The Full Skinny: Marilyn Monroe Was Tiny...and So Were Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Grace Kelly, Barbra Streisand, And More

Marilyn Monroe white subway dress back zipper not closed

In my Bloomberg View column on the Debbie Reynolds collection auction, I cite some of the waist measurements Lisa Urban took from the costumes. But column prose didn't allow for the full inventory, which should be kept for historical interest. Here, in alphabetical order with links to the photos (much better than my snapshots) and auction results for each costume, is the full list. The numbers are the auction lot numbers. In a decision I now regret, I did not request a measurement of Audrey Hepburn's My Fair Lady Ascot dress, because everyone knows she was thin, the same reason I didn't ask Lisa to take any Katharine Hepburn measurements.

The biggest surprise to me was that Deborah Kerr's waist was as large as 24 inches. Her costumes, particularly the black gown from An Affair to Remember, are strikingly svelte and, like Marilyn's white dress, couldn't be fully fastened in the back, as you can see by my photo of her Catherine Parr gown. I was also surprised that the Ginger Rogers dress had a 24-inch waist. It looks even smaller in person.

Deborah Kerr Catherine Parr Young Bess back view

Claudette Colbert - waist 18"

29. Gold gown, Cleopatra  

121. Lana Martin blue wool suit, Drums Along the Mohawk 

Greta Garbo - waist 24"

34. Green velvet, Anna Karenin

Judy Garland - waist 22"

165. Esther Smith gray [originally blue] w/ tassels, Meet Me in St. Louis

169. Esther Smith red wool, Meet Me in St. Louis

185. