So, backstory time: I watched My Week With Marilyn (2011) YEARS ago with the intention of writing about it here, but for some reason I never did. I kept thinking I had written the post, however, which is why I never actually checked until recently to see if I had covered the costumes — with the recent debut of Blonde (2022), it jogged my memory and I went looking for this post … the one I am apparently writing right now because I actually didn’t write it back in 2017.
Vanity Fair published an incredibly poorly-aged interview with the film’s costumer, Jill Taylor (The Mill on the Floss is her only previous frock flick), which I suggest you avoid reading unless you want to be outraged by the way women like Christina Hendricks and Scarlett Johansson are casually fat-shamed, and a choice quote about My Week With Marilyn star Michelle Williams’ ass by none other than Harvey Weinstein. So, in order to spare you the need for blood pressure meds, I will synopsize Jill Taylor’s design choices when it came to costuming for a character as iconic as Marilyn Monroe: They had a limited budget, a tight shooting schedule, and did the best they could with what they had. Michelle Williams had padding added to make her appear curvier and wore a bullet bra by vintage-inspired lingerie brand What Katie Did. Eddie Redmayne wore a lot of starched collars to make him appear more “English” compared to the American characters. They tried to use vintage pieces where they could, but sometimes they had to make entire outfits because modern bodies don’t fit vintage clothes very well. The end.
Despite the dumpster fire of a VF interview, the costumes for the film are well done and definitely evocative of mid-1950s era Marilyn when she was in her prime. The film centers around the production of The Prince and the Showgirl (1956), which is itself a period piece, with Marilyn starring opposite Sir Laurence Olivier. It’s based on the memoir of Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne), an aspiring young filmmaker who lands a job as Marilyn’s personal assistant on the film.
Getting the costumes right was just one part of the process in transforming Michelle Williams into Marilyn. Hair and makeup designer Jenny Shircore had to carefully plan out how to realistically evoke Marilyn without outright trying to transform Williams into a caricature. “You’re not cloning Marilyn; it is Michelle Williams,” Shircore explained in this InStyle interview, “but you have to try and encapsulate the essence of Marilyn, hopefully in a convincing way so that every now and then you think, ‘Gosh, was that Marilyn I just saw?’ We didn’t do anything like false noses, big ears; it all came from Michelle.”
Overall, I enjoyed the film. It’s chock full of stellar talent, and the costumes indeed hit the mark more than they missed it.
Have you seen My Week With Marilyn (2011)? Share your thoughts in the comments!
I saw this in the theater when it came out. Hard to realize it’s been more than ten years…. It’s a treat to have your insight into the costumes; might have to watch it again. For some reason the photos reminded me of a plaid dress I wore to first or second grade about the time the movie was set (and of thinking how very old the sixth graders were).
I thought Eddie was meh, but Julia, Michelle, and Emma were great. Of course Judi is amazing in anything she does!
Reading your intro, Sarah Lorraine, I am in awe of your perseverance to this work and REALLY FUCKING APPRECIATE IT. All three of you are goddesses I say.
I’m another who is surprised it was so long ago. thanks for the extra info.