Marilyn Monroe is undeniably one of the most famous women today, even though she passed away over 55 years ago. The mystery surrounding her death is still ever present in modern society. There is another mystery that’s also a constant topic of conversation and debate, and it’s one of those questions I’m asked in nearly every interview: “What was Marilyn Monroe’s true size?”
You can learn the truth in this article. Please note, however, that every use of the term “plus sized” is in quotes because the term itself is derogatory and demeaning. (Have we ever heard the term “minus sized?”) #DropThePlus! A woman’s size or weight doesn’t define her. Be happy with who you are, and don’t look to others to set a standard for what’s beautiful and acceptable.
Many people believe that Marilyn was a larger “plus sized” woman. Even celebrities have chimed in on Marilyn’s weight and clothing size.
A quick Internet search pulls up countless articles focused on the topic of Marilyn’s size. People write about vanity sizing and claims of Marilyn’s measurements as reported by her dressmaker, (though the source of the dressmaker’s claim isn’t cited anywhere).
I’m going to shed some light on Marilyn’s TRUE physical size using seven items of clothing from her own personal wardrobe, which will finally close the debate on just how large (or in actuality, small) she really was.
Marilyn’s Measurements and Weight
Available documentation verifies Marilyn’s height and weight at several different times during her life, and her first modeling contract verifies her measurements:
August 2, 1945
Blue Book Modeling Agency
5’ 6”, 120lbs
February 8, 1954
DOD ID Card
5’ 5 1/2”, 118lbs
August 5, 1962
LA Coroner Medical Report
5’ 5 1/25”, 117lbs
While these documents suggest that her weight was a constant 117-120lbs, she was actually much heavier during the late 1950s, for example, the Some Like It Hot premiere on March 29, 1959 (below). Some have speculated she weighed close to 140 lbs at this point.
Marilyn wasn’t like most women in that she had an extreme hourglass figure. Many modern size charts like the ones below don’t even reflect Marilyn’s physical dimensions.
In 1945, Marilyn’s dimensions were 36-24-34. The red circle on the charts below demonstrate how her body was different. Note the “X-Small” and “Medium” sizes.
Note that the “plus sized” chart in the second example doesn’t reflect Marilyn Monroe’s measurements for bust, waist and hips. So much for Marilyn being “plus sized!”
Marilyn Monroe’s Clothing Tells the Truth
While some say Marilyn Monroe was a large “plus sized” woman, her personal clothing items tell a different story. Below are several examples of Marilyn’s clothing worn at varying times in her life, displayed on a size 6-8 dress form, with measurements of 33.5″ (bust), 24.5″ (waist), and 34.5″ (hip). With these images and video clips you can get an idea of her true size. Most important, even at her heaviest weight in 1959, her waist still measured just 28.5 inches.
This belt measures 27 inches (on the outside of the belt) when fastened. Of course, this doesn’t even take into account the layers of clothing Marilyn wears under the belt. Marilyn is pictured wearing this belt at RKO Studios.
This wool skirt is one of two that Marilyn owned. She had one in gray and another in purple. Marilyn was known to buy the same item in multiple colors and this is an example of that. The photo below shows Marilyn wearing the purple skirt, which is exactly the same as this gray skirt. No size is present on a tag inside. When fastened, this skirt also measures 27 inches. Again, this doesn’t account for layers of clothing. The photo was taken during the filming of “River of No Return.”
Marilyn Monroe’s silk evening cape, fashioned in a brocade pattern depicting roses and leaves, the interior lined in champagne-colored silk, worn to the 1955 premiere of “East of Eden” in New York City. This is a custom design, believed to have been made for Marilyn by George Nardiello. This cape fits perfectly on this size 6-8 dress form.
This red cotton button-down casual garment with a pattern of roosters and chickens was worn while Marilyn was pregnant in 1958 during and after the filming of “Some Like It Hot.” There is no size present inside the garment. The photos show how loosely the garment hangs on Marilyn, even while she’s pregnant. The seams at the shoulder measure 15 inches apart.
Marilyn wore this black silk cocktail dress to a 1959 event honoring husband Arthur Miller. The dress was hand-tailored for Marilyn, and it’s one of a kind. As it was handmade for Marilyn, this dress certainly provides an exact representation of Marilyn’s physical form. At this point in her life, Marilyn was at her heaviest, with some speculating she weighed nearly 140lbs. Even still, when displayed on the dress form, her waist measured an astonishing 28.5 inches.
The inside of the dress is shown below.
Marilyn wore this overcoat as she exited Polyclinic Hospital on July 11, 1961, following gallbladder surgery. Photos from that day show she has slimmed down and appears to be near her average weight. This coat hangs loosely around her shoulders as she exits the hospital and makes her way to a waiting limousine.
From the 1999 Christie’s Auction, “The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe,” Marilyn’s lime green Pucci blouse. The label in this blouse reads size 14. In footage and photos of Marilyn wearing this blouse, she appears to have lost even more weight, as she looks slimmer than she did in 1961 as she exited Polyclinic Hospital.
Yes, you read it right, size 14. Marilyn Monroe in fact wore a size 14 blouse, but a 1962 size 14 (and don’t forget Pucci is an Italian label). Today, Marilyn’s clothing fits very well on a size 6-8 dress form, and this is where vanity sizing comes into play. Throughout the years, clothing sizes for women have decreased while the actual size of women has increased. To complicate matters even further, clothing brands today don’t follow a systematic approach to sizing. The chart below shows how different clothing lines use different measurements for sizes.
Marilyn Monroe’s True Size
When she performed “Happy Birthday Mr. President” for John F. Kennedy on May 19, 1962, roughly three months before her death, Marilyn’s measurements were bust: 35.5″, waist: 23.5″, hips: 23.25″. By modern-day standards, she would likely be a size 4 to 6.
Marilyn Monroe Lifted Weights
Marilyn herself knew the importance of physical exercise. She owned her own weight set and she worked-out years before most people understood the benefits of staying fit and healthy.
Marilyn was also aware of the importance of her figure and staying in shape. She’s known to have referenced her physical form in at least two separate interviews:
“I don’t want to be bone thin, and I make it a point to stay the way I want to be.”
“The working men, I’ll go by and they’ll whistle. At first they whistle because they think, oh, it’s a girl. She’s got blond hair and she’s not out of shape, and then they say, “Gosh, it’s Marilyn Monroe!” And that has it’s, you know, those are times it’s nice.”
While many believe that Marilyn Monroe was a “plus sized” woman, the fact is that’s just not true. Even during the late 1950s when she was at her heaviest, her custom made dress indicates her waist still measured a tiny 28.5 inches. She had an extreme hourglass figure. The interesting part is that the hourglass may have varied over the years, but she was never obese. Unfortunately, Elizabeth and Rosanne, Marilyn just wasn’t the “plus sized” woman you claimed she was.