Marilyn Monroe dress sold for $4.6 million

The Seven Year Itch dress blows up as Debbie Reynolds auctions off private collection

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A dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in one of the most iconic scenes in movie history has sold at auction in the US for $4.6 million dollars (around £2.8 million).

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The pleated white halterneck designed by William Travilla is famous for its appearance in a scene in 1955 comedy The Seven Year Itch, in which it is blown up around Monroe’s waist by a gust of air from a subway grate. The resulting flash of underwear was at the time considered rather risqué.

The dress was put up for sale by Singin’ in the Rain actress Debbie Reynolds, now 79, who acquired it along with the rest of Marilyn Monroe’s film wardrobe from 20th Century Fox in 1971. It was sold at an auction in Los Angeles, along with her entire private collection of around 3,500 items of Hollywood memorabilia.

As the hammer went down on the staggering figure, Reynolds gave the crowd a double thumbs up, but at the end of the auction she was reportedly in tears.

Reynolds had found herself sinking increasingly into debt as she struggled to maintain the collection, having failed to find a museum that would buy it in its entirety.

Among the other items sold, a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland for a screen test for The Wizard of Oz fetched $1.75 million, while Charlie Chaplin’s bowler hat went for $135,000.

US media personality Oprah Winfrey is thought to have been among the buyers but many of the pieces were set to leave Hollywood for new homes across the world, in countries ranging from Saudi Arabia to Japan.

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Randy Haberkamp of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises the Oscars, said, “Well, it happened to the treasures of Greece. It happened to Italy. I guess now it’s our turn.”