Marilyn Monroe was Not Even Close to a Size 12-16

Daven Hiskey April 17, 2012 151
Myth: Marilyn Monroe was a size 12-16.

From Roseanne Barr stating, “I’m more sexy than Pamela Lee or whoever else they’ve got out there these days. Marilyn Monroe was a size 16. That says it all”, to Elizabeth Hurley stating,  “I’ve always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I’d kill myself if I was that fat…I went to see her clothes in the exhibition, and I wanted to take a tape measure and measure what her hips were. She was very big”, you’ll often hear people saying Marilyn Monroe was around the same size as the average American woman today (12-16).  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, at least by today’s sizing systems.

How this myth got started isn’t exactly known.  One possible contributing factor to this myth was Marilyn Monroe’s atypical extreme hour glass shape.  More directly, it probably partially stems from the fact that women’s sizes today are not at all equivalent to women’s sizes in the 1950s. In the 1980s, in order to accommodate people’s vanity and ever expanding girth, the U.S. Department of Commerce got rid of the uniform sizing system and instead allowed for more ego stroking sizes.  As a result of this, today, a size 8 would have been roughly equivalent to a size 16-18 in the 1950s, obviously though this varies a shocking amount from brand to brand.

So what size was Marilyn Monroe actually?  Luckily, many of her dresses, carefully preserved, are still around to measure off of.  Further, one of her dress makers also chimed in with exact measurements he took.  Those measurements were 5 ft. 5.5 inches tall; 35 inch bust; 22 inch waist (approximately 2-3 inches less than the average American woman in the 1950s and 12 inches less than average today); and 35 inch hips, with a bra size of 36D.  Her weight fluctuated a bit through her career, usually rising in times of depression and falling back to her normal thereafter, but her dressmaker listed her as 118 pounds and the Hollywood studios tended to list her between 115-120 lbs.

As to what size Marilyn Monroe would be in women’s sizes today, that’s not an easy thing to answer due to the differing sizes from brand to brand, country to country, and the fact that her extreme hour glass shape would have made it difficult for her to find the perfect size while clothes shopping.  Lucky for her, she could afford to have her clothing custom made, which she usually did.

As a direct example of her size, the white dress she wore in The Seven Year Itch was recently auctioned off and was put on a mannequin that was a size 2, but they were still unable to zip up the dress as the mannequin was too big.  Many of her other dresses that exist from throughout her career match up to about the same, give or take an inch or two.  That being said, Marilyn Monroe at times would have her dresses so tight they’d have to be sown onto her, so something more comfortable in a size 4-ish (American) and something like an 8 in the U.K. is probably more accurate with most brands, though it should be noted that a 22 inch waist in many popular American jean sizes today would be below a 0.  So, again, the exact size is difficult to nail down thanks to the non-standardized sizing system we have today.

If you’re curious as to how that compares to modern contemporary fashion models, according to BluFire Model Registry, models are generally in the vicinity of a 34 bust; 24 waist; and 34 hips, which is very close to Monroe’s measurements of 35-22-35.  They list the average model  today at 5 ft. 8 inches, to Monroe’s 5 ft 5.5 inches.   Elizabeth Hurley, who in the above quote called Marilyn Monroe “fat”, actually has around the same dimensions: 34-24-34, though is about 5 inches taller than Monroe was.

So while it’s often lamented (rightly so) that female models and actresses today set a standard that no normal woman can realistically live up to, the same was true in the Marilyn Monroe era, minus Photoshop, even though she’s often used today as an example of how things were different “back in the day”. Probably the perception of the difference between then and now lies more in the fact that the average American is a lot bigger today.  To this point, the average American woman in the 1950s had a 25 inch waist compared to Monroe’s 22 inches.  Whereas today, the average American woman has a waist size of 34 inches, so the gap between the models and “average” was much less pronounced then.  And, of course, today we have more advanced means of photo and video editing to make the gap seem even larger, with the edited results being truly unattainable. At least a 22-24 inch waist is do-able for some with a significant amount of work via a great fitness routine and healthy diet.  A 22 inch waist that is then Photoshopped to look smaller, on the other hand, just isn’t healthily attainable, not to mention that any blemishes are also removed from pictures and film quite easily today via these modern editing techniques.

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Bonus Facts:

  • Marilyn Monroe in 1945 Posing For YANK Magazine

    Another Marilyn Monroe myth was that she was a blonde.  In fact, the actress famed for her platinum blond curls actually was a dark haired brunette.  She first dyed her hair blonde after being told that models with lighter colored hair were preferable, so bleached it to golden blonde and later adjusted this a total of nine times until she settled on platinum blonde.  As Monroe later stated, “There’s only one sort of natural blonde on earth – albinos.”

  • The words “blond” and “blonde” are not wholly synonymous.  Find out the difference here: The Difference Between Blond and Blonde
  • Monroe reportedly kept a small library of around 400 books, largely non-fiction.  Her third husband, Arthur Miller, commented though that she rarely finished any of them.  She tended to skim them until she picked up the basic idea and then felt it was pointless to read in more detail later.
  • Veronica Hamel and her husband purchased Monroe’s Brentwood home in 1972 and attempted to have the roof replaced.  What the contractor found in the roof was an eavesdropping and telephone tapping system.  At the time of Monroe’s death in 1962, this type of system was “standard issue” for the FBI.  This, and other evidence, further inflamed conspiracy theorists who maintain Monroe was murdered due to her alleged relationship with JFK and Robert Kennedy.  However, in 1982, whether she committed suicide or was murdered was reviewed by an official inquest and they determined the original investigation got it right, that she committed suicide by ingesting large amounts of Nembutal, enough to raise the level in her bloodstream to 4.5 milligrams per 100, meaning she must have ingested about 40-50 capsules.
  • Monroe, originally Norma Jeane Mortenson, and then shortly thereafter Norma Jeane Baker (Baker being the last name of her mother’s husband before Martin Mortensen, Monroe’s father), was born all the way back in 1926 and spent most of her early years in foster care and some time in an orphanage.  Her father ran off before she was born and her mother had severe mental problems, including ultimately being placed in a mental institution.  When she was 16 years old, her foster parents moved and could no longer afford to keep her. In order to avoid having to go back to an orphanage, she married her first husband, 21 year old Jimmy Dougherty in June of 1942; apparently not entirely by choice, though this point has been disputed.  Monroe herself stated about it,  “Grace McKee arranged the marriage for me, I never had a choice. There’s not much to say about it. They couldn’t support me, and they had to work out something. And so I got married.”
  • Doughtery soon went off to fight in WWII, leaving Monroe at home.  Before he left, she tried to convince him to get her pregnant, as she was afraid he’d die, but he refused because he thought she was too young to be pregnant.  This worked out for her, though, in some respects, as she found herself working in a Radioplane plant where she was discovered by a photographer.  Before her husband returned from the war, she already had a successful career in modeling and would very soon launch her movie career.  Shortly after he returned, they got a divorce partially due to the fact that he did not approve of her new career and how scantily clad she was in many of the photos.  According to Monroe, though, they just didn’t have a good relationship, with the two almost never talking, not because they were fighting or angry at one another, but just because they had nothing to say.
  • Doughtery wasn’t the only husband she lost due to her career, another was Joltin Joe DiMaggio.  When she met him she was “surprised to be so crazy about Joe. I expected a flashy New York sports type, and instead I met this reserved guy who didn’t make a pass at me right away! He treated me like something special. Joe is a very decent man, and he makes other people feel decent, too.”  However, less than a year after getting married, the two divorced.  According to Monroe, “I didn’t want to give up my career, and that’s what Joe wanted me to do most of all.  I want to be a big star more than anything. It’s something precious.”  That being said, DiMaggio and she remained close and when she was in the Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in 1961, he helped her get out.  She then spent time with him in Florida where he was working as a batting coach for the Yankees.  Concerned with her mental state and the people she had surrounded herself with, he tried to get her to marry him again so he could look out for her directly, but she refused.  DiMaggio was the one who a year later arranged her funeral.
  • For 20 years after her death, DiMaggio had fresh roses placed in the vase next to Monroe’s crypt three times per week.
  • Marilyn Monroe was on the cover of the first ever Playboy magazine in 1953.  The nude centerfold photo inside was taken by Tom Kelley and was originally for a calendar called “Miss Golden Dreams”.  After she became famous, it was discovered that the nude photo in the calendar was Monroe.  Rather than payoff a blackmailer at the time, she instead came out and admitted the photo was her stating, “My sin has been no more than I have written, posing for the nude because I desperately needed 50 dollars to get my car out of hock.”  Hefner shortly thereafter purchased the right to use the photo in the first edition of Playboy for $500.  Besides the initial amount she was paid when the photo was taken, she never saw a dime for it after, even though it made Hefner millions thanks to it instantly propelling his magazine into wide circulation, selling around 54,000 issues within week of that first issue being published.
  • Hugh Hefner purchased the burial vault next to Marilyn Monroe as his future place of final rest.
  • Playboy was founded thanks to $1000 Hugh Hefner’s mother gave him to start the magazine, along with another $7000 he raised from other sources, such as his brother.
  • When Monroe died at the age of 36 in 1962, her estate value was estimated at around $1.6 million (about $11.4 million today).  Four months shy of 50 years later, her estate still earns around $2 million per year licensing her name and likeness.  Her films grossed around $200 million in her lifetime (about $1.7 billion today).  She earned so little through most of her career largely thanks to being under contract in the old studio system, making a certain amount per week. In her early years, this was often less than the makeup artists and the like made, despite her being the star of the picture.  At the time of her death, she was making considerably more and even had an offer for a four movie stint for $10 million ($72 million today), among many other offers.
  • Monroe was almost propositioned by the Prince of Monaco, Prince Rainier, being one of the women he was considering for his future wife.  However, he instead chose to marry actress Grace Kelly, at which point she quit acting.
  • Monroe attempted to have kids a couple different times with famed playwright Arthur Miller, resulting in two miscarriages.  She had a condition, endometriosis, where tissue of her uterus lining would attach itself to other areas of her body and grow, which can be extremely painful and cause bleeding and difficulty getting and staying pregnant.
  • Marilyn Monroe started going by that name in 1946 around the same time she dyed her hair blonde and divorced her husband.  However, she didn’t legally change it to Marilyn Monroe until 1953, seven years later.  Funny enough, she stated, “I’ve never liked the name Marilyn. I’ve often wished that I had held out that day for Jean Monroe. But I guess it’s too late to do anything about it now.”  She changed her name initially at the behest of Ben Lyon of 20th Century-Fox.  He chose the name “Carol Lind” for her, but she hated it.  She then chose Monroe, after her mother’s maiden name, and Lyon chose the Marilyn part, which he liked better than her first choice of Jeane Monroe.
  • Marilyn Monroe suffered from severe stage fright, even late in her career.  Producer Henry Weinstein remarked that he saw her on many occasions near physically ill from stage fright while preparing to film her scenes.  He further stated of her stage fright, “Very few people experience terror. We all experience anxiety, unhappiness, heartbreaks, but that was sheer primal terror.”

