Marilyn Monroe is undeniably one of the most famous women today, even though she passed away over 55 years ago. The mystery surrounding her death is still ever present in modern society. There is another mystery that’s also a constant topic of conversation and debate, and it’s one of those questions I’m asked in nearly every interview: “What was Marilyn Monroe’s true size?”

You can learn the truth in this article. Please note, however, that every use of the term “plus sized” is in quotes because the term itself is derogatory and demeaning. (Have we ever heard the term “minus sized?”) #DropThePlus! A woman’s size or weight doesn’t define her. Be happy with who you are, and don’t look to others to set a standard for what’s beautiful and acceptable.

Many people believe that Marilyn was a larger “plus sized” woman. Even celebrities have chimed in on Marilyn’s weight and clothing size.

A quick Internet search pulls up countless articles focused on the topic of Marilyn’s size. People write about vanity sizing and claims of Marilyn’s measurements as reported by her dressmaker, (though the source of the dressmaker’s claim isn’t cited anywhere).

I’m going to shed some light on Marilyn’s TRUE physical size using seven items of clothing from her own personal wardrobe, which will finally close the debate on just how large (or in actuality, small) she really was.

Contents

Marilyn’s Measurements and Weight

Available documentation verifies Marilyn’s height and weight at several different times during her life, and her first modeling contract verifies her measurements:

August 2, 1945
Blue Book Modeling Agency
5’ 6”, 120lbs
36-24-34
“Size 12”

February 8, 1954
DOD ID Card
5’ 5 1/2”, 118lbs

August 5, 1962
LA Coroner Medical Report
5’ 5 1/25”, 117lbs

Notes from the Blue Book Modeling Agency
Marilyn Monroe’s USO ID Card
Coroner’s Medical Report

While these documents suggest that her weight was a constant 117-120lbs, she was actually much heavier during the late 1950s, for example, the Some Like It Hot premiere on March 29, 1959 (below). Some have speculated she weighed close to 140 lbs at this point.

“The Hourglass”

Marilyn wasn’t like most women in that she had an extreme hourglass figure. Many modern size charts like the ones below don’t even reflect Marilyn’s physical dimensions.

In 1945, Marilyn’s dimensions were 36-24-34. The red circle on the charts below demonstrate how her body was different. Note the “X-Small” and “Medium” sizes.

Note that the “plus sized” chart in the second example doesn’t reflect Marilyn Monroe’s measurements for bust, waist and hips. So much for Marilyn being “plus sized!”

Marilyn Monroe’s Clothing Tells the Truth

While some say Marilyn Monroe was a large “plus sized” woman, her personal clothing items tell a different story. Below are several examples of Marilyn’s clothing worn at varying times in her life, displayed on a size 6-8 dress form, with measurements of 33.5″ (bust), 24.5″ (waist), and 34.5″ (hip). With these images and video clips you can get an idea of her true size. Most important, even at her heaviest weight in 1959, her waist still measured just 28.5 inches.

1951 – Marilyn’s Personal Leather Belt

This belt measures 27 inches (on the outside of the belt) when fastened. Of course, this doesn’t even take into account the layers of clothing Marilyn wears under the belt. Marilyn is pictured wearing this belt at RKO Studios.

1953 – Marilyn’s Personal Wool Skirt

This wool skirt is one of two that Marilyn owned. She had one in gray and another in purple. Marilyn was known to buy the same item in multiple colors and this is an example of that. The photo below shows Marilyn wearing the purple skirt, which is exactly the same as this gray skirt. No size is present on a tag inside. When fastened, this skirt also measures 27 inches. Again, this doesn’t account for layers of clothing. The photo was taken during the filming of “River of No Return.”

1955 – Marilyn’s Personal Evening Cape

Marilyn Monroe’s silk evening cape, fashioned in a brocade pattern depicting roses and leaves, the interior lined in champagne-colored silk, worn to the 1955 premiere of “East of Eden” in New York City. This is a custom design, believed to have been made for Marilyn by George Nardiello. This cape fits perfectly on this size 6-8 dress form.

1958 – Marilyn’s Personal Maternity Dress

This red cotton button-down casual garment with a pattern of roosters and chickens was worn while Marilyn was pregnant in 1958 during and after the filming of “Some Like It Hot.” There is no size present inside the garment. The photos show how loosely the garment hangs on Marilyn, even while she’s pregnant. The seams at the shoulder measure 15 inches apart.

