Some Like It Hot – Black Dress

In 1958 Orry Kelly, an Australian fashion designer (1897 – 1964), was signed on as designer for the movie “Some Like It Hot”. Amongst his designs for the movie were a silver/white dress which, in his words, was “of nude souffle draped on the bias to lift her breasts and push her tummy in.  It was so slightly beaded over her breasts that her nipples were not covered and [director] Billy Wilder had to light her with a single spot that left the area strategically in darkness.”

Kelly designed a black dress in a similar design, albeit with a lower neckline and black bead appliques of butterflies dotted across the skirt and on Marilyn’s shoulder.  The dresses were the most revealing of Marilyn’s career and were said to elicit gasps from audiences.  Of course, today these dresses would be nothing out of the ordinary, but, for it’s time, they were groundbreaking.  Only a handful of European actresses had shown more skin on film.

Kelly was known for his ability to “design for distraction” to compensate for difficult figure shapes which made him perfect for the design of dresses for the changing shape of a newly pregnant Marilyn and her male co-stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.  In fact, so good was the design of the male dresses, both Lemmon and Curtis were said to have used the female toilets unnoticed while filming.

Following it’s appearance on Marilyn in “Some Like It Hot”, the dress was worn by Barbara Nichols in “The George Raft Story” which meant alterations had to be made from when Marilyn had worn it.  The dress was later purchased by David Gainsborough-Roberts, who displayed it from time to time over the years, until 2016, when he decided to auction off his entire collection.  Juliens Auctions sold the dress on 17th November 2016 for a total of $460,000. It is unknown who currently owns the dress.

Kelly won the 1959 Oscar for Best Costume Design following his designs in “Some Like It Hot” and was said to have been Australia’s most prolific Oscar winner, having three wins for Best Costume Design before he died in 1964.

Source: Marilyn In Fashion – The Enduring Influence of Marilyn Monroe –  by Christopher Nickens and George Zeno

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