Marilyn and Pucci

The Sixties welcomed a sexual revolution with fashion playing a key role. Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci liberated women from the restrictive clothing of the previous decades with the patent of a revolutionary fabric which was both breathable and wrinkle free. The designer was an avid traveller and knew the importance of wearability in a women’s wardrobe and the innovative fabric became key to his design practice. Pucci’s designs were often simple silhouettes such as shifts, capris and high collared blouses in a variance of loud patterns and colours. The garments were easy to wear and instantly recognisable to the brand with thanks to the iconic, psychedelic prints. From the mid 1950s onwards Pucci was fast becoming a symbol of the fashion forward woman. It was no surprise that some of the eras most famous females such as Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Jacqueline Kennedy were stepping out in his creations.

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Emilio Pucci ensembles dating from the mid 1950s to late 1960s from the collection of Lauren Bacall at the Museum of FIT.

The designs were modern, chic and effortless with the bold prints echoing youth culture of the time. Garments had the allure of couture but did not come with the hefty price tag with Life magazine quoting in 1964, ‘creations can range from a $2.50 hankie to a $2500 evening dress.’ This variance of accessibility allowed women from middle to upper class backgrounds to wear Pucci.

Prior to the turn of the decade, Marilyn Monroe was famously known for her hourglass silhouette which was amplified by skintight clothing. Her curves were so ample that she urged seamstresses to sew her into garments, reinforcing seams in the process and always requesting for the garment to be made tighter. This was noted most famously on the ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ nude illusion gown created exclusively for the actress by designer Jean Louis in 1962. On screen Marilyn was turning her nose up at the fashionable full skirts of the 1950s – choosing instead to wear body conscious suits and gowns. During the filming of How to Marry a Millionaire Marilyn even went so far to refuse to wear anything full even though her co stars Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall caved in and wore a fuller silhouette. For Marilyn she knew her shape was part of the Hollywood illusion and chose clothing that amplified this.

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Marilyn Monroe wearing a Travilla designer gown for How to Marry a Millionaire in 1953.

 

In her astronomical rise to fame Marilyn’s choice of clothing off camera was not necessarily reflective of her sex symbol status she was fast becoming. She opted for mid-century basics such as capri pants, sweaters and pencil skirts in an often monochromatic palette. In particular Marilyn seemed to have a fondness of houndstooth wearing the pattern throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in trousers, capri pants and swing coats.

Marilyn began wearing Emilio Pucci designs from 1960 until her death on August 5th 1962. The loose silk jersey knit clung to Marilyn’s shape but not in the overtly sexualised manner of the gowns she wore in the years before. Wearing the young, hip designs would be of importance to Marilyn, who at that time was trying to regain her popularity and relevance amongst the newer generations. She did not want to be seen as the dumb blonde she often portrayed on camera and was implicate in her wardrobe choices when off camera to show more authenticity.

It has been noted in several autobiographies that Marilyn’s personal cleanliness could fall behind when the star was under pressure from the studios. She was noted as having a hatred for underwear and a habit of wearing unlaundered clothing. In fact some of clothing existing today has various stains on it including food and makeup. With Pucci’s design being fairly easy to care for whilst appearing effortlessly chic, these garments would be the perfect uniform for Marilyn in the later years of her life.

After a turbulent few years resulting in a two divorces and the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions Inc. Marilyn began to switch up her style, reverting back to a simpler silhouette and more colourful looks. Along with Pucci, Marilyn also favoured designer Jax who had a store close by to Marilyn’s house in California. Jax designed womenswear basics including snug fitting trousers with a centre back zip and an absence of pockets – enhancing the figure in a restrained, casual manner. The trousers retailed for $60 a pair – a costly price in those days and stars like Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor would snap them up by the rail load. Nancy Sinatra was so fond of Jack Hanson (designer of Jax) creations that she was quoted as saying, ‘the most important men in America are my father, Hugh Hefner and Jack Hanson.’

