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to think Marilyn Monroe probably WAS a size 16 after all?

(152 Posts)
MsWetherwax Wed 06-Mar-13 13:05:55

I have spent the last 2 days clearing out DM's attic, and found loads of old clothes up there (the house has been in the family a long time and has a large attic) including my great aunts wedding dress. She got married in 1960.

My dgm often referred to this aunt as being quite stout, and her wedding dress was a 16. I tried it on, as you do. I am a size 12, bmi of 25, 5'6". It was too small. By quite a margin. sad I am nearly 40, and have been aware that vanity sizing was on the generous side, but this has really shocked me.

Having spent the rest of the evening "investigating" this by trying on more motheaten vintage clothing we discovered a size 10 in 1960 was about a size 6 now. (Dsis is a 10 and needed at least 3 more inches around the waist, although the wedding dress fitted beautifully) and that it wasn't just the wedding dress that didn't fit me, there were 3 more dresses in there, all size 16, and all too small. sad

Mominatrix Wed 06-Mar-13 14:09:55

America is extremely guilty of vanity sizing. I have not gained weight since Senior School, and can still fit into clothes I was wearing during my last couple years (17-18). Back then, my size was a size 4 US. By the time I finished uni, I was a size 2. Now I am a size 00 US, and some of those are slightly big!

fluffyraggies Wed 06-Mar-13 14:11:09

My mum was in her 20s in 1950's London and she and her friends all wore those swirley skirts with lots of stiff net peticoats underneath, a little jumper and a wide belt. It was common for girls to store their peticoats under their bed, as they took up so much room. Bit of social history there.

Anyway - she and her friends aimed at having a 16" waist. She gave me a few of her old wide leather belts for me to wear when i was a teenager, and you could see that they were all worn on the tightest hole - 16". Wow. That's with a thin jumper tucked in remember!
(i wore them, but on the largest hole wink)

Mominatrix Wed 06-Mar-13 14:12:53

16 inches! Scarlett O'Hara needed a corset to get her waist that tiny!

frankie4 Wed 06-Mar-13 14:14:15

Marilyn Monroe would have worn a very tight corset under the dress, like most women at that time, which is why her waist was so small. But I have also been to that exhibition and saw how small the dress was. Even with a corset it did not look any bigger than a size 10.

A few years ago I was excited to try on a Biba outfit of my DM from the 1960's when my DM was in her 20's, and I could not get into it at all, it was tiny. My DM has worn a size 16 since she was 16years old, and I am a size 12-14.

fluffyraggies Wed 06-Mar-13 14:16:26

Wait! Serves me right for trying to go by memory! blush
just under 23", i've just been and measured the belt.
Still tiny shock

FreudiansSlipper Wed 06-Mar-13 14:20:46

no she was never a size 16

I have been lucky enough to handle some of her clothes and last year went to an exhibition of her clothes (about 15 outfits) at her biggest she was a uk size 12. That was in some like it hot when she was pregnant you can see her weight changes throughout the film

she was fleshy tiny build but not that toned she also always wore her clothes tight spilled out of them that I think can often make you look bigger

CardinalRichelieu Wed 06-Mar-13 14:21:15

Love how this thread has brought out all the costume nerds who went to see the dresses at the v&a!

furnessian Wed 06-Mar-13 14:22:31

Yes, I saw MM's white dress and she certainly was tiny.

My mum and her friends were all young in the Fifties and all were all tiny; personally I think a great deal of this can be attributed to war-time rationing.

Also women wore waspies under their dresses, to enhance their waists and many of the dresses worn, incorporated boning.

In the 1950s, my dress size would be a size 14. In 1980, I was a size 10. Today (I am exactly the same dimensions over 30 years) I am a size 6 to 8 so something very strange is going on!

QuickLookBusy Wed 06-Mar-13 14:28:56

I have a skirt which I bought in Top Shop about 20 years ago. It's a size 12.

My DDs have Top Shop dresses, size 8s and I have worn a couple on holiday.

I weight the same now as I did 20 years ago so sizing has definitely changed.

Miggsie Wed 06-Mar-13 14:30:20

Anthony Summers' very well researched biography of Monroe states that in her prime Marilyn's measurements were 36-24-36.
He got this from her dress designer - who should have known.

I have some old Vogue and Simplicity patterns from the 50's (as I love the Doris Day look!) and my measurements would have made me a size 16-18 then, and I have to use the size 16 pattern. Today those measurements have me a size 10-12...and I cut on the size 10 line.

So today's expectation of a "normal" woman shape is to be 4 inches wider than 1950.