Marilyn Monroe Quotes:

  • “In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hair-do. You’re judged by how you look, not by what you are. Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.”
  • “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
  • “I used to think as I looked at the Hollywood night, ‘There must be thousands of girls sitting alone like me, dreaming of becoming a movie star. But I’m not going to worry about them. I’m dreaming the hardest.’”
  • (on her time in orphanages was a child) “The world around me then was kind of grim. I had to learn to pretend in order to – I don’t know – block the grimness. The whole world seemed sort of closed to me . . . I felt on the outside of everything, and all I could do was to dream up any kind of pretend game.”
  • “Do I look happy? I should — for I was a child nobody wanted. A lonely girl with a dream — who awakened to find that dream come true. I am Marilyn Monroe.”
  • “No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t.”
  • “If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.”
  • “If you’re gonna be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.”
  • “We are all born sexual creatures, thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift.”
  • “Dreaming about being an actress, is more exciting than being one.”
  • “How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.”
  • “I’ve often stood silent at a party for hours listening to my movie idols turn into dull and little people. ”
  • “Boys think girls are like books. If the cover doesn’t catch their eye they won’t bother to read what’s inside”.”
  • “Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady.”
  • “People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn’t see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.”
  • “I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.”
  • “My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!”
  • “I’m a failure as a woman. My men expect so much of me, because of the image they’ve made of me and that I’ve made of myself, as a sex symbol. Men expect so much, and I can’t live up to it.”
  • “Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die, young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know yourself…”

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151 Comments »

  1. Scott K April 17, 2012 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Might want to replace all appropriate instances of “waste” with “waist” in this article. :)

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey April 18, 2012 at 10:01 am - Reply

      @Scott: Ha! My fingers kept doing that for some reason while typing this article. I thought I noticed all of them, but looks like I missed two. Thanks for catching it. :-)

      • Hurley December 27, 2013 at 8:59 am - Reply

        Just so you know, women today wear their jeans on their hips, not their waist. So the right size would be a 35-inch jean, not 22.

        • JoAnne December 29, 2013 at 3:16 am - Reply

          The waist measurement you have listed is not measuring apples to apples. MM’s waist measurement would have been measured at her natural waist, the natural indentation near the bottom of her ribs and well above the belly button.

          When you talk about the waist measurement for a pair of pants or a belt, that is actually a hip measurement. Unless I am unlclear, a 34in waist would actually be more like an XL today and that is not the average woman.

  2. cynthia p. April 18, 2012 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this article. I was always under the mistaken impression that she was around a size 12.
    Her death, according to the coroner after the fact, was not suicide, as reported. He claimed he was pressured to declare it suicide, but the Nembutal she supposedly swallowed would’ve left trails down in throat, which weren’t present at the autopsy.

  3. Bill April 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Nice article, nice info.

    You forgot to mention that Roseanne Barr is an idiot…or maybe she was trying to be a funny fat person.

  4. Art April 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    While the size thing is true, most of the quotes weren’t said by her.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey April 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      @Art: Many of these were pulled directly from things penned by her own hand, such as in “My Story” and “Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters”, so which ones specifically weren’t from her, so I can remove them?

      • Laura June 2, 2013 at 9:44 am - Reply

        “Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady.” – is by Edith Head

        “If you’re gonna be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.” – there is no reliable source to confirm that she ever said this

        Other than that: Awesome article, even though I really wonder who could’ve EVER thought she was a big woman after seeing even one of her movies. True, her weight fluctuated throughout her career, but size 16? Liz Hurley is an idiot. Marilyn Monroe was clearly a petite woman.

  5. Grammar Nazi May 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    I’m sure they didn’t put her dress on a manikin (which is used in education), but rather on a mannequin. Love the site, but the grammatical errors and typos (waste/waist) make it hard to take the site serious.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey May 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      @Grammar Nazi: “…grammatical errors and typos (waste/waist) make it hard to take the site serious.” I would think this would be the case only if you assume the errors are due to ignorance of grammar and not simply typos generally due to blearily editing many of the articles at around 3:00am. ;-) In case you’re curious, I did for a brief time employ a professional proofreader. After about three weeks, he informed me that I didn’t need him as I’d already mastered English grammar and all he was doing was catching the occasional typo here or there. In fact, he told me it would probably improve my writing, in terms of readability, to take more liberties with my grammar, rather than sticking to the hard fast rules so rigidly. He thought this would particularly help when doing science articles, which can at times come across a little dry and heavy.

      That being said, I do thank you for catching my typos. Believe me, it’s harder than most people think to catch typos when writing lengthy articles in the wee hours of the morning after a long day’s work. Without you Grammar Nazis, they would remain in my work forever. :-)

      Incidentally, I’ll return the favor and say that you meant “seriously” not “serious” in your comment… typos everywhere!!! “Seriously” is an adverb, whereas “serious” is an adjective and since the word describes “take” using an adverb is correct in this case.

