When fashion pays such a beautiful homage to cinema, I can only rejoice and try to delve deeper into the inspiration that led to the creation of a memorable collection, such as Max Mara’s fall 2015 line, which celebrates the classic chic, beauty and intelligence of Marilyn Monroe. Two icons of the two worlds, and I can not think of a better pairing. In a sea of androgynous silhouettes and collections, and of disturbing comments approving of a new genderless aesthetic, it’s refreshing and reassuring to see a celebration of the female form.
The Italian fashion house turned to George Barris’ famous 1962 Santa Monica beach photographs of the actress, the luminous colours and casual approach, accentuated by the show’s mise-en-scene, recalling the seaside landscape and its soft hues. It was especially this photo above, of Marilyn wearing a Norwegian cardigan, and wrapped in a camel blanket, that served as the essential source of inspiration. The cardigan was meticulously recreated and the blanket was used to produce some incredibly beautiful signature camel wool coats once again, worn “seductively with the allure of beach wraps”. It is about imagining a wardrobe “as light and soft” as the blanket Monroe wrapped up in and “as comforting and familiar” as the cardigan she wore.
Shoes also came in studious tasseled loafers, a nod to another side of Marilyn. Above, a rare photo of Marilyn wearing loafers, and also a backpack, a clear inspiration for the accessory seen on the Max Mara runway.
The collection however takes on a vaster perspective, evoking Marilyn’s glamour and attractive power, as well as her casual evenings devoted to UCLA classes and reading. Sheath dresses, pencil skirts, body-hugging sweatshirts, bomber jackets, overcoats and high heeled pumps, as well as loafers, and Marilyn’s “me time” menswear classics – because, despite her predilection for skimpy clothing, she also embraced wearing men’s shirts and jeans, for example, off set – are reinvented in camel hair, cashmere, tweeds, alpaca and quilted silk, in oversized or shrunken silhouettes.
Far more than a beautiful and provocative actress, Marilyn Monroe was part of the twentieth century culture, and far more sensitive and intelligent than Hollywood wanted us to believe. Why so many chose not to see beyond her appearance, I could never comprehend. Her electrifying personality drew the crowds to theaters and she wielded an extraordinary uninhibited appeal in front of the camera. More than half a century after her death, her legacy continues to endure.
Marilyn loved furs. Above, in a sable, a gift from Joe DiMaggio, in 1953. Underneath she is said to have been nude. The hints of luxurious details, like the fur on these sleeves or the silky quilting on skirts and bomber style jackets, are reminiscent of the 50’s glamour.
The makeup and hair both recalled the 50’s and felt sexy, but also effortless – another hint at a classic American beauty enjoying her free time or relaxing on the beach. Hair-stylist Sam McKnight and makeup artist Tom Pecheux went for a more modern and relaxed interpretation of the actress’s signature beauty look.
The studious, cerebral side of Marilyn was also channeled through the reading glasses. A secret night student of UCLA, Marilyn was a book loving student, whose library had over 400 titles, from Einstein to Dostoevsky.
Instead of the red lipstick, they opted for rosy beige: “We tried red, but most of the collection is very light and pastel-colored, and it just looked too done and too evening.” The eyes were only slightly winged and the cheekbones highlighted with bronzer. The hair also reflected Marilyn’s polished bob that had however become damp and windblown during that photo session on the beach. The entire Max Mara look, clothes and beauty, is the most inspired version of a present-day Marilyn I have seen.
Marilyn was one of the sweater girls of the 1950’s and she also loved gingham.
The sheath dress, the actress’s star “uniform”, couldn’t miss.”I’ve always felt at ease when I looked unequivocally feminine,” Marilyn would say. Black was one of her favourite colours, along with red and white.
And one last word: the colour scheme alone is so elegant and beautiful and I have to admit that I find myself more drawn to the soft greys and especially the sea-greens (picking up the colour in the other item Marilyn used in the photo shoot, the beach towel) than to the earth tones that are always present at Max Mara. A subtle change takes the classic to new heights, as this entire collection has proven.
photos: Max Mara Fall 2015 collection details, via The Imprint / Max Mara Fall 2015 collection photos, via Style.com / 3-George Barris, 1962 / 5-Milton Greene, 1953 / 8-source unknown, Marilyn in Korea, 1954 / 10,20-AFP/Getty Images / 14-movie still from How to Marry A Millionaire, 1953, Twentieth Century Fox/ 15-Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1956 / 17-Life Magazine