How to Make a Marilyn Monroe Dress

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A black version of the classic Marilyn Monroe pleated dress.
A black version of the classic Marilyn Monroe pleated dress. (Image: Maggie Hira)

Even many decades after her death, Marilyn Monroe is still one of the most popular actresses in the world. Her look, style and even mannerisms continue to be imitated by thousands of people. Marilyn Monroe loved wearing provocative dresses that were still classy and timeless, such as her famous white halter dress from the movie "The Seven Year Itch."

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Sewing kit
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Zipper
  • Iron

Take your bust, waist and hip measurements with a measuring tape. Jot down for future reference.

Purchase about a yard of fabric in cotton, cotton modal, polyester/spandex blend, cotton/rayon blend, or silk for best results. Keep in mind that silk can be quite expensive. Choose a solid color. Marilyn Monroe often wore dresses in white, red, gold and black; simple yet classic colors that flatter most people. At this point, also purchase a zipper, thread, needles or anything else you may need.

Cut out two triangular pieces to cover each breast, two rectangular pieces to cover your mid-section and two inch-wide strips to tie the halter around your neck. For the triangular and rectangular pieces, make sure you leave about half an inch for the seams (where you'll be sewing all the pieces together). For the triangular pieces, leave a 1/2-inch-wide hem at the bottom of both pieces. For the rectangular pieces, leave a 1/2-inch-wide hem all around the perimeter. Note: Be careful when cutting out the pieces. Make sure they correspond to your unique measurements. It's best to cut out slightly larger pieces that you can tailor later. If you make the pieces too small, you won't be able to fix it.

Sew the two triangular pieces together at the bottom. For a deep v-neck, make a small closure, about half an inch long. For less cleavage, make a larger closure, about an inch long or more.

Sew the triangular top to the first rectangular piece. Sew the second rectangular piece to the first rectangular piece at one of the sides; leave the other side open for the zipper. Sew the straps to the top of each triangle. Try on the top to make sure it fits well.

Purchase 2 yards of pleated fabric for the skirt. Marilyn Monroe's signature halter dresses always had pleated skirts. The dress worn in "The Seven Year Itch" has sunburst pleats.

Cut out two parallelogram-shaped pieces (narrow at the top, wider at the bottom) of fabric for the skirt. The top of the pieces should measure to fit at your hips. The bottom should be 1.5 to 2 times wider than the top. Cut it to a length that you're happy with. Marilyn Monroe's dresses often hit just below the knee. Again, be sure to leave extra fabric for the seams.

Sew the two skirt pieces together on either side. Leave about 6 inches on one side for the zipper. Make sure it's on the same side as the space you left for the halter top.

Hem the skirt. Press the pleats down, and fold the fabric about 1/4-inch from the bottom and hem. Edge stitch the pleats to keep them flat. Once the hemming is done, use a regular iron to press the pleats.

Turn the skirt and halter top inside out. Sew the top of the skirt (at the waistband) to the bottom of the halter top. At this point, sew in the zipper and you're done.

Tips & Warnings

  • This is an advanced sewing project. If you're having trouble, ask a more experienced seamstress for help.

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