      “Typos are very important to all written form. It gives the reader something to look for so they aren’t distracted by the total lack of content in your writing.” Randy K. Milholland

      • IMPRESSED February 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm - Reply

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      • Analyn March 25, 2013 at 9:00 pm - Reply

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      • Kymmie January 23, 2014 at 5:14 pm - Reply

        I loved this article and everything on the site—- you put a lit of work into this site and it evident. My new favorite!!!!

      • Emily April 3, 2014 at 8:25 am - Reply

        Nice! #owned

  6. Seven June 28, 2012 at 11:12 am - Reply

    How could she be a 36D if her bust measurement is only 35 inches? That doesn’t make any sense–and I would know (I worked at a lingerie store in college). My guess is that she is actually a 32D or even a 30DD. A 36D would have a bust measurement of 39+ inches. Just saying!

    (Kudos for the rest of the article, though–she has never looked like a size 12-16 in any pictures I’ve seen her in. I get so annoyed when people say that!).

    • Andrea L May 1, 2013 at 8:42 am - Reply

      Indeed. I’m a 32D at a 35″ bust. The shape looks right enough, so Marilyn would surely be a 30D in today’s sizes.

      Bra manufacturers didn’t always offer the range of sizes that they do today, and bra sizes have changed (with less difference between cup sizes, if I’ve understood properly). That said, this article did aim to debunk the myth that Marilyn was a size 12 by today’s standards, so the same should go for bra size.

      • Andrea L July 6, 2013 at 8:44 am - Reply

        Oops, a follow-up: I actually wear a 10D in Aus sizing, which seems to be closer to a US 32DD.

        So, if my 35″ bust fits into a 32DD, so would Marylin’s have (in today’s sizes). I can also wear a 30E, and from what I understand, Marylin had a tiny ribcage, so I guess she would have fitted more comfortably in today’s 28F (yes, this is a real size, available from a few companies).

        • Bitch Hedberg November 7, 2013 at 7:48 am - Reply

          Thank you thank you thank you. I wear a 30E/30F and the 35 inch bust with a 36anything bra size irks me to no end. No idea why people (playboy?) perpetuate the myth that very slender women with big breasts wear band size 36 and above.

          • Andrea L November 7, 2013 at 6:02 pm -

            People are stuck in the A-to-D-only paradigm, from the first mass-produced bras which only went up to a D-cup (from what I can find — happy to be corrected by anyone who knows for sure). That was when adding 5-6″ did in fact give the correct band size, and from what little I can find there was a greater difference between cup sizes. But anyway, 50 years ago, if you overfilled a D-cup at your correct band size, you would just have to upsize the band :(

      • Russ49 December 30, 2013 at 10:41 pm - Reply

        There is no way Marilyn was a 30 or 32. My wife is a 32 and she has a smaller ribcage than Marilyn did. As for cup size, I estimate a D at most and maybe a C. I can speak from experience, but won’t go into it.

        • Andrea L December 31, 2013 at 6:57 pm - Reply

          Russ49:
          Your wife then needs to size down in the band (and up in the cup, correspondingly). My ribcage measures 27-28″ and I wore a 32D for 7 or 8 years. I recently discovered the wonders of smaller bands online and now wear a 30E or 28F (depending on the brand).

          As for your guess at cup sizes, maybe I’d be a C-cup in old sizing, I mean my boobs look medium-sized on me. But sizing has changed — each letter just means one inch difference between the band and bust measurements.

  7. Joanne July 1, 2012 at 4:30 am - Reply

    I love Marilyn Monroe just as much as I love reading every article in this site day by day. :)

  8. Jules July 9, 2012 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    Her weight fluctuated. In some movies, she was slimmer than in others. Ex: Gentlemen Prefer Blonds. But even when she was a bit plump, she was still more beautiful than Elizabeth Hurley.

  9. Tom July 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    The article says, “Her IQ came out at a full 33 points above the national average at the time when she was tested (at 163).” I highly doubt the national average IQ was 130 at any point. The way the Stanford Binet IQ test works is that 100 is the “average” score. If Marilyn indeed had an IQ of 163, she was a whopping 63 points above the average, approximately 4 standard deviations above average. For perspective, .004% of the population has an IQ that high. However, I believe all of this is anecdotal, and that Marilyn never actually took a Stanford Binet IQ test. Thus, I would say all reports of her IQ are hearsay.

  10. Evy August 9, 2012 at 8:24 am - Reply

    Regarding Seven’s comments, the number portion of a bra size does relate directly to the bust size (that’s where the numbers come from). I wear a 34C and my current bust measurement is 34 inches. I have to wear them on the last of the three clasps (furthest out). When I was in my teens, I wore a 36B. My bust measurement was 35 inches and I had to wear my bras on the first of the three clasps (nearest in).

    If Monroe were alive today with a 35 inch bust, she would wear a 36 bra and need to clasp it on the first or second one for a comfortable fit. Anything smaller would squeeze her (and give off the appearance that her breasts are falling out of her bra) and anything larger would aggravate her skin from too much movement of the fabric (on top of giving the appearance that her breasts are smaller than they are).

    The only way this could be confusing to anyone is a result of a lack of education and training in proper bra fitting. (Many women today do not know how to properly do so, which is why there are women specifically trained in this area to help women with picking out the appropriate bra sizes.)

    • Sib July 14, 2013 at 8:36 am - Reply

      For someone talking about proper education on bra fitting surely you realise the number is the underbust measurement and the letter is the bust size….

    • Andrea L July 15, 2013 at 6:44 am - Reply

      Evy, it’s bizarre if a 34C fits a 34″ bust. All the bra calculators/charts suggest a 34″ bust would fit 34AA, 32B or 30D, depending on ribcage size.

      Do you get a significantly greater bust measurement if you lean over 90 degrees?

      My underbust and bust measurements are 28″ and 35″ and I’ve worn a 32D for years, since that’s what all the charts say, and size 30 bands are rare. However, the band could be firmer (the top of the gore pulls away from my chest), so I’ve ordered two 30E’s online to try on for size (I realise current wisdom is that one’s underbust measurement = band size, but the 32 is nearly firm enough).

    • Bitch Hedberg November 7, 2013 at 7:51 am - Reply

      That’s really bizarre. My bust is a 36 and I wear a 30E/F.

    • Ana December 27, 2013 at 8:28 am - Reply

      «Many women today do not know how to properly do so» which seems to be your case given that the number refers to the underbust in inches and the letter to the cup, which is the difference between bust and underbust measurements.

  11. Isa August 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Evy, my bust measurement is now 34 inches (87cm) and band measurement 27 inches (70cm). I wear 65E in Europe sizes (used to wear a 75C, which was helplessly off) and it’s been measured at a professional. The number is the band measurement, the letter is the breast measurement. The bust measurement alone doesn’t tell us anything about the real bra size, because the two are connected. You can have a bust measurement of 40 inches, but if your band measurement is 39 inches, you’d be wearing something like 44AA. If the bust measurement is 40 inches and band measurement is 30 inches, it’s 34E. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

    And 34C and 36B both are the same size, only the band is different. The cup size is the same.

    The band is supposed to be tight. If the band isn’t tight enough, the breasts won’t get any support. Most of the support comes from the band. If the breasts bulge, then you need a bigger cup. Most women use bras that have too big band and too small cup, and that causes the bulging, the band riding up in the back and all the other problems.

    I’m guessing that her underbust measurement was around 26 inches. Then, she would be wearing something like 30DD, or 28E.

  12. Sweetbearies September 11, 2012 at 9:29 am - Reply

    This was an interesting and revealing article about Marilyn. I had always wondered about her true size because they bring it up so much, and it is interesting to see how urban legends distorted this. I always thought Marilyn look skinny but curvy in many photos and movies, and the one above confirms this.

  13. Natalie September 28, 2012 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Seven the bra size probably were different back then too. Just my guess.

