The Many Lives of the White Dress: From Marilyn Monroe to Audrey Hepburn
You know the dress from The Seven Year Itch — it’s the white dress Marilyn Monroe wears while standing over the subway grate, causing her skirt to fly up, exposing her white undergarments in one of the most iconic movie scenes ever filmed. What you may not know is that this famous dress was not only worn by Monroe — it also was worn by Audrey Hepburn in one of her most famous movies, Sabrina. It’s no surprise that two Hollywood stars loved this dress so much — after all, it’s timeless and gorgeous!
The white dress in real life
It was a sheath dress made by Hubert de Givenchy, who at that time was just starting out, said Robin Givhan, author of The Battle of Versailles and a fashion critic for The Washington Post. It fit her perfectly. It had some kind of crinoline structure in it that gave it structure but allowed her incredible movement. That’s what made it iconic because you could see every line of her body.
The evolution of the white dress over time
In 1950, after years of pining, some say, Marilyn Monroe finally landed her most famous role—as a platinum blonde bombshell in Billy Wilder’s now-classic film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She played an aspiring singer named Lorelei Lee (also known as Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend) and wore an iconic white dress as she sauntered down a red carpet into Hollywood history.
How Marilyn Monroe made the white dress iconic
The white dress was originally worn by Norma Jeane Baker (later known as Marilyn Monroe) in 1951. It’s a simple yet elegant design that accentuates her figure, perfect for a young starlet on her way up. Baker gained international fame as Playboy’s first Sweetheart of 1952, and in 1953 she even received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes . She quickly rose to stardom and immediately became a household name.
How Audrey Hepburn made it her own
In her 1966 film, How to Steal a Million, Audrey Hepburn plays Jennifer Finch, an up-and-coming young artist whose father’s (Hugh Griffith) works have been stolen by an art forger. In one scene, Finch attends a luncheon with a wealthy collector (Hugh Griffith again), who offers her $25 million for her painting.
Today’s trendsetters making it their own
The white dress is not just for starlets, as style-setters from Taylor Swift and Sarah Jessica Parker have recently demonstrated. The pearly color has a reputation for being one of Hollywood’s most sought-after frocks, but it seems that today’s trendsetters are making it their own. Check out some style icons who’ve worn white throughout their careers and let us know who your fashion icon is!