Marilyn Monroe is definitely having another moment in popular culture. The zeitgeist started somewhere around October when Michelle Williams played the legend in the Oscar-nominated My Week with Marilyn. Then there was suddenly an entire series on television--Smash--about the creation of a Broadway play based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Additionally, Cannes recently showed Marilyn as their inspiration and poster girl for this year's film festival. And now with her birthday at the top of June, magazines like Vanity Fair have celebrated by putting her on their covers and devoting pages to her story and style. That style continues to influence as is evident by the rush of celebrities who are currently channeling "The Look" of Marilyn on the red carpet.
All this said, Marilyn has never gone out of style. She has always fascinated us and possessed a classic look that seems to be perpetually on trend. Though her iconic moments in film came from the costumes, her hair and makeup have been equally influential. Marilyn used many studio stylists like the great Sydney Guilaroff for subtle changes to her short blonde hair, but the look of her makeup was the result of friend Allan "Whitey" Snyder.
During pre-production for Niagara (1953), Whitey and Marilyn experimented with many makeup looks in order to finally find the face that would become uniquely her own. "We used that look for several pictures in a row," Whitey would later say. "'The Look' was established." Of course the films that followed were the iconic Style Essentials Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955), which was the subject of my own recent tribute to the bombshell and her style. As I will continue to show, the ongoing impact of Seven Year Itch is unprecedented...both for the influence of Travilla's dresses as well as the perfection of her hair and makeup.
"The Look" of Marilyn Monroe endures today and you can see here how to make it your own.
"The Look" of Marilyn on the red carpet as seen in Glamour magazine (above)
and on Katherine McPhee and Megan Hilty in NBC's hit series Smash
Michelle Williams on the cover and feature for Vogue
and getting her makeup done in a perfect modern version of Marilyn
Actresses Rachel McAdams (above) and Miley Cyrus both take on "The Look"
Singers like Adele and Gwen Stefani are both famous for their Marilyn faces
Scarlett Johansson doing her best Marilyn in her ad for Dolce & Gabanna (above)
and her moment of inspiration in The Seven Year Itch
In this video, British makeup artist Lisa Eldridge discusses Whitey's techniques and products he used on Marilyn along with her own tutorial. To try "The Look" yourself, the classic Marilyn Monroe face includes:
- strong arched eyebrows
- winged dark brown pencil eyeliner
- white eyeshadow with a contrasting pale peach or taupe color in the crease
- several coats of black mascara (and a half row of false lashes)
- several layers of deep red or pink glossy lipstick
- dewy perfected complexion with highlights on cheek and brow bones
- pink blush
- beauty mark (optional)
Though the deep colored lip is a strong part of her look here, both the eyeshadow and lipstick choices would get more pale as she entered the 1960s.
The very start of "The Look" during Niagara
Accessorizing "The Look" with gold drop hoop earrings in both Niagara (above)
and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes that she made popular and then became classic
Marilyn took gowns to another level in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes--including iconic pink by Travilla--
always pairing them with an evening version of "The Look"
Marilyn also did advertisements for cosmetic companies including one for Westmore in 1953 (above)
and MAC Cosmetics today who did an entire Marilyn Monroe capsule collection