  14. a September 29, 2012 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Isa, b and c are not the same cup size, no matter what band size i use my breasts will not fit into a b cup and they bludge making it look like they are falling out the top of my bra giving that look of having four breasts. to measure for a bra you measure under the bust then add 5 inches.. thats your band size. then you measure around the breast , for each inch more than your band size its one cup size.1 inch a, 2 inches b, 3 inches c and so on. there is a difference in the size of each cup as you go up.

  15. Faith October 1, 2012 at 7:50 am - Reply

    Its been proven that adding inches to a womans band measurement renders a bra useless and is ill fitting for the majoirty of women. Using the old ways of measuring a bra I should be a 32 DD or a 34 D in reality I am a UK 30 FF or 28 G. I would say Marilyn would probably be a 28 E/F at her smaller stages and possibly 30 F/FF when she was plumper I say plumper she wasnt that big. The reasons in the 50s bra sizing was different was because there was hardly any elasticity and didnt move like modern bras.

    Also most models lie about there meausrments most models are rectangles or straight up and down while they have hourglass measurments.

  16. Etty October 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed reading this. Impossible for me to be sure on any of the alleged Monroe vital statistics in modern-day terms, particularly the bra sizes. I’m a UK 30 (DD) and have a conspicuously small and to my eyes, too small, upper torso/rib cage. Monroe looked more in proportion than I feel I look, so I can’t imagine her fitting the 28E and 30DD bras that I wear. And as Faith said, I also simply cannot believe that modern day fashion models actually possess those rather hourglass measurements as cited. They do generally look indeed, very far from hourglass shapes. Most fashion models I see have far more slight and decidedly un-curvaceous figures, and nothing like the female aesthetic ideal of the 50s.

  17. tay October 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    it’s kind of hilarious how ill-informed some of these women are about bra sizes. the number on the the bra size refers to the measurement UNDER your bust— it IS NOT the measurement at the apex of the bust. the a-b-c-d-dd refers to how big the breast is.

    i would recommend EVY go get a bra fitting because she so clearly has no clue what size she should be wearing.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey October 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      @tay: Apparently I should do a post on how to properly measure for a bra and what bra sizes refer to. :-)

      • Girl May 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm - Reply

        I need help, could come around, Hiskey and help me fit these C-cups into my Ds? Or I think they are Ds struggling into my Cs

  18. Lenna Fitch-Webb October 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Wonderful story. I came of age in the fifties. Marilyn Monroe certainly was not fat. She had a tiny figure with lots of curves. And I believe she succeeded when no one was there for her, because she became her own mother–her own advocate. She loved and protected herself and took herself wherever she wanted to go. And she got there.

  19. Lauren October 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    This would be a decent article, except for the fact that at least 5 of the quotes you listed are not actually Marilyn Quotes.

    She also never actually took an IQ test, though she was very intelligent and well read.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey October 22, 2012 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      @Lauren: Which quotes are not accurate? (I take the accuracy of things on my site very seriously, so if you know of inaccuracies please be specific and, if you happen to know credible references backing up your claim, it would save me some digging to verify what you say. ;-))

      • Zelda Zonk February 11, 2013 at 8:17 pm - Reply

        At *least* 8 of these quotes are commonly attributed to Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe but in fact, actually have never been proven to be from her lips. You say you have read My Story and Fragments (the only written works from Marilyn herself). The quotes I have listed at the bottom are nowhere to be found in either of those or any other credible biographical work on Marilyn. It’s an easy mistake to make since so many “credible” websites claim these quotes are in fact Marilyn’s true words (I would know. I was a journalist before a career change and know the pains of researching credible sources nowadays!) In the 5+ years I have researched Marilyn reading over 20 biographies based on her life, watching several notable documentaries and interviews, reading My Story and Fragments, and communicating with other Marilyn experts, I have never once seen these quotes proven legitimate.
        Also for the record, Marilyn suffered from endometriosis, gall bladder issues, and other stomach conditions. She would take enemas to relieve her constipation and other stomach conditions, as they were accepted as a fad prescription from doctors in the day. Not to mention, Marilyn suffered her whole life from fluctuating weight gain and loss, especially in her married days when she became pregnant and settled into domestic life. To say she was so-and-so measurements for her ENTIRE life is far from accurate. For example, we see progressive, albeit light, weight gain from 1954-1960 and then a sudden weight loss from 1961 until her death in 1962. Furthermore in the 1950s, studios and other “credible” sources would often fabricate/alter a woman’s so-called true measurements to create an image, especially with Marilyn, who was already rocketing to stardom. This, combined with Marilyn’s intimate knowledge of how to pose her body, apply make-up, and wear the right clothing to look thinner and more lean, shows us that we are all wrong to say we “know” what Marilyn’s true size was, whether than be a 4 or a 16.

        I would safely say that the only people who know Marilyn’s true measurements are the ones who knew her intimately, her dressmakers (the ones not influenced by the studios in reporting her measurements), and Marilyn herself. Marilyn suffered from weight gains and losses attributed to domestic life/pregnancy, health issues, prescription drug dependencies, and life/aging in general, as many women do. Let’s allow this wonderful woman to rest peacefully and remember her for her on-screen talents, compassion, and spirit without doing her the dishonor and injustice of bickering about her damn body size.

        Here are the 8 quotes I know from research to be falsely attributed to Marilyn:

        “This life is what you make it. Not matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And babe, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soul mate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”
        “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
        “Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.”

        “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
        “A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.”
        “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
        “I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
        “I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.”

      • Zelda Zonk February 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm - Reply

        Furthermore, the following is a very detailed and accurate collection of Marilyn information (specifically quotes with this link from dedicated fans and researchers:

        http://www.immortalmarilyn.com/MarijanestakeonMM.html

        • Daven Hiskey
          Daven Hiskey February 12, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

          @Zelda Zonk: Thanks for the detailed analysis. I edited the Marilyn Monroe quotes appropriately given your recommendations.

          • Margot Montaigne February 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm -

            Great article Daven–thanks so much for all your interesting content (though I’m sure it was a labor of love :-)
            regarding Marilyn’s IQ, why do people keep saying “she never took an IQ test.” How the heck would they know. i DO know that Marilyn had undergone a great deal of psycho therapy. In order to create a profile, it’s quite likely she WAS given an IQ test. And if her IQ were measured to be quite high, more tests would have no doubt been administered, and word would have no doubt gotten out, but the studios would have made sure it was NEVER made public ( I know about the IQ testing through my own experience with psycho-therapy)

  20. Emma S November 5, 2012 at 4:47 am - Reply

    @tay – not necessary – A 30E (which is what I’d estimate Monroe to be more like) has a smaller chest measurement/breast size than a 36E. I’m still not convinced with the dress sizes – the photo used at the top in the article looks very similar to my dress size (a UK 8-10 / US 4-6). I guess actual ‘dress’ measurements can vary based on 1950′s styles. I have a small 24″ waist by my hips (about 36″) means I struggle to get into trousers that are a size 8 (US 4) I suspect the same would have applied to Monroe. I think in a way it is dangerous to peddle Monroe as a size 0, as she has been a pin up for a more natural female form than a lot of what we see today.

  21. Peppermint Patty November 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Marilyn and I have so much in common it’s scary. Our birthdays are even the same, how ’bout that?

  22. .. December 22, 2012 at 12:33 am - Reply

    I think you do need a post about bra sizes…sigh. Sizes beyond D didn’t really exist in the 1950s so I guess unless she got something custom made marilyn would have had to wear something like a 36D. If she lived now I would estimate she would fit a 28FF or or maybe 28G, ideally she could even be a 26G-26GG or something – but there is only one brand that makes 26 bras so yeah bit of a problem for small framed ladies. You don’t add 4 inches to the band or you get a way too big bra! Though lots of people still do it – that is the reason everyone (like Evy I bet) wears the wrong size! There is no way someone with a 22 waist would fit a 36, here underbust could not be more than 28! To truly be a 36 you would have to be overweight and she sure wasn’t she was tiny! Even if you added the 4 inches you would get a 32 size for someone like her – no where NEAR a 36! Go get bra-ducated people

  23. Katlin Sumners January 7, 2013 at 10:33 am - Reply

    I’m a 22 inch waist and its all natural. I was scouted as a professional model for this reason when I was younger. I’ve been the same size most of my young adult and adult life.

