitable for me. In that I go from one extreme to the other. I like blue-jeans, slacks and suits or “everything” in dressing up. But you can be feminine even in jeans, but even my jeans fit! I buy boys’ jeans, because they are long waisted like me; and boys’ shirts to go with them.
I have two favorite suits. One is black Christian Dior; but instead of wearing a blouse or gilet, I wear fresh red roses at the plunged neckline. I like to wear flowers; I even have some artificial ones for times when fresh ones aren’t handy. The other suit is a brown very fine-checked, with which I wear yellow roses at the neckline. This one is scooped out, so sometimes I substitute a white pique collar. Or I like to wind scarfs around and let one end fly over the shoulder; that leaves half scarf, half flesh in the neckline. My love for dressy clothes might have a psychological implication. When I went to school, I had exactly two navy skirts and two white blouses. I washed one and wore the other. But because they looked so much alike, my school mates made fun of me because I had only one outfit. But I am afraid I buy such things as cocktail and dinner dresses because they’re beautiful and feminine, rather than because I need many of them, in my present way of life. I have yet to go to my first premiere. Someday I might, but not yet. I don’t care for nightclubs. I go out with a man because I want to see him, not be seen because it’s the thing to do. I don’t go out with anyone unless I like him, and if you like a man, there are many more things to do than go to a nightclub. So in the meantime, I would just as soon stay home with Tolstoi or Thomas Wolfe – or even go for a walk alone. Three evenings a week my jeans-suit-and-slack wardrobe is much more suitable, anyway. One night I spend in a literature class at U.C.L.A., and two more studying with Lottie Goslar, the European pantomimist. To get back to why I dress for men, I think the big difference in the outlook of the sexes on fashion is that a woman will think of a dress for itself, but a man will think of it in relationship to the woman who is wearing it. So do I. That’s why I like to feel that I am right for my clothes, too. I don’t want to be bone thin, and I make it a point to stay the way I want to be. A breakfast of hot milk with two raw eggs means energy without fat. I like rare steaks and green salads and vegetables, too. Rather than wonder, should I eat dessert? I just go on an ice cream binge once a week (chocolate, please!). And, of course, if you don’t like girdles, you’re going to exercise. Working out with light weight dumbbells, and a slow, relaxed dog trot around the block are very good for toning muscles. You have to be friends with your clothes if you’re going to dress for men – no too tight zippers or unnecessary doodads to make you uncomfortable! Sometimes their acceptance is just in their response, but the response tells me I am right. Dressing for men is natural for a woman. After all, you can’t get away from basic fundamentals! – who wants to?