Jenny Packham seems obsessed Marilyn Monroe. Over the course of this afternoon’s runway presentation, we heard a mash of songs she sang, interviews she gave, and works inspired by her memory. As period-specific collections go, Ms. Packham certainly did her homework well and delivered a tremendous collection inspired by the woman who just may be the most famous American cultural icon ever. From the hair to the makeup to the style, everything on the runway screamed Marilyn.
There’s just one problem: Marilyn herself wouldn’t have fit any of these clothes.
Giving credit where it’s due, Ms. Packham unquestionably nailed the glamorous side of the starlet’s wardrobe. One doesn’t have to be overly familiar with fashion to recognize these dresses were influenced by a late 1950s, early 1960s Hollywood. The colors are right. The looks are right. Even the sunglasses match. The amount of beadwork given to several of these gowns is absolutely astonishing, many of them running in patterns from bust to ankle. Such tremendous attention to detail is admirable and one of the primary reasons this collection deserves a great deal of attention.
Even the way in which Ms. Packham transitions through her color palette is carefully orchestrated. She starts with the softest pink and slowly moves toward a darker shade of red which then merges with blue through the creative use of a jacket tossed over the shoulders. Blue gradually dissolves, literally, into gold which folds into black and white and then gradually back to yellow, which re-introduces the blue. Such a seamless motion of color was once common, but now practically unheard of on modern runways.
The challenge is that the overall silhouette of these gorgeous pieces is so lean, so narrow, so very fitted, that someone with the kind of curves Ms. Monroe possessed would never be able to wear them. The actress wasn’t very tall, nor was her torso all that long. These pieces come with a high waist which would have made Marilyn look stumpy. While a couple of the gowns do come with full skirts, the majority are much to tailored for a curvier girl to wear without severe alteration.
Herein is the problem any time a designer looks to reach very far back into fashion history. Modern concepts of beauty are significantly different than they were a mere ten years ago. The further back one ventures, the more unlike the original the fashion must inevitably be. “Inspired by” is a term most appropriate, for any strict adherence to historic styles just simply is not workable in today’s retail market.
Jenny Packham has created a wonderful collection that gives touching homage to the memory of Marilyn Monroe. Bringing back such wonderful glamour is always a good idea.