    My own mother is 5’10, has had 3 children and is barely a size 4. Its metabolism as much as it is genetics and bodyshape.

    I also have unusual 34 inch hip, 34 bust, for such a small waist line. That’s genetics!

    Please don’t say something a size 22 isn’t “healthily attainable”. I’m perfectly healthy and saying individuals can’t be otherwise is promoting anti-intellectualism of the body and is also promoting as much of a myth as saying Marilyn Monroe is a size 12-16.

    Individuals need to pay attention to their own body needs and health needs. Not everyone is built (literally) to have a size 22 inch waist line. We are all different shapes, statures– and we all have different needs! However, saying that a 22 inch isn’t “healthily attainable” is as unscientific as saying a 40 inch is unhealthy. It all depends on the build, metabolism, needs, genetics AND the person’s individual health!

  24. Susie February 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    When one is using needle and thread on a garment, it is sewn. When one is spreading seed in a field, it is sown.

    Probably a typo, as you say.

  25. Harmony February 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Size in inches is not the only thing that matters. Marilyn Monroe’s percentage of body fat IS higher than what is accepted in the modeling industry today, although no higher than someone like Jennifer Lawrence or Salma Hayek. In beach photos towared the end of her life she has visible cellulite, thighs that touch, and ripples on the sides of her waist. She also had a handful of extra fat on her lower stomach. In short, she had a womanly body… something women’s magazines do not approve.

    In general I appreciate this article, and Monroe was certainly far from plus-sized or even average-sized compared to modern women.

    • Andrea L July 6, 2013 at 8:54 am - Reply

      “thighs that touch”

      Please note, this is not even nearly a reliable indicator of body fat percentage. Yes, thighs fill out at a higher weight, but they also change size with muscularity; and the size at which they touch is determined by hip (pelvis) width.

      TL;DR: Large thighs set far apart might not touch, whereas slim thighs set close together might

    • Ana December 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      cellulite is something every woman has, regardless of weight or body fat percentage cellulite is a part of what distinguishes females and a consequence of their hormones.

      • Ana December 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm - Reply

        P.S.: and try being photographed in high waist briefs in certain poses and I bet you too will have “ripples on your waist” even if you are very thin

    • CKL April 11, 2014 at 5:28 am - Reply

      I read Norman Mailer’s biography of MM which included many beautiful pictures, and yes, she certainly had a lot more subcutaneous fat (that would account for those famous curves) than today’s stars who are on special diets and exercise routines. Of course, she was still a petite woman and not “fat” by any reasonable standard.

  26. liz February 15, 2013 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    i dont see how any one could look at a picture of her and think she was in the double digits of clothes size. have you seen a person thats a size 16? marilyn did not much extra weight on her. shw was thin.

  27. Mary-Kate March 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    At least one of those measurements given is way off. If Marilyn’s bra size was a 36D, then your bust measurement of 35 is way off. 36 inches would be her under-bust, and then being a D cup, she would be four inches bigger than her band size at her bust measurement. So, she was really either a 40 inch bust, or she was only a 32C. Not a bra or body image expert, but if she’s a 36 anything then she’s not a 35 inch bust measurement. Can’t say I trust this article anymore for de-bunking a Marilyn myth :/

    • Ana December 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm - Reply

      vintage bra sizes worked differently because the fabrics had much less elasticity than nowadays, that’s where the “+4″ or “+5″ method of bra fitting comes from and why it is outdated.

  28. Jasmin March 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Sorry, but I have NEVER, EVER seen a photo of Marilyn Monroe in which she appeared to have a 22 inch waist! I believe this to be as much of a myth as her being today’s equivalent to a size 16. She was well proportioned, but did not have the wasp waist that 22 inches would have given her. The only time her waist looked small was when she was corseted. It’s possible that when corseted, her was was 22″, but NO WAY was that her natural waist measurement. With 35 inch hips, I’d guess her waist to be around “25, maybe 24. Look at photos of Audrey Hepburn (who I’m sure was also cinched and padded in some of her roles). Her waist was reported to be 21″. Even at her thinnest, Marilyn’s waist was always considerably wider than Audrey’s.

    • mojuzzy July 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      She was very small whatever her size was. Below are sites with pics of her tiny waist. As she got older and more famous she started packing on the pounds so probably wasn’t a size 0-2 her entire career BUT had she maintained her weight as she got older like many actresses have to these days she would have looked tiny her whole career.

      Of course women who use her as an example of large is lovely probably can’t stand the reality that she was as small as women they hate on by calling skinny. She was pretty small then and tiny by today’s 70% overweight/obesity stats.

      http://www.strangeoldepictures.com/content/item/153205.html

      http://imgur.com/r/OldSchoolCool/I27MnWd (she’s topless in this one if that bother anybody then don’t look)

      http://social.popsugar.com/568646

    • Ana December 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm - Reply

      I have 35 inch hips and 23 waist and I never corseted in my life, can’t see why MM can’t be the size stated on the article.

  29. Reg March 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    Okey, perhaps I can help a bit. I agree with Jasmin, I do not believe Marilyn Monroe waist was only 22 inches (in cms 55.9) that is simply not true. Why? I am a very naturally slim person and my shape is also hourglass (but not like Marilyn, smaller.Here, in Australia , I am size 6-8 (a smalll 8) which in America would be sizes 2-4 (I am 4 in Diane Von Furstenberg, to give an example but I was 2 in other brands). I can change sizes according to the brand but I am never more than a 4 American or 8 Australian. My waist is or 60 or 62cms (if I am ovulating) and my heaps are 90cms and my bust oscillates between 90-92cms (35.4 inches), so I wear bras that are 34D UK, Europe 75D and France 90D.I know the different brands may change but I am like that in Aubade, La Perla, Chantelle, Lise Charmel, and Simon Perele, to mention some) and that is for sure, they fit super well, I am not left with anything on the sides, I mean they fit marvellously, and I got told that all the time; nonetheless, with a smaller band I don’t feel that comfortable (in those brands with a smaller band I would be 32DD or 32E), because of my back of course. At first sight my bust may look smaller, that is why I do not trust all the girls who work in shops and apparently can help you with your fitting, they may be trained but they lack criteria, for they always think I am a B or C and a 32! perhaps they get confused because what I wear does not show my breast together, and because I am petite; yet when I try what they give me and doesn’t fit, they get surprised and only then is when they start trusting me and giving me bigger sizes, obviously they end up agreeing with me. One of the reasons why I am D is because my breast are not as close as other, and they always stay up (gravity and pregnancy never affected them, thank God). But hey, my breast can be C sometimes if I wear some Australian brand, but still not the same; the European brands are the ones that fit me better, maybe the cut, or because my figure is more European,I don’t know. So for what I have exposed, I believe that objectively, Marilyn Monroe could have been 36D, but I am sure she didn’t have a smaller waist than mine…not at all, it is soooo evident, if you see me that I am slimmer there than her. Don’t forget that oftenn movie starts lie about their measurements. I think they mostly do with their waist, because of the mytch! Also, I am very petite (1.59 cms) with long legs, so if you see me, you would totally agree with me.I don’t look skinny but I am slimmer than Marilyn.

    Perhaps I can help now about how having the right bust measurement. There is a lot of confusion because until a few years ago the bust were wrongly measured and many still do it now, and believe the old stuff, but now it has change, and yeah, the band is your underbust measurement, and then you have to find the size. If you can’t find the perfect one Lets say if you are UK34D, is better if you don’t buy a UK32DD or 32E, why because it is not quite the same, although sometimes it works. You know what is the beauty of those brands I am using? that once you try them you can even get them send to you from France and they will always, always fit, soooooo well! :) Hope I was of help :)

  30. hannah March 26, 2013 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    Those measurements would make her a size 0 or even 00 in today’s standards, that cant be right, right ?!

