Have you been enjoying the most gorgeous autumn light ever? Has it restored your sense of calm & peace as it has mine? I don’t know about you, but when I get such blissful glowing going on around me, with all of the leaves illuminated in their goldenness (new word) I just want to breathe it in & be out it it. Luckily such as day was to be had in the weekend just past. I’d arranged a spontaneous outing with my friend to go to the American Museum (yes dear friends across the Atlantic, there is a wonderful place a few miles away from my house where American culture & decorative art is celebrated & shared. Are there “British museums” in USA I wonder? It reminds me of an article about a displaced piece of old Britain in Brittany Le Bois des Moutiers, said to be a time-capsule of 19th century, built by Lutyens and furnished by the William Morris Workshop. I’d love to visit that place …Sorry, digression over).
So the American Museum sits on the hillside above Bath and houses an amazing collection of American decorative art including Shaker crafts and patchworks. I have not been for years, and this time I’m afraid we did not leave ourselves enough time to do the permanent collection justice, so we didn’t bother. Our attention was focused on the exhibition that has been running since the end of March showing the Marilyn Monroe dresses. We snuck in a visit a few weeks before it ends. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed, but I urge you to open this link here as it shows the exhibition in full technicolour. You must open this link up to see the fabulous images (you may have to download it – I can’t figure out a way to do anything different with it….sorry!)
The exhibition was pretty amazing- there were a good number of dresses worn by Marilyn in movies mostly, but also in premieres, as well as some personal memorabilia including her orange squeezer, some pictures of her mother, some of her movie magazines with articles of her inside. Bringing it all to life there was also filmtrack splicing together scenes from the various films showcasing the dresses & costumes being worn. We were struck firstly by how dainty the dresses were, & how tiny Marilyn had been. I was peering at the details: the embellishments, the side hand picked zippers, the sequins, the decoration, fastenings, delicate fabrics. One of the showgirl dresses was elaborately decorated with sequins, even inside – I’m assuming that with such a high thigh length split there would be a small flash of glitz as Marilyn high kicked her way through a show number. There was a beautiful gown made from silk jersey with an awesome drape, the most beautifully simple LBD. Other dresses included:
- The pink ‘wiggle’ dress from Niagara (1952) – I was particularly interested to see that it was fastened by press-studs (snaps) – I bet anything I made with such fasteners would be prone to popping open, especially something designed to be so close fitting.
- The red sequined gown she wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), pictured in the poster above- it was dazzling.
- The green show costume Marilyn wore in Bus Stop (1956) – this had faded from the original intense colour, but I loved the cut & decoration of it
- This blouse too …lace over silk
- The black beaded cocktail dress from Some Like It Hot (1959) in which Marilyn sat on top of a piano & sang “I’m through with love” – the exhibition told that this dress was so tight she needed to be lifted onto the piano!
As you would expect there were stories told around each dress, insights into Marilyn’s life at that time, even what others said of her. I have to say that there was a sense of poignancy about the whole exhibition, with the personal possessions adding another dimension to the glamorous gowns.
My favorite gown has to be the one above – it was so delicate, with some subtle gathers and such pretty beading. It looked like the kind of dress girls would die to get married in these days (have I been watching too many “Don’t Tell the Bride”s?)
We had an hour left after mooching around the frocks & were in heaven as we drifted around the beautiful grounds. Not only are there the most amazing views of the valley, the gardens are full of inspiring trees & plants that were that afternoon cloaked in the low golden light.
Here are just a selection of photos. I’ll be back later this week with some sewing tales …