10 Fashion Lessons We Can Learn From Marilyn Monroe

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Marilyn Monroe wasn't necessarily a great actress and certainly wasn't the only beautiful woman to garner Hollywood's attention. And her scandalous love affairs? Hardly worth mentioning by today's standards.

Still, there's something about Marilyn we just can't get over. She's become an archetype all her own, one often recreated by Vegas mega-blonde impersonators and party-goers on Halloween night. However, what we really should be doing is taking notes. Her fashion sensibilities are as applicable today as they ever were: Identify your signature style, adapt it to the social and business situations you encounter and, by all means, stick with it. Marilyn would be so proud.



Embrace Your Curves

By now, you've probably seen either an impersonation of the iconic blond bombshell or a film starring Marilyn Monroe in the flesh. Either way, you can't help but understand: This woman was curvy. She had pendulous breasts and a bootie that would incite even J-Lo's jealousy. Now take a closer look. See any oversized T-shirts or baggy sweatpants? Not a one, and that's the point. No matter what size we are, regardless the ratio of our hip-to-waist measurements, we can learn a thing or two from the way Marilyn embraced her shape. We should all be so kind to ourselves, wearing clothes that fit and flatter rather than hiding our bodies under layers of shapeless knits.



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Perhaps Marilyn said it best in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." In the film, she encounters a diamond tiara for the first time and aches to wear it, but she can't quite figure out where. Finally, after realizing it doesn't fit like a necklace, she pops the tiara onto her head and announces, "I always love finding new places to wear diamonds!"

While we can't all be so fortunate as to wear diamonds every day in real life, we'd do well to mimic Monroe's penchant for accessories. That girl could bring the bling! From ruby drop earrings to a simple diamond necklace, she was always dusted with a jewel or two. Can't afford the real thing? Try a good quality knockoff, and you'll feel like a million without spending one.



Find Your Signature Style

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Marilyn Monroe did at least one thing right: She had a signature style. Even today, a simply elegant halter dress evokes a Monroe-esque image, right? The same goes for pencil skirts and snugly fitting cashmere sweaters (every girl needs a daytime look).

The key to making Marilyn 's style your own is knowing what you like and what you feel and look best in -- and then sticking to it. If, for example, you rock pink like nobody's business (a la Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"), then make it a staple in your wardrobe. You also could consider planning your wardrobe around three key colors, such as pink, gray and black. Like Monroe, who gravitated toward muted tones, you'll be well on your way to having your own signature style.



Wear Red

In 1950s America, Marilyn had everyone seeing red, as in lipstick. And you can, too. Red lip color is always in fashion, and contrary to popular belief, it can look good on any woman -- whether she's a blonde, brunette, redhead or somewhere in between. The vibrant color draws attention while sending a clear message that you're confident in the statement you're making.

The key is being careful not to overdo it. Make sure your lips are moisturized and then lightly line them with a neutral lip pencil. Once you've got a good foundation, apply a flattering shade of red lipstick, blotting it with a tissue to achieve a more natural look. (And P.S., the right shade of red can make your teeth look whiter, too.)



Accentuate a Beauty Mark

Think Cindy Crawford was the first to make a beauty mark part of her signature look? Think again. Marilyn Monroe embraced her beauty mark decades before Cindy.
Think Cindy Crawford was the first to make a beauty mark part of her signature look? Think again. Marilyn Monroe embraced her beauty mark decades before Cindy.
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Marilyn Monroe unwittingly followed a real estate mantra -- location, location, location -- when it came to the natural placement of her beauty mark. This beauty mark became known as the one spot Tinsel Town just couldn't resist, and rested on the left side of Marilyn's face, forming a nearly perfect triangle with her nose and mouth.

If you weren't born with a facial mole (calling it a beauty mark just sounds better, doesn't it?), then feel free to fake it. You can buy beauty mark kits online, or you can use a dark brown pencil eyeliner or liquid eyeliner to add your own dot. Just do it sparingly and consistently.



Short Hair is Sexy

If you're ever in doubt about whether short hair can be sexy, just think of Marilyn. From the start, the platinum blonde opted for short locks over long -- and there's no denying the style played an important role in her overall appeal.

To get your own Marilyn -like 'do, apply a setting lotion to nearly dry hair, and then twist small sections into curls before securing them tightly at the roots with roller clips. In about an hour, remove the clips, gently shake out the curls and -- voila! -- enjoy your own starlet style. Because if there's one thing we learned from Marilyn, it's that creating a classic, feminine style is always right.



Be a Sweetheart

Marilyn Monroe often wore dresses and blouses with a sweetheart neckline, which is flattering to both a little cleavage or a lot.
Marilyn Monroe often wore dresses and blouses with a sweetheart neckline, which is flattering to both a little cleavage or a lot.
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can certainly take our cleavage cues from Marilyn. She didn't shy away from a plunging neckline, but she bares plenty of skin the right way: vampy, not trampy. If you'd rather opt for a modified Monroe look rather than reach for the nearest halter top, consider showing a little cleave here and there. Just enough to offer a hint of your feminine wiles.

If you aren't game for a sharply dipping blouse front, consider a sweetheart neckline. This style arcs over each breast to create what looks like the top of a heart and is flattering for many body types -- including those of us with curves to keep in check. As Marilyn herself once said, "The trouble with censors is that they worry if a girl has cleavage. They ought to worry if she hasn't any."



Put on a Peep Show

Show a little skin with a peep-toe shoe. Marilyn immortalized this toe-baring style, known for its cut-outs that let your little tootsies shine. The peep-toe heel can be worn as a sandal or a dignified pump, and it was worn by Marilyn most of the time. We could learn a thing or two from her loyalty.

Once you find a shoe that suits your style, adapt it to your wardrobe. Marilyn wore the peep-toe day or evening. And although the appropriate nature of peep-toe shoes is still debated in some corporate cultures, we're betting if you make the look part of your signature style, the addition will go off without a hitch. Just make sure your toes are appropriately pedicured.



Bare Your Arms

Marilyn Monroe often bared her arms -- and shoulders and cleavage -- but if you've got it, flaunt it. And she certainly had it!
Marilyn Monroe often bared her arms -- and shoulders and cleavage -- but if you've got it, flaunt it. And she certainly had it!
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Bare your arms, no matter what your size. Why are we so hung up on the state of our triceps? Arms and shoulders are sexy, girls, so let's bare them a little more often! Marilyn Monroe, whose figure was admittedly anything but lithe, wasn't afraid to wear halter dresses or other shoulder- and arm-baring fashions.

The truth is, a halter-style top or dress looks good on most any body type because it draws attention to the face and generously skims the tummy. We also love shoulder-baring looks paired with an empire waist; this high waistline cinches just under the breast to create curves.



Structure Your Look

Marilyn Monroe's key to looking great? Shapewear. A structured look on the outside starts with structure underneath.
Marilyn Monroe's key to looking great? Shapewear. A structured look on the outside starts with structure underneath.
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Marilyn's style may have looked effortless, but underneath all that glam was a carefully orchestrated wrestling match involving foundational garments and her Rubenesque figure. We know Marilyn wore girdles to help achieve her cinched waist and hourglass curves. In fact, some of the film legend's unmentionables were sold at auction in 2010, including a black nylon girdle.

We're not saying lung-crushing corsets should ever make a comeback, but in an era when Spanx-like support awaits us at nearly every retailer, we have no excuse for not looking a little like Marilyn. The structure and shape provided by a well-fitting foundation is nothing short of miraculous. And after all, isn't that Marilyn 's real legacy? The magic of celebrity can wave its glamorous wand over us all, if only through our wardrobe.



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