1959 – Marilyn’s Personal Cocktail Dress

Marilyn wore this black silk cocktail dress to a 1959 event honoring husband Arthur Miller. The dress was hand-tailored for Marilyn, and it’s one of a kind. As it was handmade for Marilyn, this dress certainly provides an exact representation of Marilyn’s physical form. At this point in her life, Marilyn was at her heaviest, with some speculating she weighed nearly 140lbs. Even still, when displayed on the dress form, her waist measured an astonishing 28.5 inches.

The inside of the dress is shown below.

1961 – Marilyn’s Personal Overcoat

Marilyn wore this overcoat as she exited Polyclinic Hospital on July 11, 1961, following gallbladder surgery. Photos from that day show she has slimmed down and appears to be near her average weight. This coat hangs loosely around her shoulders as she exits the hospital and makes her way to a waiting limousine.

1962 – Marilyn’s Personal Pucci Blouse

From the 1999 Christie’s Auction, “The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe,” Marilyn’s lime green Pucci blouse. The label in this blouse reads size 14. In footage and photos of Marilyn wearing this blouse, she appears to have lost even more weight, as she looks slimmer than she did in 1961 as she exited Polyclinic Hospital.

Yes, you read it right, size 14. Marilyn Monroe in fact wore a size 14 blouse, but a 1962 size 14. Today, Marilyn’s clothing fits very well on a size 6-8 dress form, and this is where vanity sizing comes into play. Throughout the years, clothing sizes for women have decreased while the actual size of women has increased. To complicate matters even further, clothing brands today don’t follow a systematic approach to sizing. The chart below shows how different clothing lines use different measurements for sizes. It’s practically impossible to know what size Marilyn Monroe would be today.

Marilyn Monroe Lifted Weights

Marilyn herself knew the importance of physical exercise. She owned her own weight set and she worked-out years before most people understood the benefits of staying fit and healthy.

Marilyn’s personal weight bench and weights.



Marilyn was also aware of the importance of her figure and staying in shape. She’s known to have referenced her physical form in at least two separate interviews:

“I don’t want to be bone thin, and I make it a point to stay the way I want to be.”
Movieland Magazine
July, 1952

“The working men, I’ll go by and they’ll whistle. At first they whistle because they think, oh, it’s a girl. She’s got blond hair and she’s not out of shape, and then they say, “Gosh, it’s Marilyn Monroe!” And that has it’s, you know, those are times it’s nice.”
LIFE Magazine
July, 1962

While many believe that Marilyn Monroe was a “plus sized” woman, the fact is that’s just not true. Even during the late 1950s when she was at her heaviest, her custom made dress indicates her waist still measured a tiny 28.5 inches. She had an extreme hourglass figure. The interesting part is that the hourglass may have varied over the years, but she was never obese. Unfortunately, Elizabeth and Rosanne, Marilyn just wasn’t the “plus sized” woman you claimed she was.

Our post on plus-sized women renewed a question that comes up from time to time: Was the late actress Marilyn Monroe in that category?

See more photos of Marilyn here

Some people think Marilyn Monroe was heavy by today’s standards for leading movie actresses and models. And several celebrities have spread that view.

Elizabeth Hurley told Allure magazine: “I’ve always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I’d kill myself if I was that fat.”

And comedian Roseanne Barr has been quoted as saying, “Marilyn Monroe was a size 16. That says it all.”

Not really.

Marilyn Monroe did have an extreme hourglass shape, according to a dressmaker who listed these measurements:

  • Height: 5 feet, 5½ inches
  • Weight: 118-140 pounds
  • Bust: 35-37 inches
  • Waist: 22-23 inches
  • Hips: 35-36 inches
  • Bra size: 36D

Jezebel.com quoted a British journalist several years ago who wrote:

“Contrary to received wisdom, she was not a voluptuous size 16 – quite the opposite. While she was undeniably voluptuous … for most of the early part of her career, she was a size 8 and even in her plumper stages, was no more than a 10. I can tell you this from experience because a few weeks ago, I tried to try on her clothes.”