  31. Apollyon May 10, 2013 at 6:44 am - Reply

    Interesting article. I thought it was common knowledge that sizes changed over the years due to the ever-expanding girth of people.

    One issue is the claims about modern models. While the stats are no doubt from their agents and presented as ‘facts’, they are simply incorrect. Modern models are not remotely curvy and are, in fact, ‘boyish’ in appearance.

    Marilyn would really stand out on a runway now.

  32. Melanie May 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    thank you for this article I always knew there was no way she was that large! also thank you for not having that “I’m a little insecure…” quote!!! I had a feeling she didn’t say that either!

  33. Terri June 5, 2013 at 7:47 am - Reply

    I do not believe that Marilyn ever came close to a size 16. She had a beautiful figure and my guess has always been that she was about the size of my younger sister who was a size 4-6. I am built exactly like Marilyn but taller and I was a size 10-12 in my younger years. Today in my 60′s I am a size 16 and trust me that is way bigger than Marilyn ever came close to even on her most bloated day (two Marilyns could fit in my pants now! it’s disgusting). Honestly all the bra talk, who really cares? She probably looked best without one and I suspect that she doffed the bra on many occasions.

  34. C. G. June 5, 2013 at 8:19 am - Reply

    She was a vintage size 12-16, which is more like a 2-6 nowadays. Vintage sizes are way different and usually run very small with a small waist.

  35. Mimi June 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    I am 125lbs, shopping at Target I’d be a size 11, shopping at macy’s I’m a size 9/10, shopping at Anchor blue I’m a size 7. Marylin Monroe would be considered a plus size model, you can tell that looking at her shoulders and hips, I have her identical build and have to shop in the plus sizes and they don’t fit properly because they don’t complement my waist, which is about equal to my shoulders like Miss Monroe. So yes, Marilyn Monroe would be a size 12-16. People forget about the shape of a woman’s body, a woman can be “heavier” without looking like it, she has curves and all of her weight is well proportioned, she would be 12-16 petitie. Consider the curves on Beyonce & Jennifer Lopez, consider their height and those women are considered plus size. Kim Kardashian,Kathleen Turner back in the 80′s, Pam Grier in the 70′s, all of those women considered plus size but their bodies were well proportioned. Unlike these shapeless hollywood women of today. Hollywood wants their women to look like 11 years old boys with perky tits these days. Miss Monroe also wore Girddles and clothes were actually sewn onto her so a measurement in one dress may be completely different from a dress she would wear out of work.

    • Ashley January 10, 2014 at 10:24 am - Reply

      Wow, a size 11? How tall are you? I’m 120 lbs, 5’2″ and wear a size 3. A size 11 would fall right off of me.

  36. Mark July 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Wow, that is very interesting. She was so plump. She really looks like she would fit a size 16 today.

    • Andrea L July 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      Haha, good one, Mark.

  37. Boo August 2, 2013 at 9:06 am - Reply

    A lot of these replies sound like wishful hoping.

    Marilyn was a tiny woman, give or take weight fluctuatioms.

    I am 36″ – 22″ – 34″

    I am 5′ 6″ and 118 lbs.

    There is NO WAY on GOD ‘S EARTH that I am anywhere near a US 12 – 16.

    Deal with it, ladies – she was tiny AND curvy.

    • Andrea L August 2, 2013 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      @Boo:
      You clearly just wanted to post your hourglass stats. In response to your comments, I skimmed the replies and didn’t see a single post saying, “This is wrong, she was fat.” The closest I saw were people pointing out that Marilyn got heavier later in life (but still not large).

      • Jess August 2, 2013 at 11:33 pm - Reply

        To be fair, if I was a 36 – 22 -34, I’d want to announce that to the world at every opportunity myself, cause, damn. Seriously, how did you do that? Is it mostly natural or do you have a specific eating / exercise routine? Inquiring minds want to know.

  38. cam August 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    A 22 inch waist is what an 8 year old has. This measurement is mad for a healthy woman past puberty. your stomach and intestines wouldn’t fit long term! This will be a measurement wearing a corset.

  39. Susan September 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    There are various measurements for Marilyn and she has been estimated to have been generally an 6/8 and up to a modern 10 in the some like it hot heavier years. I agree that the 22 waist measurement was with foundation garments. You have to take the clothing of the period into account – it was structured and designed to be worn with foundations.

    Marilyn was a healthy, curvy woman. But never big or plus sized.

    Elizabeth Hurley got her bust/measurements at a plastic surgeons office – She herself is not an hourglass, but it was pretty tacky of her to comment on a real curvy actress (who could act). Hurley’s (real) body is a ruler shape, straight up and down minimal curves. Not bust no hips, not much of a butt. So yeah, I guess Marilyn was “fat” to her, having hips. Nature balances shape, unlike modern surgically enhanced bodies.

  40. Maddie October 5, 2013 at 1:29 am - Reply

    Ugh, I get so sick of hearing 200lb sausage shaped women saying things like “Marilyn Monroe had a figure I can relate to unlike all these skinnies today”. You could cut the delusion with a knife.

    First off, Marilyn was never ever medically overweight or “fat”. She *did* become rather soft/voluptuous around ’59-60 after a string of failed pregnancies, at least by Hollywood standards, however even then she was only 140lb and a modern size 8-10 tops. Note that this was also considered rather too large and frowned upon by Hollywood even back in the day.

    However MM was also downright teeny tiny, itty-bitty in some movies – watch How to Marry a Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and River of No Return. I actually gasped at how tiny her waist was in How to Marry a Millionaire where she plays a fashion model. Put it this way – if Keira Knightley or Katherine Heigl could zip up her costumes from that movie I’d eat my hat. I fail to see any significant SIZE difference between Monroe and the typical modern starlet in most of her movies (other than those from the aforementioned ’59-60) other than her being relatively larger breasted and smaller waisted. The Hollywood trend does seem to have moved towards more what I’d call an “androgynous” body, however that is a *shape*, not a size, and is not related to caloric intake. Neither does it make one less of a “real woman”.

    It’s also wrong to assume that Hollywood standards for women’s bodies were any less oppressive in the 1940′s/50′s than they are today. First off, any woman less than a C cup was almost always portrayed as unattractive and undesirable whether she was thin or not. The flatter chested woman was always shown as doing menial work or as the dull wife that the husband was lured away from by the busty MM or Jayne Mansfield. Second, MM DID get labelled “fat” as soon as she gained a bit of weight.

    • Ana December 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      bravo maddie, tired of reading comments from people who confuse size with shape.

  41. dawn October 10, 2013 at 2:02 am - Reply

    I can tell you if she has a bust size of 35 she cannot have a bra size of 36D. The number in a bra messurement is the inchs of her underbust/chest, that bra size would implicate her bust is an inch inside her chest, not possible. The cup size which is the letter is based on how many inchs out the breasts are from the chest, so the difference between chest size and the bust size. Since the chest is wider than the waist we would have to assume her underbust messurement will be a bit higher than 22inch which you gave for her waist. I am an hour glass and I have about a 3inch difference between waist and chest so lets assume she was 25inch underbust. Because bra’s come in even numbers that would be rounded up and as their is a 10inch difference her bra size in Uk at least would be 26GG so a J cup is US based on those messurements. Those bra size charts on google are nonsense. I’m a 36E and fit those bras perfectly, if I went on bust size for the number which half seem to or just some weird number I would be a 42E or potentially 42D and I can tell you those bras would not touch the sides or fit at all, unless all the charts are US based then they use some strange over complicated system.

    • Andrea L October 10, 2013 at 5:57 pm - Reply

      Marilyn might have fitted a 36D from 1950. The “add 4 or 5 inches” thing is outdated, but it did come from somewhere, when the first mass-produced bras were made of less elastic materials.