At the time of her death Marilyn, a fan of buying much loved garments several times over in several colours, had a amassed a colourful collection of Pucci separates, dresses and accessories. A selection of Marilyn personal Pucci collection was sold at Christie’s auction house in 1999.

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Part of the Marilyn Monroe Pucci Collection at The Museum of Style Icons.

Although Pucci prints were vibrant and eye-catching, on hanger  however the garments could appear lifeless. There was no intricate tailoring, no camera ready embellishments – just a simple cut and innovative fabric choice. The designs particularly came to life when Marilyn wore them who exuded an understated chicness whilst retaining her bombshell legacy of the 1950s.

When tasked with selecting Marilyn’s burial outfit, her housekeeper Eunice Murray helped pick out Marilyn’s favourite dress at the time – the green Pucci shift dress with tassel rope belt. The very same dress worn on Marilyn’s trip to Mexico in February of the same year. When a reporter commented on her dress Marilyn quipped, ‘you should see it on the hanger’.

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The green Pucci shift dress, Marilyn’s favourite dress at the time of her passing.

Novelty Corner: Flexiclogs

Welcome to Novelty Corner.

Every now and then I’ll be writing a love letter to some of my most swooned after novelty fashion items from years gone by. Leave your good taste at the front door.

Do you love fashion?

Do you aspire to be your own boss?

Do you want to  make a fast buck?

Do you have a passion for wooden clogs…

Look no further than the novelty footwear trend that swept America – Flexiclogs!

Flexiclogs – articulated wooden soled sandals – came in a dazzling array of nine colours. The interchangeable colourful straps offered versatility and more bang for your buck when it came to outfit co-ordination. And don’t worry – there was matching handbags & belts too!

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‘They F-L-E-X with your foot!’

Articulated wooden soles were a product of resourceful product design during World War II. The War Production Board issued the L-85 restrictions during April 1942 – these limited both the consumption and design of clothing into the early 1950s. Materials such as leather and rubber which were used widely in military uniforms were restricted in civilian footwear and as such synthetic materials such as neoprene were championed in new innovative designs.

The patent for the ‘Flexi-Hinge’ wooden sole was finalised in 1952 and thus Flexiclogs were born. Promising to ‘flex with your foot’ the ‘Flexi-Hinge’ wooden soles were made of waterproof maple wood with a DuPont Neoprene skid proof crepe sole promising to hug the curves of your foot! I wonder just how loud these hinged soles were clopping down the pavement back in the day? And what happened if you got your pinky toe caught in one of those hinges mid stroll?

Although they were readily available for all the family, I’ve yet to see a pair of men’s Flexiclogs. The image of  a dapperly dressed travelling salesman in his starched business suit wearing a natty pair of rainbow hued Flexiclogs delights me to no end.

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Flexiclogs with original box, advertisement booklets and sample strap ring. Currently available from Guermantes Vintage, Etsy.

Heralded as a ‘new style craze that swept the nation’, over 1 million pairs of Flexiclogs (so they say) were sold by men and women up and down America. Advertisements promised up to $10 profit per sale with an attractive free sample kit and handy demo tips to seal the deal. The shoes were sold door to door or during Flexiclog parties – a lot more exciting than tupperware parties in my opinion!

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Advertisement highlighting the success of Flexiclog sales men and women. 28th February 1955, Life Magazine.

 

Flexiclogs are one of my personal vintage Holy Grail purchases – the likelihood of me snapping up a wearable pair of size 8’s in Scotland are slim to none but a girl can dream right? I’m a sucker for vintage fads and the inter-changable straps are a big sell for me although let’s be real – I would probably only ever wear kelly green ones…

Imagine my delight a few weeks ago when I stumbled about Star Struck Clothing’s very own revamped version of Flexiclogs available for the modern women today. These beauties appear to be incredibly true to the original mid-century designs –  alternating straps included. I know what’s on the top of my list to Santa this year!

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Star Struck Shoes’s ode to the Flexiclog. Available from http://www.starstruckclothing.com 

 

Do you own a pair of Flexiclogs? How do they sound? How do they feel? Get in touch with me – I’d love to hear your thoughts.