As Jezebel noted, … “A British 10 might translate as an 8, a 6, or even a 4. And vintage clothes of that era were cut slim, intended to be worn with serious girdles, so take this into account. The answer? There’s no ‘exact’ number. All we can know for sure is that Marilyn Monroe was a gorgeous, dramatically curvaceous woman with a physique heavier and curvier than that which is en vogue now.”

See this post in its original form with more on how sizing has evolved through the years

See also:

Hottest celebrity trend? Chinplants

Marilyn Monroe in 1962

There has been a lot of controversy about Marilyn Monroe’s size and measurements. No one really knows the true origin of the myths surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s size.

In Hollywood, new rumors and drama sparks up every single day. Marilyn is no exception to this. Even today, if you ask someone what they think Marilyn Monroe’s measurements were back when she was a model and actress, they will probably speculate or tell you she was a size 12-16.

Fortunately, some research has been done on Marilyn’s body type and her dress size. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the things that influenced her clothing as well as the actual measurements of one of her dresses to answer once and for all – did Marilyn Monroe’s measurements really equate to size 12 – 16?

Extreme Hourglass Shape

Marilyn Monroe’s body was very unique, representing an extreme hour glass. There have been a number of arguments as to what Marilyn’s size really was; a majority of people saying that she was a size 12 and some other stars recently claiming that she was a size 16.

Women’s sizes today are nowhere near comparable to sizes back in the 1950s. The number sizing system has changed significantly over the years. The United States Department of Commerce stepped in during the 1980s to completely change the sizing system used throughout stores. A size 8 today would be about a size 16 in the 1950s.

Dressmaker Measurements

Monroe appearing with the USO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marilyn Monroe’s size was measured by one of her dress makers and released as 5’5” tall, 35” bust, 22” waist, and 35” hips. Her bra size was 36D. During Marilyn’s time, her waist was about 2-3 inches smaller than the average woman in America and by today’s average she was 12 inches smaller.

Marilyn Monroe’s measurements are unique and her star-status gave her the ability to spoil herself with custom fitted clothing. Any woman with the spectacular hourglass shape similar to Marilyn’s would have a hard time finding clothes that fit in a regular department store.

Throughout Marilyn’s career, she had a lot of weight fluctuations due to depression, illness, and other personal problems that she fought with during the final years of her life

The Myth of Marilyn’s Size

People often talk about how Marilyn Monroe was about the same size as the average woman today, but it’s not true! Taking into consideration the fact that the sizing system was changed in the 80s, Marilyn’s size would be very small by today’s standards.

The average woman’s waist size today is about 34 inches whereas Marilyn’s waist size was only 22 inches. Models in her time had an average waist size of about 25 inches.

The Bottom Line

So with all this talk of the changed sizing system and Marilyn’s unique shape and size… what does all of this mean? It means that Marilyn Monroe’s size wasn’t anywhere close to the average woman’s size (12-16) nowadays.

Marilyn had a unique style, personality, and appearance. Today’s models may have tiny waists and wear sizes smaller than Marilyn, but Marilyn would still be considered beautiful.

Interesting Tidbits about Marilyn Monroe

  • On their deathbed, two men claimed paternity of Marilyn Monroe: C. Stanley Gifford and Edward Mortensen. Gifford is the man whom Marilyn and her mother both believed was her real father, yet would refuse to ever meet Marilyn while she was alive. Mortensen was married to Marilyn’s mother when she was born and it is also the name that is on her birth certificate (despite being misspelled).
  • Marilyn’s salary was nothing special in comparison to other actors and actresses who played roles in the same films as her. She made just $100,000 for her final unfinished film “Something’s Got to Give.”
  • She had trouble learning and remembering the lines to play her part properly.
  • Monroe had an impressive IQ in addition to her good looks. She tested at 33 points higher than the national average at the time. As she got older, though, acting took over and became more important than her academic pursuit because she wanted to follow her dreams.
  • Marilyn’s father disappeared before she was born and her mother was dealing with severe mental issues. She eventually was placed in a mental institution. At 16, Marilyn’s foster parents couldn’t even continue supporting her; they sent her back to the orphanage. She married a man named Jimmy Dougherty in 1942, who soon left to fight in World War II.
  • Dougherty and Monroe fought a lot about how scandalous she was in her photos and after, they never really talked to each other.
  • Hugh Hefner owns the burial site right next to Marilyn’s at the Westwood Memorial Park in LA, California. Hefner only paid $78,000 for the site in 1992. Several burial sites nearby Monroe’s and Hefner’s have gone for sale. The vault above Marilyn’s received a bid for nearly $4.4 million when it was up for sale.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s funeral had an open casket viewing. She was dressed in a green Pucci sheath dress and a platinum blonde wig.
  • Mariah Carey bought the white baby grand piano in an auction in 1999 for over $600,000.
  • Lee Strasberg’s third wife, Anna Strasberg, eventually took control of 75 percent of Monroe’s estate after Lee died.

