Monroe dresses labelled as 'fake'

By Suzanne McTaggart

THE famous white dress worn by Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in TheSeven Year Itch will be on display in Leeds over the next fortnight – or will it?

The dress, pictured right, is part of a unique exhibition which boasts the star’s finest gowns.

But the Travilla Collection tour at Savile Hall, Leeds, which also includes the pink satin dress, pictured middle right, worn for her performance of Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend, is plagued by controversy.

World renowned Monroe expert Mark Bellinghaus, who closed down a bogus Monroe exhibition in 2006, claims the Leeds collection is not genuine and that the dresses were never worn by his idol, who died in 1962 aged 36.

But the man staging the exhibition strenuously denies the claim and says all the dresses are the genuine article.

The seven dresses come from the private collection of Oscar-winning fashion designer William Travilla, who died in 1990, and are accompanied by original patterns and sketches.

Some of the dresses were made for Monroe’s movies, including the purple satin costume from How to Marry a Millionnaire and the red-sequinned dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, pictured right, while another creation was made for Monroe as a personal gift.

But after studying pictures of the gowns, which were modelled by Peaches Geldof for Hello! magazine, Bellinghaus said: “All the dresses look brand new. If you have a dress that is over 53 years old, trust me, it shows, even if they were in an air-tight place.

“The Peaches Geldof dresses were an insult on anybody’s intelligence. The copies in no way resemble what was worn by Monroe. These dresses were never worn by Marilyn Monroe.”

Bellinghaus, who lives in Los Angeles, closed Marilyn Monroe: The Exhibit after he discovered that a pair of hair curlers – allegedly used by Monroe and holding strands of her hair – were actually made after her death.

But Travilla Collection organiser Andrew Hansford hit back at the latest claims, stating that the memorabilia on display are “100 per cent genuine”.

He said: “These allegations make me feel sick. Fashion experts have confirmed these dresses are the genuine article.

“They weren’t bought at auction, they came from the man’s own closet.

“This exhibition is a celebration of a great man’s work and these allegations have upset everyone.”

The exhibition was launched yesterday by Marilyn Monroe lookalike Suzie Kennedy and Sir Jimmy Savile.

suzanne.mctaggart @ypn.co.uk