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 times, 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.
I love hats, but often feel overdressed or a spectacle in public because so few people wear hats now. It’s a shame not to wear them when they’re so pretty, or sometimes just fun.
Here, I’ll feature some of my hats styled through the decades. In Part 1 we can look at my inspiration and take on Edwardian to Twenties hats.
Miss Winter – tilt/ perch hat
Straw boater/ perch hat
Straw Edwardian style hat
My favourite Edwardian inspiration comes filtered through the Sixties in The Assassination Bureau. Miss Winter, played by Diana Rigg, wears some stylish outfits, topped off with tilt, or perch, hats. Look at my post for more about this hat. This style is best with updo’s, as you’ll need hair to pin the hat to secure it. Think of it like wearing a fascinator and don’t take it off indoors. It won’t be in anyone’s way!
Miss Fisher – Cream and black cloche
Miss Fisher – red cloche
Miss Fisher – beret
There are lots of modern takes in the Twenties, most recently Phryne Fisher. Wide brimmed to brimless, including the classic beret, all require some hair showing at the front to frame the face more softly. Phryne’s Bob is perfection if you have straight hair like Louise Brooks, the original bob trendsetter. If your hair is long, tie most of it up inside the hat, and style the front. Marcel waves or pin curls will scream Twenties starlet. If you can’t tame your hair, channel It girl Clara Bow and embrace the wild curls. A bit of rouge and dangly earrings look great with a cloche hat. Of course, matching a hat to your outfit or accessories pulls a look together.
Twenties cloche – front
Twenties cloche – detail and hatpin
Twenties cloche – side
Twenties cloche – hairstyle
Side wave and long earrings
The beret will take you through any era, but for the Twenties look pull it down to create a bigger shape, like in the photo of Miss Fisher.
Felt cloche with folded brim at back
Another favourite of mine is Some Like it Hot. Marilyn’s hat in her opening scene as Sugar is beautiful in the style and fit. The feather is perfectly proportioned to the close fit of the cloche hat.
Wraparound cloche hat
In Part 2, I’ll show you my Thirties and Forties style hats.
Vintage dressing always looks best finished with accessories. Generally, I plan jewellery with my clothes, but with sunny weather here, sunglasses are picked up as I rush out the door. I try to make it simple by having a few pairs (not too many!) that cover the decades I like.
For the Twenties, Thirties and Forties small round glasses were popular. There are some fun frame designs from the Forties, like petals around the eyes to create flowers! Watch Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun (film or ITV) for some great Thirties summer outfits and sunglasses. I love the colourised photo of a young blonde Bette Davis with an icecream.
Cat eye glasses epitomised the Fifties, from bookish to pin-up. Marilyn Monroe wore a thinner black design that won’t flatter everyone, but I like the wider frames that go to the edge of the face, and up to the eyebrow. Classic black or tortoiseshell goes with everything, but there is plenty of scope for fun. Coloured frames to match lipstick, dresses or accessories were popular, as were diamante details and shapes on the upper edge. Ray-Ban wayferers were worn by Marilyn too, and these are a classic style that’s still popular.
Marilyn wearing cat eye sunglasses
Marilyn in Ray-Ban wayferers
Going into the Sixties, sunglasses got bigger and any shape and design imaginable show up. Generally, bug-eye and soft edged square shapes were popular. Grace Kelly had a huge selection of sunglasses, and that might be a good place to start if you want to have a reference to shapes and styles before you shop round.
My dream pair of sunglasses are the pair Audrey Hepburn wears as Holly Golighty in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. They have a tortoiseshell framework greenish lenses. These were designed by Oliver Goldsmith. It’s worth checking out some of his other designs too. There are lots of similar designs out there, but if you want the real thing, Oliver Goldsmith reissued a line!
This style covers the Seventies owl eyes and modern styles currently popular.
They are well worth it, they met all my expectations. Now I’m scared of scratching them, so I am learning to be glasses conscious, not wearing them on top of my head and always putting them in a hard case when I’m not wearing them.
Here’s my line-up of necessary styles to have a pair for any outfit from the Twenties to the Sixties.
All these eras are covered by modern styles available to buy on the high street. Now you know what to look for, I hope you find a style you like.