What Dress Size Was Marilyn Monroe, Actually?

On January 31, 1919, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia. Twenty-eight years later, he broke the baseball color line and became the first African American to play on a major sports team. Here are 42 facts to celebrate the legendary athlete.

1. Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia but raised in California.

Jack “Jackie” Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia. Shortly after his birth, his family moved and settled in Pasadena, California.

2. Jackie Robinson was named after Teddy Roosevelt.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

President Theodore Roosevelt, who died 25 days before Robinson was born, was the inspiration for his middle name.

3. Jackie Robinson was the youngest of five children.

Jackie was the youngest of five children—Edgar, Frank, Matthew “Mack,” and Willa Mae—and a little over a year after his birth, Robinson’s mother moved the family to Pasadena, California.

4. In high school, Jackie Robinson played on a team with other future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bob Lemon.

Robinson attended John Muir High School, where he was placed on the Pomona Annual Baseball Tournament All-Star Team with fellow future MLB Hall of Famers Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox and Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians.

5. Jackie Robinson was an accomplished tennis player, too.

He was also a successful tennis player, winning the junior boys singles championship in the Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament.

6. Jackie Robinson’s brother was a Silver medal-winning Olympic athlete.

Jackie’s brother Mack was an adept athlete and a splendid sprinter. He won a Silver Medal in the 200 meters behind Jesse Owens during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

7. Jackie Robinson served in the Army during World War II.

In 1942, Jackie Robinson was drafted into the Army. He was assigned to a segregated Army Cavalry unit in Fort Riley, Kansas.

8. Jackie Robinson was stationed with boxing champion Joe Louis during World War II.

While in the Army, Robinson became friends with boxing champion Joe Louis when the heavyweight, who was stationed at Fort Riley at the time, used his celebrity to protest the delayed entry of black soldiers in an Office Candidate School (OCS). As a result, Robinson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1943.

9. Jackie Robinson never saw combat during the war because he was arrested and court-martialed for refusing to move to the back of an unsegregated bus.

After an incident where he refused to sit in the back of an unsegregated bus, military police arrested Robinson at the request of a duty officer, who later requested Robinson be court-martialed. At the time of the proceedings, Robinson was prohibited from being deployed overseas to the World War II battlefronts. He never saw combat during the war.

10. Jackie Robinson was eventually given an honorable discharge.

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Robinson was acquitted and then assigned to Camp Breckinridge in Kentucky, where he worked as an Army athletics coach until he was given an honorable discharge in 1944. During his time at the camp, Robinson was encouraged to tryout for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro National League.

11. Jackie Robinson played in the 1945 Negro League All-Star Game.

In 1945, Robinson signed a contract to play for the Kansas City Monarchs. He was paid $400 a month (about $5100 today) to play shortstop and eventually was placed in the Negro League All-Star Game that year.

12. Jackie Robinson married his college sweetheart.

Robinson married Rachel Isum—whom he had met in 1941 during his senior year at UCLA—in 1946. They had their first son, Jackie Robinson Jr., that November. The Robinsons had two more children: a daughter, Sharon, and another son, David.

13. Jackie Robinson played in the Montreal Royals’ minor league.

Robinson played Minor League Baseball for the Montreal Royals in 1946, until he was called up to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Major Leagues in 1947.

14. Jackie Robinson made his MLB debut at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.

Hulton|Archive/Getty Images

He made his Major League Baseball debut on April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. He became the first African-American baseball player in Major League history.

15. Jackie Robinson was 1947’s Rookie of the Year.

He also won Rookie of the Year in 1947 with a batting average of .297, 175 hits, 12 home runs, and 48 runs batted in.

16. Jackie Robinson was close friends with Larry Doby, who was the first African-American baseball player in the American League.

