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Fashion in Film: The Seven Year Itch

Updated: Mar 13, 2021

Article by Bailey Roulo

Instagram: @bailey.hope_

Clueless, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Marie Antoinette, The Seven Year Itch, Atonement.

These are just a few of the many movies that are remembered for their fashion just as much if not more than the plot of the movie. Fashion is to a movie what coffee is to my sanity; one cannot exist without the other. When you take away the fashion of a movie, you take away part of the story. “Clueless” without the iconic yellow plaid blazer and skirt duo or “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” without the pearls would be a travesty. The fashion in a movie is just as important as the set of a movie. It helps set the tone for the film and adds to the storytelling. There are the obvious movies where fashion is the central focus like “The Devils Wears Prada” or “Sex and the City” but movies like “The Great Gatsby” and “Marie Antoinette” are so incredibly reliant on the fashion to transport them to the time and place they are supposed to be in. My personal fashion is highly influenced by what I see on screen. I bought overalls after seeing “Mamma Mia!” and a blazer after watching “Stranger Things”. To explore fashion over the ages, many people turn to films and television.


The Breakdown: The Seven Year Itch (1954)

If I were to ask you if you have seen the movie "The Seven Year Itch," would you recognize the title alone or would you need to see the image of her iconic white dress over the subway grate? The costume designer William Travilla didn't think it was anything special at the time. But with the halter top and a pleated bottom just light enough to catch the breeze from the subway, this dress became an iconic piece of cinematic history. This item of clothing is put on a pedestal over other clothes. What piece of clothing can you think of that was sold for $4.6 million. Statues have been created to capture this iconic outfit.

You also have to give credit to the person wearing the dress. Marilyn Monroe had worn many iconic dresses throughout her career. The brightly colored gowns from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” are another staple of fashion in cinema. With Marilyn Monroe giving the iconic line “Isn’t it delicious,” in her old mid-Atlantic accent, this scene was ingrained in the minds of everyone.

Actress Marilyn Monroe and actor Tom Ewell on the set of "The Seven Year Itch."
Marilyn Monroe & Tom Ewell on the set of "The Seven Year Itch." Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Fashion is known to cross boundaries and the flourish of the skirt and low cut top had the ‘ladies’ and ‘gentleman’ saying it was too revealing. Being the QUEEN she was, Marilyn herself said, "People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn't see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one." She called out their sexist views and said ‘watch me work.’

Marilyn Monroe's gown in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"

The parodies are endless and the dress iconic. This style of the halter neck was made popular in this movie and has stuck around ever since. There are different variations of the v neck halter top but the idea and outline are still the same. This dress was made during the time of the nuclear family. A time in history where it was housewives and a working husband and the “perfect family”. Women's clothing consisted of long dresses or skirts with petticoats and a tight waistband to show off the thin waist that was considered ideal at the time. This dress had a thin waist and long skirt but that did not stop this dress from being unique for its time. That is part of what made it so iconic. The design of old while ushering in the new was executed exquisitely. This dress, just a simple moment in a movie, has gone down in history as a symbol of cinema and how much the design and aesthetics of a film can influence society.

Call it fashion, darling.


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