Marilyn Monroe’s Personal Black Silk Cocktail Dress
From the personal wardrobe of Marilyn Monroe: A hand-tailored, one of a kind cocktail dress in black silk, sleeveless with a plunging, gathered neckline and a back zipper; with the bottom hem having weights sewn into the lining to keep the dress lying flat when worn by Marilyn.
Marilyn wore this dress to an event held by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where her husband, Arthur Miller, was recognized for receiving their Gold Medal for Drama Award on May 20, 1959 in New York City.
From The Genius & The Goddess:
On May 20, 1959 Miller was awarded the Gold Medal for Drama from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the rather formal ceremony was sparked into life by Marilyn’s stunning appearance. A speech was dependable. Miller, on occasion, managed to be witty when he spoke, but you could always count on him to be pious in the last sentence of the first paragraph: ‘An honor which the artist perhaps would not part with, but never truly takes as his own, because labor freely given and the joyful misery of creating cannot be translated into a prize.’ Nevertheless, his presence was an event: Marilyn Monroe, then his wife, was in the audience.
Miller, well aware of her habits, arrived on time and without her. Marilyn came very late and at the very end of the luncheon. She was placed next to the seventy-eight-year-old Irish writer, Padraic Coum, who hadn’t minded the empty seat and truthfully claimed that he’d never heard of Marilyn Monroe. Wearing a very tight and very decollete black dress, with three strands of pearls and long white gloves, she sat demurely among the spectators. She knew she was on display – all eyes, as always, were riveted on her – and was smiling, charming, and self-possessed. The intellectuals and academicians were tremendously excited by her presence. Everyone was thrilled to be there and fought to get near the deity. Abandoning their customary reserve, they swarmed around her and swooned like a bunch of love-sick schoolboys. While Miller gave his pious speech, Marilyn quietly stole the show.”
Marilyn’s Evening Wear: Marilyn’s public wardrobe was full of film-star black dresses. The 1999 Christie’s auction showed us Marilyn wore seemingly endless variations of the sophisticated little black evening dress, most often with the dresses being seamed, darted, and even boned, to make the most of her curves. Her dresses were cool and elegant, every inch emphasizing Marilyn’s lush, yet at the same time fragile blonde beauty; the special luminous quality that made of her a major star in front of still or moving cameras. This was all part of the film star image she had so carefully created for herself.
This dress was to have been sold originally at the 1999 Christie’s Auction: The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe, and the Christie’s tag is still pinned to the garment. Ultimately, this Marilyn Monroe dress sold at the 2005 Julien’s Auction: Property from The Estate of Marilyn Monroe.
Christie’s New York: The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe, October 27-28, 1999. Click here to buy your copy of the Christie’s auction catalog for the sale of Marilyn Monroe’s personal items.
Secondary: Julien’s Auctions: Property from the Estate of Marilyn Monroe, June 4, 2005