Marilyn: Right Dress, Right Time

The Glenbow Museum's recently concluded the Marilyn Monroe exhibit, titled Marilyn Monroe: Life As A Legend, which successfully perpetuated the icon's enigmatic status.
Walking into the exhibit the tone was instantly set by one of Monroe's conscious laden quotes: "I am an artificial product."
There are many arguments surrounding Monroe; some dispute her intellectual capacity and talent, while others claim she was dexterous and sensitive of the apparatus that created her.

Despite the lack of harmony, regarding Monroe's talent and iconic place in history, one thing is common in all discussions: a consistent description of Hollywood's reining blonde remains to be established.

The overall exhibit grappled with Monroe's identity. With each painting, photo, sculpture, and multi-medium amalgamation a new facet of Monroe unraveled; some depictions were dark and unsettling while others were familiar and comforting.

The standout pieces were Volker Hildebrant's large contact sheets featuring frame-by-frame stills of Monroe. The photos not only captured Monroe's animated nature, but uniquely conveyed the star's quiet resistance. Monroe appeared to defy her boundaries in Hildebrant's work, and at times appeared to thrash against the photo that relentlessly contained her.

Alongside the photographs that propelled Monroe into an iconic figure in popular culture, the Glenbow featured costumes that played an equal part in her carefully constructed image. The duplicate of William Travilla's white frock, worn by Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, was mesmerizing despite being a replica.

What was interesting about Some Like It Haute: The Costumes of Marilyn Monroe exhibit was that none of the gowns were overtly sexual. It is ironic when Monroe's naked body is compared to her adorned body, her clothed figure is significantly more sexual. Monroe's sexuality appears natural, unhindered, and powerful.

The costumes used in Monroe's films not only emphasized her consistent ability to convey sexuality, without revealing much but the figure of her body, but also helped her achieve fame. Travilla's white dress is synonymous with Monroe and The Seven Year Itch; neither can be removed from the other without the risk of losing meaning. Travilla's costumes accentuated Monroe's sexuality.

Director Billy Wilder once stated that "Marilyn Monroe was not interested in costumes. She was not a clotheshorse. You could put anything on her that you wanted. If it showed something, then she accepted it . . . as long as it showed a little something," because sex was neither unnatural or unmentionable but impossible to hide.

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