      My ribcage measures 27-28″ and MM’s build looks considerably lighter than mine, so 25-26″ sounds likely. Even so, that puts her in a ye olde band size 30… but bras only used to go up to a cup size of D.

      With measurements 25″ (assumed) and 35″, your assessment of MM’s fit in today’s bra sizes is right, but it’s also possible that she “fit” (of sorts) into a 1950s 36D.

  42. Linds October 14, 2013 at 12:20 am - Reply

    You said
    ( Luckily, many of her dresses, carefully preserved, are still around to measure off of )

    How silly does that sound?

    Simply say ( Luckily, many of her dresses, carefully preserved, are still around to measure off)

    Off Of sounds silly ! Sounds like you are saying OFF OFF !

    • Andrea L October 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Linds, I find people from the US say “off of” at every opportunity. It’s fine.

  43. Marie November 13, 2013 at 6:56 am - Reply

    Sizes change. What was a 12 in my teenage years is a 4-6 now. My mother wore a size 12 as young girl at 5′ 3″ and 105 pounds. Marilyn may indeed have worn a “perfect” size 12 or “voluptuous” size 14 by the sizing of her day. It would make her a 0-2 in today’s sizes. Sadly we have gotten much bigger.

  44. Krystal December 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    great article. I find it so interesting that her waist was supposedly, 22 inches… did she tight-lace, or wear a lot of corsets when she was younger or in her off time? (in a corset my waist can go as small as 24 but is naturally 27″) her waist just doesn’t appear THAT small. I know the camera adds a few pounds. she still looks petite, but a 22 inch waist is a stretch for me. scarlett johansson is considered an hourglass today and while she’s not as vava- voom as marilyn, her waist is 27 and she’s shorter than marilyn, but in pictures side by side, their waists don’t look too much different, in size, from one another.

  45. Betty Smith December 20, 2013 at 5:56 am - Reply

    Thanks for the article. And I cannot believe the long conversation about bra sizes … and the people pointing out grammar / spelling. Give the guy a break. Some people are not great writers. He got his points across …

    • Andrea L December 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      If an article is published on the internet, it should most definitely be up for correction, both in facts and language, by readers. It improves the article for future readers.

      Bluntly implying that the author is not a great writer is tactless, I feel.

  46. vp19 December 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    As a point of comparison, here are measurements for four major stars of the late 1920s and 1930s:

    Joan Crawford: 5’4″, 110 pounds, 37″ bust, 24.5″ waist, 37″ hips

    Greta Garbo: 5’6″, 125 pounds, 36-28-38

    Carole Lombard: 5’6″, 109 pounds, 34-28-38

    Clara Bow: 5’4″, 112 pounds, 33-24-36.5

    (Lombard’s height has been listed between 5’2″ and 5’6″, although one major biographer claims she was 5’4.5″. Her bra size was 34B. Carole was curvier in the late 20s; she then shed a few pounds to gain the lithe, sleek figure she’s best remembered for.)

  47. Sophie H December 27, 2013 at 4:19 am - Reply

    I’ve heard this about Marylin but only in context of British sizing – British sizes being about +4 on US sizing – so in this case a UK 16 is a US 12 and probably the scale Liz Hurley was talking on, seeing as how she is British.

    This would make 12-16 a more reasonable estimate.

    This article does not make this difference clear and I have to wonder whether the writer considered this and from where the sources of information came from. It could be they are getting their international wires crossed.

  48. Wendy December 27, 2013 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Another typo – “sewn” not “sown” with the latter being a farming term and the former being a dressmaking term. :-)

    • Wendy December 27, 2013 at 11:07 am - Reply

      Oops… I see now that someone already caught that one. Terrific article!

  49. Jimmy December 27, 2013 at 11:15 am - Reply

    People. Please get a life. To this day i barely hear a word said about Ghandi, or say Nikola Tesla, but marilyn monroe, possibly the worst role model EVER, who has done nothing beneficial to the world except provide the illusion to women that she has increased EVERY woman’s self-worth, and therefore she is practically an altruistic deity. why are you people so insecure you need facts on someone’s clothes size to ensure that she is certified in making you feel better about yourself through her “inspiration” and the “symbol” she was. Listen marilyn monroe didnt give two craps about how you felt about yourself, she didnt feel good enough about herself to not end it. And furthermore the greatest fallacy of our time is the idea that SELF-WORTH is the greatest of all morals and ethics. ME, ME, ME. How I feel. Please, get a life, you seriously have nothing better to discuss? Well actually clearly, and me too, clearly.

  50. netmilsmom December 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Go back to the dress patterns of the time and you will see that sizes have changed.
    You couldn’t fit a modern woman in a dress from back then. In 1950s sizes, she may well have been a 12-16, but that would be tiny today. My mother’s wedding dress from 1950 was a 10 but I couldn’t squeeze it on my size 6 body 20 years later

  51. Will December 27, 2013 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    “To this point, the average American woman in the 1950s had a 25 inch waist compared to Monroe’s 22 inches. Whereas today, the average American woman has a waist size of 34 inches”

    This is what the “Fat Acceptance” movement has brought to the world.

  52. Joanna Jones December 28, 2013 at 4:42 am - Reply

    All the comments about bra/bust size remind me of some of those social websites where the guys ask women inappropriate questions like what bra size they are. Those guys would have a field day here. *lol*

  53. Krissie December 28, 2013 at 9:14 am - Reply

    - I’m a 34DD … a tape measure around my chest gives me a 36″ bust, so it’s not impossible that Marilyn had a 35″ bust measurement.

    - I wear a size 5 in modern clothing. I use a size 14 dress pattern. I believe this is where the “Marilyn was a size 12-14″ thing comes from.
    -Enough has been said about vintage sizing vs modern sizing that I don’t need to repeat it. I remember an episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy was trying to shrink down to fit into a “tiny” size 6 costume in order to be allowed to perform with Ricky. Of course, he assumed she couldn’t do it, but she did. :)
    - I would venture to say that much of Marilyn’s 22″ waist measurement was attained with corsets. She was probably more of a 24-25″ waist naturally.

  54. Kirsten Houseknecht December 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    with a 37 inch bust, a 23.5 inch waist, and a 37.5 inch hip (according to one screen test measurements for costume….) she would most certainly NOT be a size 0

    that is one size up from my fashion design standard dress form size 10 (which is more like a ready to wear size 8) so she would be a size 10/12 on the wolf dress form, or about a size 10 in ready to wear

    depending of course on what dart board the manufacturer used to create their size chart

  55. Kirsten Houseknecht December 28, 2013 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    i will also say that relying on a studio to tell you a actresses weight, or measurements is laughable, ESPECIALLY back then.

    remember the studio manufactured everything to make their stars look good

    as to size? and how thin the modesla er these days? look at the measurements of the very first “Miss America” she would be sent to the chubby seat these days

  56. herpderp December 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Her bra size was nowhere near a 36D. With a 22 inch waist, she would likely have been a 28G or 26GG, although most women don’t even know these sizes exist because WalMart and Playtex and Hanes don’t even make them.

  57. D. Zaster December 29, 2013 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    An obscure fact about MM:

    Early in her career as a model and aspiring actress – this would have been during and shortly after the war – she was an active and skilled surfer. Marilyn loved the ocean and was a good swimmer. She liked to spend time on the beach at Malibu and became friends with many of the crowd of young people who pioneered the surfing lifestyle in the area. Malibu was the center of Southern California’s surfing culture. Marilyn became an enthusiastic surfer and ‘regular’ on the local surfing scene, which, though little-known even in the area, grew into a huge subculture by the time she became a major star.

    Marilyn became famous for her beauty and striking blonde looks, but as a young woman was known among her surfing friends for her athleticism and skill on the waves.

  58. golden apple December 30, 2013 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    MM was not ONE size, like ALL people her weight fluctuated sometimes very thin sometimes she has a belly -the size that never changed was her heart which was always monumental
    she was a beautiful lady but if you think it was all in her looks you are missing out on who she was which was a beautiful person and actress.

    she was also a RED HEAD not brunette as this article states.She had light red hair as a teen.

