This is an amazing summer dress from the film Niagara, that Marilyn’s character Rose wears on a supposedly romantic holiday with her husband. The story is great too, with a definite Hitchcockian feel to it. Marilyn gets to play a darker role and pulls it off with flying colours.
I needed help to draw up the pattern for this, and my Mum did an amazing job. I’m a hard taskmaster for accuracy! I’m not too keen on wearing hot pink, although the colour looks good on Marilyn with her bottle blonde hair. I chose a teal cotton, which I think looks better with dark hair and pale skin.
Niagara dress side
Niagara dress front
Niagara dress back
Unlike similar reproductions you Ind online I kept the skirt looser from the hips down by cutting it straight, and also putting the split at the back. As there are no pintucks at the front, the curve of the waist to hip was sewn in the side seam. The fastening is a front zip, with the gathers stitched in place.
For a smooth look, I sew bullet bra pads into the top. Marilyn didn’t need to do this, but I think it gives a better shape and makes me feel like I am wearing something underneath! This is a good trick for tops or dresses with cutouts in awkward places. Multilayer bras aren’t always hidden, and stick ons don’t give an authentic vintage silouette. You can buy these from What Katie Didin black or white.
Marilyn style sandals
Niagara tie front dress
The sandals have been the closest similar to the original photos as I have found so far. See more about these sandals here. I have accessorised with gold hoops and heart charm bangles. I think Marilyn’s bracelet is a chain with a single charm.
In the film, she accessorises with a pale, possibly white, floaty scarf and a white clutch.
I’ve worn this dress to, among other things, a summer wedding abroad and a surfer/ Hawaiian themed party. Red or hot pink go well with teal.
I hope to recreate some of her other outfits from this film in the future. The wool jackets are beautiful.
Here is a true colour commission of this dress worn by model @xxruffdyamondxx
Translating Summer 2016 into vintage and retro styles. Let’s look at stripes.
Going for a nautical or school girl theme. References are Gigi going to school or Agatha Christie’s Poirot ‘Cat Among the Pigeons’ and Endeavour episode ‘Nocturne’.
Mini straw boater/ tilt or perch hat altered from a large boater. I explain how I did this in my ‘Assassination Bureau’ post.
Vintage white lace gloves
White peacoat style jacket – Matalan
Stripe dress and belt – La Redoute
Red Seamed stockings – What Katie Did
Cut out lace-up shoes – Clarks
Some Like it Hot and Thoroughly Modern Millie are great films set in the roaring Twenties. This dress is actually from the Eighties, but the drop waist and knee length lend itself nicely to the flapper style. I sometimes wear this dress with a Sixties twist, as both decades share similar styles.
Mauve straw hat (cloche) – Liz Claiborne
Earrings – Matalan
Dress – ebay vintage
Sandals – Avon
Instead of wearing the dress like a pinafore, I am wearing the blouse over the top, so it looks like it’s worn with a skirt. Tied at the waist, it gives definition without the need for a belt. The stripes are all vertical, and navy and white, but different thicknesses. The pinstripe on the shirt is so fine it blurs in the photo. I’m wearing a tulle skirt as a petticoat to give the skirt volume. For this shape and style, look at photos of Brigitte Bardot for inspiration.
Shirt & dress – Primark
Grey tulle skirt – Mademoiselle R from La Redoute
Black peep toe heels – George at Asda
There are some beautiful photos of Marilyn Monroe when she was married to Arthur Miller, wearing a blue and white tiered sundress. I was thrilled when I found this similar dress from Joe Browns.
I think the suede look A-line wrap skirt is a key look for the Sixties, as are block heels. They have both come round again, so it’s easy to find interpretations of these on the high street. Although my skirt is longer, it’s surprising to see photos of Marianne Faithful and Anita Pallenburg, both girlfriends of various Rolling Stones in more modest ensembles than the minis of the late Sixties and early Seventies. Jane Fonda wears a brown suede A-line in Barefoot in the Park, too. Check out my post on this film and her outfits.
Skirt – Gok Wan for Tu Sainsbury
Block heel sandals – La Redoute
Fifties style candy stripes
Fifties style beaded fascinator
I love these candy stripes. All I need is a retro diner! I made this blouse based on a photo of Marilyn Monroe wearing a similar shirt. It’s a pretty classic shape, so it works for different decades. Watching Miss Marple, especially the newer Marple episode ‘The Moving Finger’ with Emilia Fox, is great for Fifties inspiration. Her outfits are colourful and the overall look is striking.