I remember about 10 years ago doing a play set in the 50's and my friend lent us some genuine 50's skirts, dresses and petticoats (her mum was a dress designer and kept all the nice stuff) and only the women who were size 10 in the play could get them on.

DonderandBlitzen Wed 06-Mar-13 14:32:32

People tend to have their wedding dress altered to fit them, so the lable may not be a true reflection of the size. Although it sounds like you tried on lots of dresses and found the same thing each time

Fillyjonk75 Wed 06-Mar-13 14:37:15

Yes, I think she probably was a size 16 - then. Now she'd be a UK 10-12.

My mum was a size 14 in her youth when she was 9 and a half stone, and she's 5'7".

I am the same height and was in a size 8 at the same weight. I tried on one of my mother in law's jackets, made in about 1965, it was a size 12 and only just fitted.

FreudiansSlipper Wed 06-Mar-13 14:39:17

I have lots of vintage clothes from the 40/50's the jackets fit me much better than modern sizing as i am not very broad. I have a few dresses they fit well and some of these are a 12 I am a tight 12 I think it depends on your shape I have a small build with too much blubber

I also have a few bits from the 20/30's they are much smaller (no sizing) especially the tiny gloves

Fillyjonk75 Wed 06-Mar-13 14:39:23

But it's fair that sizing has changed, people have got bigger and healthier, not just fatter. Women have bigger bones, are taller, broader and have a bigger muscle mass.

Fillyjonk75 Wed 06-Mar-13 14:42:27

And all the talk of a 16" waist was poor women just being massively pulled in with a corset, and also being small and frail anyway. My 7 year old daughter has a 23" waist and she's right in the middle of the healthy BMI range.

PanpiperAtTheGatesOfYawn Wed 06-Mar-13 14:47:47

Don't forget though that MM would have worn lots of waist clinching underwear like girdles and basques, so her figure wasn't completely natural.

My great aunt was a buyer for Harrods. She was a tall, well-built woman, a real clotheshorse. I was very slim in my 20s and simply couldn't wear her clothes, because I had an athletic build and my midriff hasn't been pushed in by shaping underwear. I couldn't do up the waist buttons, but conversely they bagged around the hips.

Then again I couldn't get my shoulders into the jackets, let alone do them up!

PanpiperAtTheGatesOfYawn Wed 06-Mar-13 14:49:09

especially the tiny gloves - god yes we have some bits and pieces from the 1900s and 1920s - in the family dressing up box, so bizarre - and they are tiny.

I have some vintage dress patterns and made up a 50s evening dress - the shape eas soul wrong. It was designed for someone wearing a girdle, a4 when it git on the waist it was way too big over the bust. I didn't discover this until I had cut and constructed nearly the entire dress, and it was a lot of work - fully lined with covered buttons. sad

Dunno what to do with that and all my other patterns now

clarabellabunting Wed 06-Mar-13 15:03:11

I thought that Marilyn wore nothing underneath her dresses and was often sewn into them so they literally were skin-tight?

I'm sure I remember reading in biographies of her that she would stand naked and be sewn into things.

I'd be surprised, based on that, and looking at photos of her (like this:, if she wore shape altering underwear, girdles, etc.

Nancy66 Wed 06-Mar-13 15:07:14

At the time of her death MM was around 8stone 5 pounds....and she was around 5ft 5.

By today's standards she'd be a Uk size 8 to 10

Nancy66 Wed 06-Mar-13 15:08:55

...oh and my mum has an original Biba dress from the early 60s with a size 10 label in it.

I am a present day size 10 to 12 and I couldn't get it past my knees...would be a size 4-6 by today's standards.

MurderOfGoths Wed 06-Mar-13 15:17:54

clara in that photo she is ^ definitely^ wearing a girdle. You don't get the crease at the waist without a girdle.

Thing to remember with Marilyn was that her weight fluctuated, so sometimes she'd be like this and sometimes like this.

VAVAV00M Wed 06-Mar-13 15:17:55

She was about a UK 6/8 (dress maker notes vary between 33-35.5 inch hips throughout her career). UK 16 = US 12 btw, I'll source some down for you later.

VAVAV00M Wed 06-Mar-13 15:21:14

I have a 22-23 inch waist anyway, it is possible, people used to shout 'PEAR' at me while getting changed at school. I am over 6ft and have wide hips and broad shoulders so I do actually look in proportion, I'm a slim extreme hourglass figure. I have never really cared for it tbh.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Wed 06-Mar-13 15:28:54

UK sizes have changed

When I was 18 I was 7 and three quarter stones and a size 8.

25 years later, i am nearly 9 stone, have had 2 children, so considerably wider round the waist, and a bigger bust, and i am still an 8 in some shops, notably Monsoon, Next.

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