Marilyn Monroe – Bendigo Prefers Blondes 

Marilyn BestIf you didn’t know Marilyn Monroe was in Victoria in the historical gold rush town of Bendigo, then you weren’t looking hard enough!

Greeting visitors as they arrive is the fabulous eight metre high sculpture by American artist Seward Johnson entitled “Forever Marilyn” standing tall in Rosalind Park.

This 15 tonne statue some 35 feet high is based on the iconic image from “The Seven Year Itch” where a gust of wind from the New York subway blows the famous white halter neck dress sky high.

Never has there been a more recognisable image, or actress for that matter.

Marilyn Monroe style icon is arguably the most recognized film star of all time.

She looked good in a potato sack, ‘…which is how I first encountered her when I was young’ says Karen Quinlan, Director of Bendigo Art Gallery where the Marilyn Monroe exhibition is showing until 10th July, 2016. It is a fond memory I have of her and ever since the idea for a Marilyn Monroe exhibition came into being it has been a whirlwind of excitement’.

Marilyn MonroeWhen I first heard that the world’s most famous blonde was coming to Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria I knew I just had to make a visit!

As I have mentioned before, I just love exhibitions like this that offer us a rare glimpse into the personal universe of our most loved movie stars.

It it fascinating to actually gauge how successful they have been.

As with the fantastic sold out Grace Kelly show held in the very same gallery in 2012, it’s wonderful to see another modern icon make her way to our fair shores.

It is all thanks to Twentieth Century Fox and those canny private collectors who so generously gathered so many unique and special pieces and are willing to share them with us all.

I was amazed at how tiny Princess Grace was, so would I be as shocked when I saw Miss Monroe’s famous frocks?

She had just as I expected, the perfect hourglass figure!

Off screen, Marilyn’s style was one of comfort and simplicity, admiring fabrics that felt good on her body.

She loved wearing a sweater, and men loved her wearing them.

In her co-written autobiography “My Story”, she recalls her excitement and sense of power when, as a blooming adolescent, her appearance in a tight sweater first caused male heads to turn.

Marilyn 1

She says “At recess a half a dozen boys crowded around me. They made jokes and kept looking at my sweater as if it were a gold mine.

I had known for sometime that i had shapely breasts and thought nothing of the fact. The math class, however, were more impressed.”

Marilyn 6Marilyn Monroe Golden GirlIt’s that certain innocence that makes her even more appealing.

She was so comfortable in her own skin that made her so seductive. And it all came so naturally to her.

My favourite quote about Monroe is from artist Franz Kline

“She looked like, if you bit her, milk and honey would flow from her”.

Its’ so true, Marilyn was delicious!

She had a wonderful sense of comic timing, and a fabulous deadpan wit.

We are lucky enough to view over 20 authentic costumes in this fabulous exhibition, many of which are fragile.

This includes the famous gold sun ray pleat halter neck gown designed by William Travilla for the 1953 smash hit “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.

This dress was created out of a single complete circle of particular gold lame`.

It has two thin, flexible iron bars in a V-shape starting at the waist and travelling up to the bust.

This ensured it fitted like a glove to Monroe’s shapely body.

Marilyn 2The other Travilla design that I adored was the gown for the final scene in “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. It is so stunning.

To look at the detail up close is a joy. Layers of chiffon, encrusted with stars and crystals glisten under the spotlights.

Starting off clear and working down through shades of blue, it seems to swim on the body.

Hundreds of hand cut tulle circles cascade down from the left hip, create divine movement. The eye dances over the body, it is the ultimate showgirl gown.

Marilyn 5Now to the “nude” dress in “Some Like It Hot”. Designed by Australian Orry-Kelly in 1959, the detail again is amazing.

What I truly loved was noticing an embroidered heart placed strategically on the derriere!

It is like a cheeky wink that I think Marilyn would have adored, I know I did.

The sequin work is fabulous and when worn, this frock is sublime.

Alongside her costumes are some of her personal effects.

Make up, shoes, books, her travel trunk, director’s chair and personally embossed stationary round out the collection.

She was a humaniarian, intellectual, style icon, sex symbol, comedian, serious actress, but what else was she?

Being such an enigmatic figure, did anyone really know her?

Anyone with such a strong public persona can be easily misunderstood.

Was she really just the clueless blonde bombshell that stopped men dead in their tracks the studios promoted?

I think she was a very clever girl who knew how to use the power of her sex.

Marilyn 3She was very aware of her sexuality and sex appeal.

To quote the star herself, “People have a curious attitude towards nudity, just as they have about sex. Nudity and sex are the most commonplace things in the world.”

Arguably the most photographed woman of the 20th century, Marilyn Monroe simply shone for the camera.

The photographs featured are divine portraits of the star from her early days as the pretty brunette Norma Jeanne Baker and revealing her metamorphisis to the blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe.

Quotes and interviews, plus her reading choices lead me to believe she was such an interesting character who longed for acknowledgment of the cerebral kind.

Close friends have said she was a highly intelligent woman, who wanted to be much more than just a pretty face.

She desperately wanted to be understood and admired as a dramatic actress.

She was the sexiest clothes horse in Hollywood. Men adored her and women wanted to be her.

At the tender age of 36 Marilyn’s life ended all too soon, and we will never know if it was an accidental overdose or a tragic suicide.

Her legend lives on with Norma Jeanne Baker becoming the biggest sex symbol of our time, Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn 2Just loved enjoying a snapshot into the complexity of an enigmatic star, and I can highly recommend the two hour trip to Bendigo from Melbourne on the train to view the truly fabulous exhibition; Marilyn Monroe

CiaoJo Bayley, Fashion Editor, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016


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