Jackie Robinson had a close friendship with Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, who was the first African-American baseball player in the American League. The two men broke the color barrier in baseball in the same year and would talk to each other on the telephone to share their experiences with racism during the season.

17. Jackie Robinson’s Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese was one of his greatest champions.

Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese defended Robinson against violent and nasty racial slurs during his rookie season. Reese famously put his arm around him, a gesture of friendship that wasn’t common for Robinson at the time. The moment has since been immortalized in art, statues, and movies.

18. Jackie Robinson hit for the cycle on August 29, 1948.

On August 29, 1948, in a 12-7 win against the St. Louis Cardinals, Robinson “hit for the cycle” with a home run, a triple, a double, and then a single in the same game.

19. Jackie Robinson stole a lot of bases.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Robinson was the National League Batting and Stolen Bases Champion with a batting average of .342 and 37 stolen bases in 1949.

20. Jackie Robinson was a regular All-Star.

He was also a six-time All-Star between the years 1949 and 1954.

21. Jackie Robinson testified in front of the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities.

In 1949, Robinson was called to testify before the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). He was subpoenaed because of comments made about him by prominent African-American actor Paul Robson. At first, Robinson was hesitant to testify, but then was ultimately compelled to do so because he feared not doing so would hurt his baseball career.

22. Jackie Robinson was the National League’s MVP in 1949.

The National League’s Most Valuable Player Award went to Robinson in 1949, after his first appearance in the MLB All-Star Game. Robinson later took his team to the World Series, but would lose against the New York Yankees.

23. Jackie Robinson played himself in The Jackie Robinson Story.

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Jackie Robinson played himself in The Jackie Robinson Story, a biopic about his life released in 1950. Academy Award-nominated actress Ruby Dee played Robinson’s wife, Rachel “Rae” Isum Robinson.

24. In the off-season, Jackie Robinson traveled the south on a vaudeville tour.

During the off-season, Robinson went on a vaudeville and speaking tour of the South, where he would answer pre-set questions about his life. He actually made more money on these tours than he did on his contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

25. Jackie Robinson played in six World Series.

Robinson played in six World Series, but only won one in 1955 against the New York Yankees in a seven-game series. Robinson didn’t play in 49 games that season and missed Game 7; Don Hoak played third base in Robinson’s place.

26. Jackie Robinson quit baseball to take a job with Chock Full O’ Nuts.

At 37, Robinson retired from Major League Baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. Unbeknownst to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson took a position with the American coffee company Chock Full O’ Nuts and agreed to quit baseball.

27. Jackie Robinson was the first African-American vice president of a major American corporation.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

From 1957 to 1964, Jackie Robinson served as the vice president of personnel for Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee. He was the first African-American vice president of a major American corporation.

28. Jackie Robinson was a political independent who ended up switching party affiliations in the 1960s.

Robinson was a political independent, but had very conservative views on the Vietnam War. He also supported Richard Nixon in the 1960 Presidential election against John F. Kennedy, although Robinson admired Kennedy’s stance on civil rights once he was elected. He was later dismayed with Republicans for not supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and soon after became a Democrat.

29. Jackie Robinson was the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1962, Jackie Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. He was the first African American inducted at the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and Museum.

30. Jackie RObinson was a towering figure of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jackie Robinson was always seen as a large figure in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said Robinson was “a legend and symbol in his own time” who “challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration.”

31. Jackie RObinson co-founded Harlem’s Freedom National Bank.

In 1964, Robinson co-founded the Freedom National Bank—a black owned and operated bank in Harlem, New York—with businessman Dunbar McLaurin. Robinson was the commercial bank’s first Chairman of the Board. His wife later served as Chairman until 1990 when the bank closed.

32. Jackie Robinson was television’s first African-American sports analyst.

Robinson was also the first African-American MLB TV analyst. He broadcasted for ABC’s Major League Baseball Game of the Week telecasts in 1965. Robinson later worked as a part-time commentator for the Montreal Expos in 1972.

33. The Dodgers retired Jackie Robinson’s uniform number in 1972.

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On June 4, 1972, the Dodgers retired Jackie Robinson’s uniform number 42, as well as Sandy Koufax’s number 32 and Roy Campanella’s number 39.

34. Jackie Robinson passed away at the age of 53.

Robinson died of a heart attack on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut, at age 53.

35. Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, started the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973.

In 1973, Robinson’s widow, Rachel, started the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a non-profit organization that gives college scholarships to minorities. The Foundation also preserves the legacy of Jackie Robinson as a baseball player and civil rights pioneer.

36. Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn home was declared a landmark in 1976.

By Dmadeo, GFDL, Wikimedia Commons

The house in Brooklyn, New York, where Jackie Robinson lived while he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1976.

37. There’s an asteroid named after Jackie Robinson.

On March 1, 1981, American astronomer Schelte John “Bobby” Bus discovered an asteroid at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. Bus named the asteroid “4319 Jackierobinson,” after his favorite baseball player.

38. Jackie Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Jackie Robinson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest award given to a civilian for their contributions to world peace, cultural, or other significant public or private endeavors—on March 26, 1984.

39. Jackie Robinson also received the Congressional Gold Medal.

More than 20 years after he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President George W. Bush also posthumously awarded Jackie Robinson with the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest honor the legislative branch can bestow on a civilian and must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of members in the House and the Senate—for his contributions to American history. He became the second baseball player to receive this accolade after Pittsburgh Pirates Right-Fielder Roberto Clemente in 1973.

40. Jackie Robinson’s number, 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You won’t see any baseball players wearing the number 42: In 1997, Robinson’s number was retired throughout Major League Baseball. This was the first and only time a jersey number had been retired throughout an entire professional sports league.

41. Jackie Robinson is a member of the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

In 1999, Robinson was added to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team along with Cal Ripken Jr., Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Ty Cobb. Fans chose the final selections from a list compiled of the 100 greatest Major League Baseball players from the past century.

42. April 15 is now Jackie Robinson Day.

April 15, 2004, is now Jackie Robinson Day, and all uniformed players in Major League Baseball wear number 42 on their jerseys to honor Robinson’s memory and legacy to the sport.

The fascination with this “fact” about Marilyn Monroe’s dress size is not its literal truthfulness per se, but the implication it carries: that our standards of feminine pulchritude have become so extreme that the woman who has been idolized as the world’s premier sex symbol for half a century would be considered “chunky” or even “fat” by modern standards. (Conversely, some of today’s celebrities seem to be fond of invoking the “fact” that Marilyn wore a size 16 dress as a means of asserting that they themselves are, if not thin, in better shape than the renowned Marilyn Monroe was.)

Examples:

Actress/Estee Lauder spokesmodel Elizabeth Hurley was recently named “Babe of the Century” in some poll. This apparently caused her to lose her senses, because she went on to gratuitously dump on Marilyn Monroe — who’s hardly in a position to defend herself. Hurley says that the screen legend was overweight, peaking at a dress size of 16. “I’ve always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I’d kill myself if I was that fat,” Hurley told Allure magazine in an amazingly tactless moment … “I went to see her clothes in the exhibition, and I wanted to take a tape measure and measure what her hips were. (laughter) She was very big.”

“I’m more sexy than Pamela Lee or whoever else they’ve got out these days. Marilyn Monroe was a Size 16. That says it all.” — Roseanne.

Marilyn may (at times) have been a little heavier than today’s ultra-svelte models, but the notion that she was “fat” (even by today’s standards) is based on misinformation or misunderstanding.

Part of the misconception over Marilyn’s dress size is caused by the fact women’s dress sizing has changed over the years (i.e., today’s size 10 dress is smaller than the size 10 dress of fifty years ago), so what might have been labeled a “size 16” dress in Marilyn Monroe’s era can’t be directly compared with today’s size 16 dress. Also, many women have difficulty finding dresses that fit all portions of their frames comfortably, and therefore a woman with a proportionally larger bust, waist, or hip measurement might have to buy a larger-sized dress to accommodate that one measurement, but that dress wouldn’t necessarily be reflective of her overall size. As well, it’s difficult to accurately size the clothing Marilyn wore from her film costumes because most of that wardrobe was specifically tailored to fit her particular figure and was designed to showcase her body, not to provide the covering typical of standard clothing.

