How I Modernized Marilyn Monroe's Most Iconic Look of All Time

In honor of her birthday, we channeled the one-of-a-kind star.

lauren valenti
(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

In my eyes, Marilyn Monroe (opens in new tab) is untouchable. While overexposure might dim the sparkle for some, to me, she is the epitome of glamour and gumption. I can't help but be fascinated by her, from her on-screen magnetism to hyper-feminine beauty.

In advance of her birthday — she would have turned 88-years-old this Sunday — I decided to take my admiration to the next level by focusing on two things that made her an icon, her beauty rituals and her come-hither wardrobe — both of which are inspirations to this day.

To pin down a look, I reviewed all of her most seminal roles and their respective fashion moments. In the end, her light-hearted portrayal of the woman upstairs in The Seven Year Itch (1955) won out. It immediately brings to mind some of the most iconic imagery of the 20th century: Monroe standing over a New York Subway grate as her dress rises to the heavens, unveiling her endless stems and white skivvies.

STEP 1: THE HAIR First, I had to transform my golden mane of curls into a platinum faux bob and looked to the experts at Bumble and bumble (opens in new tab). In many ways, the Monroe 'do is the most essential part to getting her look as it's one of the most recognizable beauty signatures of all time. However, you need to proceed with caution as going platinum can wreak havoc on your hair's health.

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(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

Since I've been coloring my hair and getting Keratin treatments for years, going full-on platinum would dry out my hair and alter the texture. Not to mention, the maintenance would be time-consuming and expensive. That's why Lead Color Educator Clayton gave my hair a toned-down version of the Marilyn blonde, with a single process color to fill in by dark roots and large chunks of bright blonde highlights painted all over.

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(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

Next, stylist Joey gave me a faux bob hairstyle. After a voluminous blowout, she began setting my hair into pin curls. She used a 1-inch curling iron to curl 3-inch sections of hair all over my head. Each curl was set with a regular size hair clip.

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(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

After the curls set, the hair at the nape of my neck was braided into medium-size plaits that could be easily hidden when it came time to let my hair down.

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(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

Joey then took out the curls, fluffed them out, and began to tease the hair around my crown heavily, but neatly, with a metal comb. After brushing down the tease, she folded the excess hair at the bottom, and then secured the pieces with hair pins.

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(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

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(Image credit: ARCHIVES)

She kept my hair in place by spraying Bumble and Bumble Spray de Mode Hairspray ($28; bumbleandbumble.com (opens in new tab)) all over my new coif and voila!

STEP 2: THE MAKEUP

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(Image credit: ARCHIVES)

As far as beauty goes, the night before my transformation, I used Monroe's beloved pre-cleansing oil by Erno Laszlo ($45; neimanmarcus.com (opens in new tab)) to give my skin a glow. After brushing some rouge on my cheeks and lightly lining my eyes, it was time for the most important part of all: the red lip. I used MAC's Ruby Woo ($16; maccosmetics.com (opens in new tab)), with its matte finish and vivid, universal hue, to create a perfect cupid's bow shape. Lastly, I applied "five drops of Chanel No.5," ($120 for .25 oz; shop.nordstrom.com (opens in new tab)) to my wrists and neck, because of course.

lauren valenti

(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

STEP 3: THE DRESS

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(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing)

Just as important as the perfect coif and makeup was her famous white dress. The original ivory halter dress was created by the film's costume designer William Travilla and was one-of-a-kind.

Fortunately, Dainty Rascal (opens in new tab) designer Suzy Cherry created an exact styling, made-to-order replica of the famous frock using a pure silk heavy crepe fabric. The dress boasted an identical plunging neckline bodice that fit along my natural waist, as well as a hand-set pleated skirt hemmed at the mid-calf. I slipped it on and never felt more glamorous. You can have one of your own custom-made here (opens in new tab)!

CREDITS: Photographer: Kathryn Wirsing Hair: Bumble and bumble Dress: Dainty Rascal

Lauren Valenti
Lauren Valenti

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.