Monday Muse: Marilyn Monroe Inspires Prabal Gurung Spring 2014
Up on the mood board at Prabal Gurung, “The Last Sitting” was front and center. The famous set of photos, lensed by Bert Stern, show film icon/sex symbol/blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe in various languid poses, sometimes nude, sometimes behind a diaphanous weft of sheer fabric, always sexy. Gurung took those photos, and everything that Marilyn stood for, as a starting point for his spring collection, which was shown during the frenzy of New York Fashion Week. But instead of creating siren gowns and pleated halter dresses (Marilyn had to have more in her closet than just Chanel No. 5 and evening wear, after all), he played with midcentury proportions and brought them all into the present — and the future — with a mix of technology, fashion and homage.
“The Last Sitting” is one of Marilyn’s most iconic photo sets. Taken in June of 1962, Marilyn and Stern worked together on a Vogue-commissioned shoot over a period of three days. Just six weeks after the photos were taken, Marilyn passed away.
Later, in 1982, Stern published the photographs in a book titled The Last Sitting, which included the photos taken as well as contact sheets that bore notes and more from Stern and negatives and photos that Monroe herself crossed out.
The photo shoot was brought to life later, in 2008, when actress Linday Lohan re-created the poses, styling and more for a spread in New York Magazine.
Though Marilyn wears little to no clothing in the photographs, they have come to embody an ideal of womanhood in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
From the start of Prabal Gurung’s latest runway outing, there was an air of change. Sure, Marilyn was the inspiration, but there was no nostalgia and hardly a hint of Mad Men. In lieu of a traditional single-file runway show, the models all stood in the middle of the runway, encapsulated in a plexiglass tank before emerging one-by-one to take their passes. Fashion editors noted that this allowed Gurung’s workmanship to be appreciated, especially since a model’s trot can seem more like a sprint in the fleeting moments of a fashion show. There were day-glo lips, a mash-up of materials, which included injection-molded plastic harnesses, clear vinyl detailing, plastic tweeds and a PVC raincoat. Where did Marilyn go? She was there, and in spades. When models came out in wiggle dresses with their cleavage pushed sky-high, we could recall images of Marilyn’s dance sequence extolling her love of diamonds — her best friends, remember?
The ’50s-redux continued with pencil skirts, long, lean lines and pointy pumps. D©colletage was perfectly framed in off-the-shoulder sheath dresses that bore embellishment that ran the gamut from floral to funky and often combined with technical neoprenes, exposed corsets and more. Was it all bordering on theatre? Yes, there’s no doubt that Gurung loves to put on a grand production, but when the clothes seemed to defy their own inspiration, then you know a designer has succeeded. Nostalgia was nowhere to be seen, Gurung having kept Monroe firmly in the rear view; so all eyes focused ahead.