In 2009, fashion features editor Sara Buys had an opportunity to try on some items from a collection of Marilyn Monroe’s costumes and clothes and reported:

Contrary to received wisdom, she was not a voluptuous size 16 — quite the opposite. While she was undeniably voluptuous — in possession of an ample bosom and a bottom that would look at home gyrating in a J-Lo video — for most of the early part of her career, she was a size 8 and even in her plumper stages, was no more than a 10. I can tell you this from experience because a few weeks ago, I tried to try on her clothes.

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The Unpopular Opinions

Fat, unattractive girls need to stop using Marilyn Monroe as their “plus-sized” icon. It’s pathetic. Marilyn Monroe was fucking skinny, as you can see in the photo above, she has a 24 inch waist. She would be a dress size 4 or even a 2 in our time because of vanity sizing. She was definitely glorified the most at this size, because thin is pretty and everyone knows that.

Fat girls need to stop using photos of her at her ABSOLUTE HEAVIEST, to try to convince people she would be a plus sized icon if she were alive today. No she would not, at this weight she was glorified the most then because it was considered beautiful in the 50’s and in the current time.

Of course Marilyn was still attractive at her heaviest because she wasn’t even plus sized. She was not a U.S size 16, it would be about half of that. A U.S size 8 would be her size, or even a 6 because of mentioned vanity sizing. Even at her heaviest you don’t look like Marilyn Monroe. She didn’t have gross flab was not plus sized at any means. To be considered plus sized in the U.S you have to be a size 14, or at smallest 12 for a few designers.

I blamed this “all women are beautiful” bull, that is currently being shoved down our throats. Thin, pretty women are told on the daily they are beautiful. If a woman in the U.S doesn’t fit into the fit-body concept of beauty she must loudly pronounce she is beautiful and shove that idea down everyone’s throat using fictitious reasons in hopes she will convince the masses that society has a warped idea of beauty because they dislike her size 24 frame.

Societies idea of beauty isn’t warped. Healthy-looking, fit, athletic bodies look better. If you want to feel beautiful, that’s great, you should. All women want to feel beautiful, just don’t use a thin woman who was glorified for her body while she was thin to feel better about yourself by only paying attention to the pictures of her when she was her absolute largest.

The “real women have curves” thing is also bullshit. Real women have vaginas. The quote is hypocritical because all you do is bitch and whine about being put down for your weight, when fat girls are real perpetrators of body hatred on thin, pretty women because they can’t admit their envy. Also Marilyn clearly proves a size 2/4 woman can have amazing, slender, curves that these bigger girls could only dream of having.

Marilyn had a beautiful, tiny, size 4 body that is the ideal standard for women in western society back in the 50’s and in the present. Get over it.

A Day in Marilyn Monroe’s Diet

The recent 50th anniversary of her death has put Marilyn Monroe back in the spotlight, but many could argue she’s never left. Just this year the iconic bombshell was crowned ‘best beach body of all time’ according to a poll commissioned by a UK department store chain, and numerous images of and tributes to Marilyn can be found on Pinterest and Facebook.

People often ask me what I think of the famous Monroe’s figure. Was she fit and healthy? It’s a tricky question, because while Monroe certainly was not overweight, she wasn’t necessarily healthy either, at least based on the reports of her diet and relationship with food. Like many women, Monroe’s weight and measurements fluctuated.

According to her dressmaker, she was 5’5 ½ and fluctuated between 118 and 140 pounds, with measurements that ranged between:

Bust: 35-37″

Waist: 22-23″

Hips: 35-36″

At either weight (118 and 140), her body mass index (BMI) would fall within the normal range from 19.3 (on the low end) and 22.9 (at the high end) so even at her heaviest, Marilyn was by no means overweight. And it’s also reported that she suffered two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy during her three marriages, which would certainly explain some weight fluctuations.

But what I find most interesting is the diet she claims to have used to control her weight. Sixty years ago in the September 1952 issue of Pageant magazine (a monthly magazine that covered celebrities, health, and popular culture) she revealed a usual day in her diet:

Breakfast:

1 cup of warm milk with two raw eggs mixed into it

Lunch:

None

Dinner:

Broiled steak, lamb or liver with 4-5 raw carrots

Evening snack:

Hot fudge sundae

My verdict: don’t try this at home. It’s not nutritionally balanced (check out a recent day in my diet) and I don’t think Marilyn could have maintained such a strict regime for any length of time (remember, that’s an early 1950s hot fudge sundae portion, which was tiny by today’s standards). Could you? Over the years I’ve read numerous reports about Marilyn’s indulgent periods followed by crash diets, and I’ve counseled many women who struggle with the same battle, including those who do and don’t work in the spotlight. Bottom line: Marilyn wasn’t overweight, but even women with the most enviable bodies-curvy or not-may not be healthy. Check out my previous post “Do You Suffer From Disordered Eating?” which includes 10 questions that may indicate that you could use some professional help regarding your relationship with food.

