Auction of the Estate of Costume Designer William Travilla

No one knew legendary screen goddess Marilyn Monroe like costume designer William Travilla. The famous 36-26-36 hourglass silhouette of the “bombshell” would help secure Travilla’s place in Hollywood history as one of the most important fashion designers of its time.  Julien’s Auctions ( )  announced the upcoming “Property from the Estate of William Travilla” auction to take place Friday, October 11th, 2013 at the Julien’s Auctions Beverly Hills gallery at 9665 Wilshire Blvd. Although Marilyn Monroe was Travilla’s most celebrated muse he designed for over 270 celebrities but none like Monroe who catapulted to super-stardom while donning Travilla’s most important costumes.

Born on Catalina Island, just off the California coast, Travilla had a passion for art at a very early age. He attended the prestigious Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles where he was advanced to adult classes at the age of 8! As a teenager the burlesque clubs he passed on the way to school began to pique his interest and he sketched costumes for the dancers and sold them. He later went to Hollywood after avoiding the draft and started selling his sketches at Don the Beachcomber where a special young woman began collecting his work, actress Ann Sheridan. They developed a friendship and she eventually brought him to Warner Studios. Travilla went on to transition from Warner to Fox Studios where he met the young Monroe who would later do something for his gowns that no other woman could do. William Travilla was known professionally as simply Travilla.

Through his close friendship with Marilyn Monroe he created her costumes for Don’t Bother to Knock and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  He also created one of the most famous costumes in all of film – the pleated ivory cocktail dress Monroe wore in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. His costume became synonymous with Monroe as she wore it while standing on a New York subway ventilation grate and as the subway train passed the dress flew up in the air. The Hollywood icon was so enamored with Travilla that she once autographed one of her infamous calendars with the inscription “Oh Billy dear please dress me forever, Love Marilyn.”  Travilla was also nominated for an Academy Award for How to Marry a Millionaire in 1953, There’s No Business Like Show Business in 1954 and The Stripper in 1963. Over the course of just a few years Travilla designed for eight of Monroe’s films and many of these gowns have gone down in history as his most important works.   

This is the first time his collection, which was bequeathed to his partner when he passed in 1990, will be available for auction. His original sketches which have been the focus of numerous press features as well as the gowns he made for Monroe early on and later would become the original ideas for her most famous scenes. Also included are his personal effects, sewing room artifacts, Oscar patterns and original watercolor renderings. Collectors wishing to expand their portfolio of true iconic Hollywood fashions will have this very rare opportunity to own a piece of Marilyn Monroe fashion history at this auction.

Some of the Marilyn Monroe highlights of the “Property from the Estate of William Travilla” auction include a Monroe/Andy Warhol Blue Tribute Dress which was created for an Andy Warhol memorial service at the Beverly Hilton and mimics the famous Seven Year Itch dress (Estimate: $4,000-$6,000), a Marilyn Monroe “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” inspired gown by Travilla featuring the gold lame sunburst halter gown design (Estimate: $10,000 – $20,000), a “Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes” Travilla sketch (Estimate: $400-$600), Travilla’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business” Academy Award plaque ($3,000-$5,000), a 1953 Travilla “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” costume sketch (Estimate: $6,000-$8,000), and a Marilyn Monroe “Seven Year Itch” inspired Travilla gown (Estimate: $20,000-$30,000) along with several other pieces.

Travilla also designed for other iconic women of film and music including Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Faye Dunaway, Judy Garland, Sharon Tate, Jane Russell, Betty Grable, Lana Turner, Diahann Carroll, Susan Hayward, Loretta Young, Joanne Woodward, Barbara Stanwyck and many more. In addition to his achievements in Hollywood, he also created a successful high-end fashion line that spanned several decades with many of the collections being directly influenced by the costumes he created for film and television. Travilla remains the subject of documentaries, films, books and feature stores to this day because of his dramatic influence with Marilyn Monroe and in film in general.

Other highlights from Travilla’s personal collection will include a brown chocolate Betty Grable dress worn in “How to Marry a Millionaire,” (Estimate: $2000 to $3000), a black satin Linda Gray “Dallas” Travilla Gown 1980s (Estimate: $400-$600) and Travilla’s Emmy Award for “Dallas” (Estimate: $2,000-$3,000).

“You cannot compare the influence Travilla had on Hollywood fashion history,” said Martin Nolan, Executive Director of Julien’s Auctions. “His personal iconic representations of Marilyn Monroe’s fashions and his incredible friendship with the screen icon is what Hollywood lore is made of. We are so thrilled to be able to offer this very rare fashion collection from the Estate of William Travilla and look forward to having the fans and collectors visit our gallery ahead of time to view our public exhibition.”

Prior to the auction the collection will also exhibit exclusively at Newbridge Silverware’s Museum of Style Icons (MOSI) in Ireland as well as Julien’s Auctions Beverly Hills.

Press Contact:
Caroline Galloway
M2M PR & Partnerships
440-591-3807 or



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

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