Marilyn’s Costumes // Travilla : The Red Dress

The sparkly red “Little Girl From Little Rock” dresses. Ruby jewel tones against an amethyst background in electric technicolor!

A show-stopping (or starting?) showgirl moment for the opening of the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – texturally and visually my favorite dresses in the film. This is saying a whole lot because each costume in this film is gorgeous.

Without William Travilla’s iconic costume designs, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes would look much different. He was innovative and intuitive in a way that truly accentuated each actor’s body and had a creative connection with Marilyn that complemented her onscreen magic we so love. AH the costumes in this movie!!

“The dresses themselves are made of heavy crepe fabric, lined in crepe, with thousands of hand-sewn sequins spiraling in every direction. This allows them to catch the light from all angles. A deep split to high above the thigh, caught by a diamond brooch, added to the drama of this dress. The slightly risqué bust area once again fooled the censors by including a sheer body-toned fabric from the neck right down to the waist, which gave the impression of nudity without actually being revealing. There was also Travilla’s trademark V-shaped boning from the waist to just below the bust to keep the shape and the sheer fabric taut…To finish the look a hat was worn: a skull cap of matching sequins, with red and white feathers starting on one side of the face and wrapping around to the other. As with many of Travilla’s designs, there was another version of the outfit which involved a hat similar to a trident, with feathers sticking out from either side, along with white feathers coming out from behind the brooch at the top of the split. Both the initial hat design and the white feathers were rejected.”

-Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood icon was styled by William Travilla by Andrew Hansford with Karen Homer ©2011

An alternate design by Travilla that was rejected.



A portion of the dress pattern that specifies the lining was made of georgette (sheer,lightweight, dull-finished crepe fabric).

This pattern (pictured above) survived a flood and fire so understandably shows signs of damage – it’s AMAZING that it made it! 🙏🏻

At some point a photo of Jane and Marilyn was taped over the original drawing. I assume this might be related to the damage.


Hansford, Andrew, and Karen Homer. 2011. Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla. Milwaukee, WI: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.