  59. Eva Barnett December 31, 2013 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Even though you were guessing at sizes, I was almost the exact same measurements as a teen-20′s, 35-23-35 and 5’5″ and I wore between a 6-8. So now you are underexagerating her size , I think. Especially since I wore the same bra size! There is no way a 36D would fit in a size 0 unless you were bound like Milan as a boy!

  60. MissCane January 2, 2014 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Seriously. This woman was tiny. Did you even see the dress she wore to sing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy? The difference is, she had curves.

  61. Jali January 6, 2014 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    I could have guessed that this article was written by a man as soon as I saw the bra size. So bra sizes work like this. The band size is how many inches around your rib cage is, the cup is how many inches larger you are when you factor in the actual boobs. Which means that if her bust was 35″ around, there is no way a 36 inch band would fit her. A 36D is made to fit a woman who is about 40″ around the bust. Similarly a 38C and a 34DD fit women who are approximately 40-41 inches around in the bust but factoring that some women have a larger rib cage to bust ratio and others have a smaller rib cage to bust ratio. Now cup sizes have been scaled down over the years, which is why I’m 40 inches around in the bust, but a 32G (which is a full cup size larger than I would be based off of how bras are actually supposed to be measured). Assuming your measurements for Marilyn are correct, she’d probably be a 28G (keeping in mind that different brands label sizes differently when you get up above D)

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey January 6, 2014 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      @Jali: Exactly on the sizing discrepancies. The problem with all this bra discussion is, I think, the idea that there is a standard bra sizing system in place and that this has stayed constant from when Monroe lived to now. This simply isn’t the case, with, I’m sure as most women know, a 36D in one manufacturer’s estimation being different than in others, let alone from country to country and decade to decade. Women’s clothing and underwear sizing systems are a mess and need some agency to step in to set hard standards across manufacturers and the like. We men have it a bit easier there. :-)

    • Andrea L January 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      Jali, no small number of women are clueless about bra sizing. The “+4 or 5 inches” system used to be valid when materials weren’t (so) elastic, and the problem of oversized bands comes from women today adhering to that old convention.

      I would guess an underbust measurement of about 28″ for MM, but she may well have been a legit 34 band in her day.

      That said, you have a point in that this article was supposed to clear up confusion about sizing, and while it did so for clothes sizes, the same has not been done for bra sizing (as is obvious by the comments here).

  62. Q January 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Oh, how i’d love to smack Elizabeth Hurley in the mouth.

  63. Cindi January 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    I’m sorry but I do not believe this article for a second. All you have to do is look at pics of Marilyn back in the day and know that these measurements are bunk. By no means was Marilyn Monroe fat but she definitely did not have a 22 inch waist either.

  64. Thomas Smith February 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    i find it slightly bemusing the emphasis white folks put on skinny shapes, and especially this one person. I have seen other white stars from the 50s and she is NOT the hottest.
    and none of them meet sir mix a lots nor my criteria, you gotta have back!!!!.

  65. Michelle February 3, 2014 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Ok, for starters those ‘measurements” are when Marilyn was much younger. when she passed away she was 150 pounds. she always had a weight problem but that’s what made her beautiful, she was full figured. Look at the video at President Kennedy’s Birthday party. She was not small. that’s when she was a size 14-16. She’s beautiful no matter what size.

  66. Saroya February 3, 2014 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    At age 16 in 1964 I was a size 12,
    34 -22- 36, 135 pounds … not fat sizes were different then they are now…

  67. irigrey February 5, 2014 at 10:55 am - Reply

    She was a tiny and curvy woman of average height by any standard..do not forget that any photo gives an illusion of extra 10-15lb packed on your body…that is why slim and tall girls are such popular models … as to her jean size translated into modern times I estimated it to be between 25-26… yes, we do not wear jeans at waist , but we do not wear them at low hip either, where the widest hip measurement is…we wear them at high hip… and for the woman with such tiny waist and 35″ lo hip it would be size 25-26… 15 years of work experience in Fashion Industry …trust me..:)

  68. Matt Sowerssrsbry February 5, 2014 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Ha ha! ‘Yank’ magazine! Oh man I wish they still were in business. That is priceless.
    Marylin Monroe had a great figure and she was hyper-feminine which let’s face it all men love sometimes.
    And she was in ‘Yank’ magazine hee hee hee

  69. Makes Sense March 2, 2014 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Great article. People work so hard to find excuses for their bad choices…

  70. Adrenne March 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Her bra size is wrong. If her measurements were 35 chest, 22 waist her under bust ( band size) would be anywhere from a 26 to a 29 which would make her bra size around a 32 E. Putting a bra on that is 36 D ? Really…it would slide up every time she moved her arms over head… My measurements are 38 -29 -38 and I am 5′ 5″ a very healthy size … I wear a size 8 comfortably and a bra that fits 32 F perfectly… I weigh 150 lbs dead on… Some people call me chubby ( childless younger women lol), some people call me slim…( women my age who have had kids like me…I am 50 by the way…) I love my size…I used to be thinner in my 30′s I weighed 120 lbs but I looked awful… I am curvy and parts of me jiggle lol…every woman is different… and MM well she changed her shape continually…with each relationship and every movie…but know one ever noticed he acting skills did they…

    • Andrea L March 27, 2014 at 4:03 am - Reply

      Adrenne… there is a lot of discussion about bra size, above. And Monroe’s comedic acting chops are well-recognised.

  71. Whatever April 2, 2014 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    A size two! Ha, maybe by Hollywood standards and no concept size. There are way too many other articles that contradicts what you are saying her. But hey I guess anything to make her perfect. Look at her pics and the pic of an average actress or singer today , she was clearly larger. She can’t be a size 2 if they are a size 2, that’s simple common sense. What’s a shame is if you really love her like you fans say you do…you would love her despite her plus size. Yup, I said plus size. Plus size does not equal fat. Get over it people. The average woman today is a size 10-12.

    • Andrea L April 2, 2014 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      Whatever: your post is super-weird and hostile. Do you know who that woman is, in the photo at the top of the page, with the vanishing midsection? Even if the dressmakers’ measurements run small, the young MM had a size 00 waist, size 2 hips and a size 4 bust.

  72. Connie Huggett April 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Well they also wore high rising pants back then. The waistline would cover the belly button. Her pants would actually be fitted at the waist and not around the hips. If anyone has seen the high rising pants before, you would now they round out towards the bottom, so her pants would of fit just fine. If she was still alive these days, she would probably be wearing leggings or hipster jeans that sit just at the hips. Her waist would be covered by a shirt :)

  73. thathatlady April 13, 2014 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    One small problem with this article, is that either the writer is a liar or the sources are. A bra size 36D means that the band size (below breasts) =36 inches plus add each additional cup size over A = 1 inch. If you do the math, her bust size would actually be 40 inches at the fullest part. This is exactly 5 inches greater than her supposed measurements of 35-22-35. I have some good photos of Marilyn when she started her modelling career at age 18. Naked, she looked about a size 4 in today’s standards to me. As she entered her 30s, she looked much heavier from drinking and I’d guess her to be closer to a size 8-10 in today’s standard. She lost weight again after a gallbladder operation, then gained it back. If you closely follow her pictures, it’s hard not to notice. She needed help getting dressed and didn’t wear underwear as she tried to squeeze her growing body into small sizes. If she were alive today, no way would she fit size 0.

    • Andrea L April 13, 2014 at 10:56 pm - Reply

      thathatlady, it’s all addressed above.

      The “+4 or 5 inches” thing doesn’t work today, but the reason it’s hanging around is that it used to work. MM would probably fit into a 28F bra today — almost a sister size of 36D.

      The post only says MM’s *waist* was sub size-0 while her hip measurement of 35″ would require a size 4 or so.

  74. Mark Lechman April 20, 2014 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Women really don’t get men, do they?

    • Andrea L April 20, 2014 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      ??

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