simon doonan

Marilyn Monroe’s Two Secrets- What I learned about the icon by folding her capri pants.

“Upon her death, Marilyn’s personal effects had been boxed up and placed in storage, and there they had remained for 37 years. I was present in the Christie’s offices the day they were unpacked.

Paging Tutankhamen!

Unpacking Marilyn’s possessions was a surreal and extraordinary experience. I touched her Pucci blouses. I folded her black capri pants. I found myself holding crackly, dried-up old shopping bags—JAX of Beverly Hills—filled with stockings, slips, and brassieres. I touched hairbrushes with blonde hairs in them. I sniffed the Mexican wrap sweater she wore in the famous beach photo shoot, and detected a whiff of perfume.

The process of cataloguing and displaying Marilyn’s bits took months. During this time I learned some crazily illuminating stuff about the breathy blond bombshell. Brace yourself for some next-level revelations.

Right away, I discovered that Marilyn was shockingly and unimaginably slender. She was sort of like Kate Moss but fleshier on top. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

When it came to finding mannequins to fit her dresses, I simply couldn’t. M.M.’s drag was too small for the average window dummy. Smaller “petite” mannequins existed, but I could not bring myself to place Marilyn’s iconic garments on these perky fiberglass dollies. The frocks seemed too important and historic. For the public installation I decided to give them the Shroud of Turin treatment.

I laid the dresses in rows on top of angled panels—sort of like bodies after a plane crash—and accompanied them with a photo of M.M. herself in each frock. It worked. There was the black strappy gown she wore in Korea. And there, in the adjacent photo, was M.M. strutting about in front of the troops.

The only exception was the sparkly Jean Louis number Marilyn wore for the Kennedy happy-birthday chanson. For this dress, a custom Lucite mannequin was made.”

“And for my second Marilyn bet-you-didn’t-see-that-coming revelation …

Marilyn Monroe was a huge movie star, but she owned diddly-squat. She was not materialistic!

Marilyn’s estate was a bunch of poignant schlock. The auction raised more than $13 million, but not because of any intrinsic value in the numbered lots. There were no Renoirs or Picassos. Her knickknacks were pedestrian. Her cookware was greasy. Her spatulas were bent. Even her Golden Globe was broken.

The majority of her clothing showed surprising wear and tear. She had worn it all repeatedly and there just wasn’t that much of it.

Her jewelry? With the exception of her DiMaggio wedding ring it was a bunch of paste danglers and costume crap.

Shoes? Yes, there were several pairs of black suede Ferragamo stilettos with worn heels. But Marilyn—brace yourself for another shocker—was more into books than shoes. Her poignant desire to cultivate her mind and give herself an education resulted in an extensive library of first editions. Take that, Carrie Bradshaw!

This stunning lack of materialism made me love and respect her more. What do you need in life other than a good book, a few capri pants, and a cotton sundress or two?

Yes, there were a few fur coats. But compared to the gimme-gimme-gimme stars of today whose hangar-size closets are bursting with freebies, she was a total bread-and-water-eating, hair-shirt-wearing, self-denying nun.”

-Simon Doonan

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Bout this life. I can’t get enough of this conversation. 

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This show is amazing. I need to play catch up.

I know I look like a wanker. I enjoy looking like a wanker. Looking like a wanker is a basic human right and a huge part of having a signature style. I have always looked like a wanker. I looked like a wanker when I wore plaid bondage outfits in 1978. I looked like a wanker when I dressed like a pirate during the early-’80s New Romantic era. I am sure I will die looking like a wanker. I never subscribed to the idea of good taste: It’s a subjective concept promoted by fashion scribes to oppress the rest of us. Dressing age-inappropriately is, so they say, in poor taste, and it’s vulgar. This is exactly why I celebrate it.

The process of cataloguing and displaying Marilyn’s bits took months. During this time I learned some crazily illuminating stuff about the breathy blond bombshell. Brace yourself for some next-level revelations.

Right away, I discovered that Marilyn was shockingly and unimaginably slender. She was sort of like Kate Moss but fleshier on top. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

When it came to finding mannequins to fit her dresses, I simply couldn’t. M.M.’s drag was too small for the average window dummy. Smaller “petite” mannequins existed, but I could not bring myself to place Marilyn’s iconic garments on these perky fiberglass dollies. The frocks seemed too important and historic. For the public installation I decided to give them the Shroud of Turin treatment.

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Although quietly set in Shelter Island’s woodsy landscape, the New York home of Barneys’ creative ambassador at large, Simon Doonan, is anything but mute. Filled with vibrant colors, theatrical accents, and of course, many of his husband’s (Jonathan Adler) signature designs.