But is it real? Is it in fact the dress Marilyn Monroe wore? My personal opinion is that it cannot be verified or proven 100% that this is the dress Marilyn wore when she performed “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” which is perhaps her most famous singing and dancing film appearance ever.
My assessment is based on a number of factors.
1) The color and fabric of the dress sold is different than the dress Marilyn wears during this number (see images below). Note also that the belt on the dress sold at auction does not match the color of the dress sold at auction.
The dress Marilyn actually wore in the film (below) is a vibrant and shiny fabric, quite unlike the material of the dress sold at auction (above). In many other examples of proven authentic costumes, they look very much today the same way they did when worn by Marilyn in her films. Most often the colors match, as do the materials and fabrics.
2) According to representatives of the Travilla estate, black felt was glued to the inside of the dress that Marilyn wore for this number by Billy Travilla himself. This was done so that the dress had a certain stiffness and movement that was desired for this particular dance number. The dress that sold at auction does not appear to have black felt glued to the inside of the fabric.
3) I happened to meet a man who worked as a security guard for Fox Studios for many years. He had access to all areas of the Fox lots, including storage facilities. He recalls seeing the pink Travilla designed dress that Marilyn wore during this scene, and it was in fact tattered and frayed, and was disintegrating from the heavy dyes that were used to obtain the hot pink color, and also from the glue used to affix the black felt to the inside of the dress. Sadly, the dress that Marilyn actually did wear during her performance of “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” may possibly not even exist anymore.
4) Note photo below: The pink “Diamonds” dress is distinctly absent from this picture taken of a storage container full of costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe in her films. Granted, other costumes are missing also. However, several original Travilla pieces can be seen in this photo.
The dress that sold at auction is likely a copy of the dress that Marilyn actually wore. We’ll never know for sure if this was in fact the dress Marilyn wore in the number, though personally I don’t believe that to be the case. What is undeniable is the fact that there is more than one pink dress as there are actually two known to exist today.
From the Profiles In History Catalog:
Lot 832: Marilyn Monroe pink satin gown from the “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. This pink satin gown was worn by Marilyn Monroe as the gold-digging “Lorelei Lee” in one of cinema’s most memorable song and dance sequences as she performed “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”. This Travilla-designed pink silk satin strapless gown features black satin lining with oversized bow attached at back. Features integral brassier with rear zipper closure (concealed with bow overlay) and interior Fox cleaning tag. Also comes with the original pair of screen-worn opera-length tubes worn over Marilyn’s arms (gloves are shown for display only) and pink satin belt with “M. Monroe A-698 1-27-3-7953” written on the inner leather lining. Originally designed to be a two-piece garment, this lot features an additional bonus having the original top made for this dress (featuring interior bias label handwritten “1-27-3-7971 M. Monroe A 698-74”) that was not used in the production. This design was discarded due to the top and skirt separating when Marilyn raised her arms during the number. The gown exhibits slight toning in areas, common in silk garments from this era; otherwise in fine condition. The leather backing on the belt is cracked and missing in areas and silk exhibits fraying on edges. Marilyn’s public appearance dress worn at President John F. Kennedy’s birthday tribute sold at auction in 1999 for an astounding $1,267,500. This remains as the single most important screen-worn gown in film history to ever reach the auction block. Indeed, Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” performance has reached such an iconic status that several notorious entertainers have copied it—right down to the pink strapless gown!