Jessica Seigel
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Jessica wearing Marilyn's gown

Jessica Goes Undercover with Marilyn Monroe. Literally

The myth that Marilyn would be considered near plus-size today has become a battle cry in the culture wars over female body image.

The truism that the world's sexiest woman would be "fat" by today's glamour standards has been repeated unattributed in hundreds of articles and books, like a recent Chicago Tribune editorial pointing to her supposed size 12 dimensions as smoking gun proof that today's waif ideal is extreme, unhealthy, and absurd.

Nice try. But image activists will have to come up with other arguments. Marilyn Monroe was not even close to a size 12. I prove it by trying on her clothes in a new journalistic genre -- investigative dress-up. As these photos show, I'd have to lose at least 6 inches around to squeeze my size 12 frame into this silver lame gown designed by William Travilla, resident costume designer at Twentieth Century. And her orange chiffon negligee (designer unknown) and red jersey Oleg Cassini don't fit either. (Below.)

Stay tuned for the full story reported for an ongoing book project.

And many thanks to Marilyn Monroe collector and expert Greg Schreiner of Hollywood Fashion Revisited for exceptional kindness in loaning these gowns.

Jessica wearing Marilyn's gown Jessica wearing Marilyn's gown