An iconic moment marked the cinematic history when the little white dress of Marilyn Monroe blew up while she was standing over a subway grate in New York on 15th September 1954.
Her unexpected ‘flying skirt’ moment was a scene from the timeless movie The Seven Year Itch with Monroe in the leading role. Billy Wilder, the director of the movie, never imagined that by writing that particular scene, he would write a history.
His planned sequence of the scene was to show Marilyn and the co-star, Tom Ewell standing on the Trans-Lux 53nd Street Theatre after watching the horror Creature from the Black Lagoon. As they hear the train passing below the grates, Marilyn’s character steps out, saying ‘Oh, do you feel the breeze from the subway?’ while in the meantime, the lower part of her dress was supposed to be blown by the wind, exposing her legs.
However, the particular moment with the ‘flying skirt’ became complicated and caught the curiosity of fans who were passing by the cameras. Hundreds of fans (mostly men) gathered to witness the remarkable moment, among whom were professional photographers and the media. The timeless photo of Marilyn on the scene, smiling while allegedly lowering her dress is described as one of the iconic images of the 20th century.
The little white dress she wore that night remained as a classic dress designed by the famous William Travilla. It was a light-colored ivory cocktail outfit with plunging neckline made of two pieces of soft fabric which aligned behind the neck. Described by Marilyn, the dress was one of those subtle dresses with bare shoulders and back that follow the body line, leaving a seamless and natural touch on the skin.
Except taking part in a timeless scene, the dress also took part in Monroe’s divorce with her second husband, Joe DiMaggio. He ‘hated’ the dress and argued with the actress backstage for the drama she caused during the shooting of the scene. According to him, the whole incident was an ‘embarrassment, who’ but he was the only one who negatively criticized the ‘flying skirt’ moment which became a worldwide sensation. Others judged it as one of the most fascinating and spontaneous Hollywood occurrences.
After Monroe’s death, the designer had kept the dress locked up with other costumes. When he passed away, a colleague of his put the clothes on display.
His collection became a part of the private collection of Hollywood memorabilia under the ownership of Debbie Reynolds at the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum.
Years after, she announced to sell the entire collection at an auction. Although Marilyn’s famous little white dress was estimated at the worth from $1 to $2 million, it was sold for over $5 million.
Many actresses tried to copy Marilyn’s iconic moment, wearing a little white dress and standing over the grates but it was all in vain. Monroe nailed it the way no other actress could. Even the corner of New York’s Lexington Ave and 52nd St remains a historical place where the legendary scene was filmed.
However, the scene itself wouldn’t have gained so much popularity if it hadn’t been for Monroe and her well-known oomph. The starlet was a walking bombshell, and everything she did was related to drama.
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The iconic moment when she blew up the skirt of her dress above that subway grate only added more glamor to her career and will be remembered as one of the most extraordinary moments in cinematic history.