How do you feel about Marilyn, her diet and her figure? Do you agree that you can’t tell if a person is healthy based on how they look in a bathing suit? Please tweet @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine!

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Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

  • By Cynthia Sass

In this article I am going to reveal the truth about Marilyn’s dress size.

There are many myths that surround Marilyn Monroe – mostly about her death – but one such myth I’d like to dispel is the controversy surrounding her true dress size. People have argued about this over the years – most adamant that she was a size 16, plus-sized or, in some cases even obese and many articles have been written on the subject, some good, some bad – I’ve included a link to a very good one here.

A lot of people use Marilyn to hold her up as the example of a real woman, others to mock her as being “fat” or “very big”. The truth of the matter is that Marilyn was a curvy woman but she was also very petite. So let’s get to the bottom of this here:

Marilyn’s measurements were listed at least three times in her life and were as follows:

On August 2nd, 1945 – Blue Book Modelling Agency lists her as being 5’6″, 120lbs, measuring 34-24-36 and being a size 12. For her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio in 1954, Marilyn had to obtain an ID card from the Department of Defense – They have her listed as 5’5.5″ and 118lbs On the LA County Coroner’s report following her death, Marilyn is listed as 5’5.5″ tall and 117lbs.

Photographs from each period show how tiny Marilyn’s waist really was.

Marilyn in 1946/1947 Publicity still from RONR, 1954 During filming of SYI in 1954

Marilyn’s waist was said to be so small that when the white dress from the skirt blowing scene in The Seven Year Itch came up for auction, it was too small to fit an adult mannequin – they had to put it on a child-sized one in order to close the zip at the back.

Of course, there were times in her life when Marilyn was heavier than normal but, for the most part her weight stayed between 117lbs and 120lbs. The only times that changed were each time she was pregnant, and during the filming of Let’s Make Love (1959) and The Misfits (1960), when she was at her heaviest of about 140lbs. It’s also worth noting that Marilyn suffered with endometriosis, a painful gynaecological condition in which the layer of tissue that normally covers the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. As a result she suffered with bloating when the condition exacerbated.

Marilyn on the beach in Amagansett, 1957 – she is pregnant here A pregnant Marilyn on the set of Some Like It Hot – 1958 Marilyn during filming of Let’s Make Love, 1959 – It’s been claimed she was pregnant here but it’s actually just bloating in her lower tummy Marilyn during costume test for Let’s Make Love, 1959 – again you can see the fuller frame here. Marilyn during costume test for The Misfits 1960 Marilyn and Arthur arriving at Reno Airport to film The Misfits, 1960 Marilyn filming The Misfits, 1960

On June 28, 1961 Marilyn entered the Polyclinic Hospital in New York to have her gallbladder removed. After this surgery a “new” Marilyn appeared. This was the slimmest she had ever been and photos taken right up to her death in 1962 show a very petite but strikingly beautiful woman.

Marilyn leaving the Polyclinic Hospital – July 11th, 1961 At the Golden Globes, 1962 With Paula Strasberg on the set of SGTG, 1962 During a nude shoot on set of SGTG, 1962 On set of SGTG for costume tests, 1962 By Bert Stern, Summer 1962 By George Barris, Summer 1962

Sizing changed dramatically in the 1970’s when vintage sizing, which is well illustrated here, was phased out in favour of vanity sizing (i.e. size zero). The sizing charts below are perfect examples of this. In her lifetime Marilyn had an extraordinary figure and had clothes tailored in a lot of cases to fit her unusual measurements. However, were she alive today, there is no doubt that she would be wearing a size 2 (US) which is approximately a size 6 (UK).

Vintage size chart courtesy of April Vevea at Classic Blondes Dress sizes as they are today – image courtesy of April Vevea at Classic Blondes This is an article that appeared in Newsweek a few years ago which compares Marilyn to an average woman today

Marilyn monroe size 12

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