I love the fit of vintage clothes, that high street brands rarely match. Trousers that fit snug on the waist but actually fit over my hips are difficult to find.
Grace Kelly in patterned pedal pushers
Grace Kelly in jeans
Audrey Hepburn in striped cropped trousers
Audrey Hepburn in black cropped trousers
See how nicely Fifties trousers fit, and you’ll be glad to know there are replica vintage brands that fill the need. For example, Collectif, Bernie Dexter, Pinup Girl Clothing, Heyday and Vivien of Holloway.
Marilyn in checked trousers
Marilyn in cigarette pants
Marilyn in striped pedal pushers
However, the price tag isn’t always level with the high street because of the work that goes into shaping. Still, they may not match the difference between your waist and hips as they have to size ready-to-wear with an ‘average’ difference. Vintage clothing generally gives a 10″ difference between hips and waist for an hourglass figure, or 12″ appears on my vintage patterns. Let me know if you’re lucky enough to find high waisted trousers with this difference in a high street brand!
Vivien of Holloway jeans
Channelling Mrs Peel
I love my replica vintage ladies jeans from Vivien of Holloway. The fit is perfect at the waist and over my hips. This makes them so comfortable, as they just stay put, and don’t require me pulling them up as they stretch. The leg is pretty much a classic straight cut and and the seams don’t twist. The belt loops are fairly big, over an inch, so a belt can be worn. They were sold as rolled up jeans, but i do unroll mine and they come to my ankles. I’m 5’2″, so no supermodel. I guess if you have long legs, they’d be 7/8th length? Still perfect pin up jeans, good with flats or heels, a really flattering fit with a slight stretch to the fabric.
The other trousers I love wearing because they fit well, are a pair I made from a vintage replica sewing pattern. I bought some black and white gingham for making Miss Winter’s skirt The Assassination Bureau, and had plenty left over for making a pair of cropped trousers inspired by Marilyn Monroe.
My gingham check trousers
Marilyn Monroe wearing her checked trousers
From Marilyn Monroe’s estate
My gingham cropped trousers
A friend asked me to make her a pair, and here she is channelling Audrey Hepburn, modelling them.
Photo credit: Gina Walbridge
Here’s what to wear with vintage style trousers;
A lightweight knit with heels like Marilyn
Boat neck top and ballet flats like Audrey
Shirt and loafers like Grace
Notice the details too;
The decorated flats Audrey wears or the laces on Grace’s flats
a scarf as a belt
The variety of patterns used for the trousers, while keeping the top plain.
This slightly irridescent silk sari fabric was a remnant given to me as a gift. I don’t feel like orange is a colour I naturally choose to wear, but I thought this was beautiful with the gold embroidery, so I’ve spent years just admiring it draped over a mannequin. My first idea had been a Regency dress. However, as I never got around that, I eventually looked for some vintage ideas of how to style it into a Fifties dress. My impetus was finding an outfit for a friend’s wedding.
Fifties sari dress
Fifties sari dress
As the fabric is patterned and beautiful standing alone, I kept to a pattern without making alterations to it. The simple fitted shift dress is accessorised with a detachable sash. This is a nod to the sari. The dress needs little added, so I kept my jewellery classic with a vintage pearl necklace, gold hoops and my gold heels (bought because I love Marilyn’s shoes in Bus Stop).
Boat neck and side panels
Mock wrap V-neck
Dior – the dream dress
Indian fabric was used in the Fifties for Western style dresses. The pictures I found made good use of the gold panel of embroidery often found on saris. My first choice was to copy the one shouldered Dior dress with a stitched wrap of gold edging used for the bodice, and a full skirt. The sari I had was only a remnant, and I didn’t have enough. Less fabric meant a pencil skirt and and no gathers. I did get my sash though.
On the day, I did require some dress first aid when I ripped the back seam of the skirt getting in the car. The trouble was climbing in instead of sitting and swivelling like a lady. I think that’s something you learnt at finishing school. Thanks to my mum’s first aid kit ( for clothes, naturally) I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening without embarrassment!
I think if I get the opportunity to buy a whole sari, I’ll make the Dior dress. Then I’ll just need something to wear it to.
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.
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.