Style icon: The Myth of Marilyn

“I’ve never fooled anyone. I’ve let people fool themselves. They didn’t bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn’t argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t.”   ~Marilyn Monroe

The Woman

Marilyn Monroe was the original dumb blonde. She perfected the dumb blonde cum sexy siren routine long before Jessica Simpson confused tuna for chicken and Madonna donned her first cone bra. We’ve all seen those iconic images of Monroe standing over the subway grate in that white halter dress.

But tied up in the story of Marilyn is not only the tragedy involving the Kennedys and pills but also an ambitious girl named Norma Jean. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the woman from the myth or the actress from the role.

So why do I find Marilyn so fascinating? Why is she a legendary icon? It’s more than just her story, which is fascinating in and of itself. And while I occasionally enjoy watching one of her flicks, they’re not my favorites. I think it’s because she’s a curvy girl who knew how to work it to her advantage. (There’s some speculation that she would be considered fat by today’s standards, but no one can seem to arrive at a consensus.) Maybe it’s because, like Dolly Parton, I think she’s more than blond hair and boobs. Because she’s actually a smart girl who attracted the likes of both Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. Because she managed to maintain her mystery and become a star that never fades. Because she’s eternally beautiful and in some ways she can be whoever you want her to be. Because she created and embodied a character so thoroughly, maybe even better than Lady Gaga’s dedication to her performance art. Because she’s both Marilyn and Norma Jean, vulnerability and strength. Because she embraced her raw sexuality and harnessed it as a power at a time when it was unacceptable for women to do so.

“Beneath the makeup and behind the smile I am just a girl who wishes for the world.”

The Style

Marilyn’s platinum coif and pouty red lips are so iconic that many have imitated but never duplicated. (Hear that, Madonna? Gwen?).

Pulling off Marilyn’s golden blonde tresses works best if you have shoulder length hair, but you can fake shorter hair with appropriate tucking and curling. Setting your hair with medium hot rollers is the best bet to achieving Marilyn curls. If you flip your hair forward and comb through a bit, you’ll achieve more volume and a more perfectly tousled look.

For makeup, you’ll want to balance the dramatic red lip with lighter eyes. Monroe’s eyes involved off-white on the lid with a light brown in the crease and on the outer lid for shaping and contouring. Personally, I like a little sparkle on my eyes, so I use a sheer gold instead an off-white. I recommend the Little Black Dress Palette from Lorac. You’ll also want to put on either two coats of black mascara or some false eyelashes.

For red lips, you want to try and stay away from orangey reds. I like glominerals gloLipstick in Vixen (appropriate, no?) for a good matte color, but you’ll want something that goes with your skin tone.

Although her pink dress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes became one of her signature looks, Marilyn stuck to neutrals in real life, such as white, beige and black (except for the occasional red). Pencil skirts with matching sweaters and feminine details (polka dots, bows) were a Marilyn essential. Also, strapless dresses and sweetheart necklines.

So where would you find some fab Marilyn-esque clothes?

Pinupgirlclothing.com features some figure-flattering dresses, even if they are a bit pricey.

Modcloth.com (a fave of mine) also stocks up on retro clothing and often features good sales.

Want a great modern example of how to effortlessly pull off Marilyn style and spunk without looking like you’re trying too hard? Rachel McAdams pulls off a stunningly slinky dress with minimal jewelry but plenty of sultry looks.


“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”

Words of Wisdom from Lady Monroe

“I’m very definitely a woman and I enjoy it. ”

“I don’t mind being burdened with being glamorous and sexual. Beauty and femininity are ageless and can’t be contrived, and glamour, although the manufacturers won’t like this, cannot be manufactured. Not real glamour; it’s based on femininity.”

“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”

“All little girls should be told they are pretty, even if they aren’t.”

“I don’t mind living in a man’s world, as long as I can be a woman in it.”

“Beneath the makeup and behind the smile I am just a girl who wishes for the world.”

“If you’re gonna be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.”

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

More Marilyn

Other ideas on how to copy her style

Photos spanning her career

The debate on Marilyn’s shape

–By Lindsay Ray

Win/Fail of the Week: Cannes edition

So white was the color of Cannes. Even Brad Pitt got in on that action.

But who wore white best? One word—Uma.

Uma looked flawless in not just one, but two white dresses.

I love the scalloped edging on the cocktail-length dress and the feathery texture/floaty feeling and fitted bodice of the other. (Try not to get confused with all this technical terminology I’m throwing at you.)

Let’s zero in on the details shall we?

Don’t those emerald earring just pop? And I’m digging the messy-but-it-looks-effortless-even-if-I-paid-a-stylist-mucho-dinero-to-do-this hair. Also, girlfriend ain’t afraid to flash a little leg.

Runner up? Rachel McAdams.

I feel very meh about the poofy shoulders and rose lined pockets.

Plus, she wore what I’m calling the American Beauty dress, but instead of strategically placed rose petals, there’s strategically placed red lace.

And it was all downhill from there. Because nude pantsuit? Never a win. I don’t care how glitter your bodice is or how sassily you pose.

Now, I know there were bigger fashion disasters than this at Cannes (Candice Boucher and her dress left little to the imagination), but I’m a tired little fashion blogger and the Castle  finale just tore out my heart. So adieu fashionistas!

–By Lindsay Ray