Beaded fascinator/ hat – similar from Accesorize
Blouse – from vintage pattern
Skirt – ASOS
Petticoat (not seen) – Pinup Girl Clothing
Nude Seamed stockings and other underpinnings – What Katie Did
Mint stilettoes – Dune
Handbag – River Island ( like a Louis Vuitton bag with the metal V at the fastening, but in my price range)
I’ll write more on costume drama dressing in a post about this summer’s bucolic fashion theme.
Tunic worn as blouse – George at Asda
Vintage suede belt with hand painted wooden buckle
Stripe maxi skirt – La Redoute
Changing accessories can update a dress… from Jane Austen to the Sixties. My mum made this dress for me. Wearing it with a pink lipstick and blue eyeshadow, I still got Jane Austen related comments!
Breton stripes – Fifties or 80’s?
Art Deco or 80’s?
I’m not sure which decade I meant this to be, because I started with a Fifties look, but I think Alex Drake could wear this in Ashes to Ashes, set in the Eighties.
Breton stripe boat neck T-shirt – La Redoute
Pencil skirt and belt – Primark
Patterned jacket – La Redoute
Pointed striped kitten heels – Next
When summer comes round, I love to wear Victorian and Edwardian looking clothes. This blouse made by my aunty sneaks into the Stripes category. I always struggle to find a skirt to wear with this blouse, but I recently got this rust coloured skirt at a clothes swap. The lace peeking out is a vintage slip.
How are you wearing your stripes this summer? Any favourite themes?
I love going through Vogue and picking out the trends or photo shoots I like. Then I select pieces I already own that fit with the key themes. Firstly, wearing rainbow colours.
It’s amazing how colourful make-up in the Fifties could be, and magazine covers from that era are good references. I bravely tried coral lips and green eye shadow. I should have used more powder later in the day to even out my complexion. I know for next time.
Sunglasses – ‘Amy’ by Boots
Dress – Love Label
Shoes – H&M
Gloves – Vintage, and belt home-made .
Pink and yellow! The shapes are more early Sixties. Think Brigitte Bardot.
Earrings and crochet top – Vintage
Pink and yellow vest top – Joe Browns
Skirt – Mademoiselle R from La Redoute
Peep toe heels – George at Asda
This is a mix of eras! Thirties with the round sunglasses and wedges, and Fifties with the pencil skirt. I just need an Agatha Christie setting. I was given the shoes and they go so well with my new top.
Bracelets and possibly earings, top – H&M
Headband – Primark
Sunglasses and skirt – Topshop
Picking out the turquoise with my vintage earrings.
Floral blouse – Next (altered from a child’s playsuit)
Vest top – Joe Browns
Cardigan – hand knitted from a Rowan pattern
Skirt – home-made using an old favourite as the pattern
Shoes – Clarks
This looks a bit Debbie Harry with the paint print jeans and white heels, but I started with Marilyn Monroe as my inspiration! Hence, rolling my hair up into a Bob, and the Sixties make-up.
My mum let me try out a wet set vintage hairstyle on her short hair. Think Maggie the Cat/ Elizabeth Taylor and Leslie Caron in An American in Paris. Short curls are brought round to frame the face in both.
You will need; Velcro rollers, hair pins, comb, setting lotion, hairspray
Hair should be damp, with a spray of setting lotion brushed through.
1) Start with smaller rollers around the front and sides. Work out from your parting. Mum has a side parting.
2) Use bigger rollers at the back where you want to brush the curls together. The set them, the more volume you get, so this could be used for a Sixties set as well. If you want curls at the nape of the neck, use small rollers or pincurl.
3) Time to paint nails, do make-up, watch a film… Use a diffuser if you want to finish off the drying. I find letting it dry naturally works best for a smoother finish.
4) Take out rollers without pulling the curl out. Comb through with hairspray where you want the hair to lie flat.
5) Use the comb and your fingers to style the curls around your face. Use pomade or styling cream if you need to. Hairspray to hold. A natural hold hairspray works well, so you don’t get crunchy hair.
There were still cold days in April, so there’s that awkward trasition between bulky winter dressing and light summer dresses.
Jasmine Guinness skirt and jacket
Red fine knit sweater (with What Katie Did cone bra)
Dune heels (nice Fifties shape to the heel and toe)
Vintage earrings from a vintage fair
I haggled for the earrings because there were one or two beads missing. It’s always a good idea to check vintage jewellery carefully before agreeing a price with the seller. With earrings, compare the two, because sometimes the imperfections won’t be noticeable when you’re wearing them, but it might save you a couple of pounds.
Other times, jewellery can be mended. Beads can be redistributed if they look uneven.
Checked wriggle dress
Checked wriggle dress – charity shop
Seamed hold-ups – Primark
I took the dress in at the waist, by removing the buttons on the tabs, and stitching them further into the middle. Wearing this dress like a pinafore means I don’t cover the details with a cardi or jumper.
