What size was Marilyn Monroe? A Times journalist tries on her clothes.
As I tentatively tried to coerce my way into the Some Like It Hot dress, Valerie Nelson, the woman charged with caring for the pieces in the Jersey exhibition, talked me through Monroe’s body shape. Monroe was 5ft 5in (I’m an inch shorter); just over eight stone (I’m ¾ of a stone heavier); she had a respectable BMI of 21 (don’t ask). She had an incredibly narrow back and rib cage but big boobs, so if she were to pop into Rigby & Peller for a bra fitting today she would probably be a 30E.
She didn’t have a long body, and although her legs were a lovely shape (beautiful bony ankles and knees) they weren’t particularly long. She had a very short rise (the distance from waist to crotch), but what made her body so extraordinary was the 13-inch difference between her breast and hip measurements and her waist. In her younger years her vital statistics would have come in at 36 23 35, and although her weight fluctuated throughout her career, she always maintained that out-of-this-world body ratio. A real life Jessica Rabbit.
Nelson tells me that they had to get a special mould made for the corset and swimwear dummies in the exhibition because Monroe was such an extreme hourglass shape that no off-the-peg dummies existed in those measurements. The Some Like It Hot dress just about zips up on me – which is pretty mortifying, considering I had always thought of her Sugar phase as a gloriously plump one.