Button and frill details
This was a vintage dress from eBay that I modified. I loved the pale green print and the piecrust collar, decorative button placket and mutton sleeves. It was a maxi dress supposedly my measurements, but it looked frumpy and shapeless when I got it.
I chopped the middle section of the skirt out, sewing the bottom edging on at knee-length. I took in the side seams around the bust, which completely changed the look. I also changed the generic small shirt buttons for some vintage ones from our button box.
Emma Peel Chelsea boots – Dune
Vintage summer dress
Cardigan – I knittedbfrom a Rowan pattern in Rowan Tweed
Dress – Vintage. From my Nanna’s unfinished projects. I finished it by adding the buttons and finishing the placket detail with some thin ribbon.
Elasticated belt – Nanna’s, vintage
Stockings – What Katie Did (as well as all my underpinnings in Peach)
Shoes – La Redoute
Earrings – H&M
Jacket & skirt – Matalan. As with most modern clothes I buy, the fit of the waist and hips is cut too straight. I had the skirt waist taken in. As I got this in the sale, the jacket was one size too big, but by moving the buttons over, it looks okay. The boxy fit is in keeping with some Fifties and early Sixties styles, like Grace Kelly in Rear Window and vintage Vogue shoots.
Cropped jumper – designed and knitted myself. Colours and stripes inspired by watching Poirot and Thirties photos.
Bra – What Katie Did padded bullet bra
Shoes – Next
Vintage scarf, Next shoes, polo shirt: Mademoiselle R from La Redoute.
While always going back in time for my style, I like to incorporate some current fashion themes. The last two include a slight sporty reference with the stripes and polo shirt. – Spring/ Summer 2016 Chanel
If you have found me on Instagram, you’ll see I usually post What I’m Wearing, but I haven’t put them on my blog. So here are some outfits I’ve been wearing recently. Where I can,I’ll list where items are from.
I started out with the dress, from Monsoon, to do a Forties look. However, when I’d put it together it came out with a more Parisian feel.
Seamed hold-ups – Primark
Gloves & belt – vintage
Scarf – La Redoute
Jacket – George at Asda
Dress – Monsoon
Coat – Soft Grey, La Redoute
Blouse – Madamoiselle R, La Redoute
Trousers – H&M
Loafers – Dune
Vivien of Holloway jeans
Ring – Matalan (like Dior joaillerie)
Blouse & pumps – La Redoute
Bustier – New Look
Jeans – Vivien of Holloway
Glasses – Muriel, Dsquared2
Hoops – I hunted for a pair like this for ages, like Marilyn’s in Niagara. I got them in a last chance to buy sale. Moschino did a pair like this last season.
Dress & belt – La Redoute
Cardigan – H&M
Jumper – I knitted this, inspired watching Poirot, set in the 1930’s.
Skirt – My original Soft Grey skirt wore out, so I used it as a pattern to make a new one.
Bag – River Island
Shoes – La Redoute
Not really a vintage look, but everything went together so well. Everything except the bag is from La Redoute.
Jumper – Next
Belt – Vintage
Shoes – Dune
All underpinnings for a vintage shape are from What Katie Did, unless otherwise stated.
Here are two pairs of beautiful sandals I found in the Dune sale. I always look out for styles I like from old films. These are Fifties style, but I especially noticed these styles while watching Marilyn Monroe films.
Black strappy sandals – Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
One of the dresses Marilyn Monroe wears in this film is a smart day dress in pale blue. You can find copies of this dress to buy online now, but when I watched the film and wanted the dress there weren’t any! With the help of my amazing mum, we worked out a pattern to make it.
Back: collar and buttons
The bottons are plastic covered with the fabric and also slighty padded. It’s comfortable to sit down in! The belt is made from the same fabric and I just used a pull through buckle. I starch the bows so they don’t droop. As you can see, the fabric creases, but they also fall out easily.
I have to use bra extander straps to lower the back of my What Katie Did bra, so I get a smooth line at the back without underwear showing, but keeping the vintage shape. My seamed stocking’s are also from WKD.
I’d love some triangle earrings like Vicky. The closest I’ve seen so far are some gold ones at H&M.
When I first watched ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ I decided if I ever had to wear glasses, I’d have Pola’s. Pola is the ‘blind as a bat’ character played by Marilyn Monroe. So, my checklist: Cats eye shape, but not too narrow; Black graduating to clear frames; Diamante along the eyebrow. Not too much to ask, surely.
I was so pleased when I had to get glasses, but the hunt for my dream glasses took a while. Reader, I found them.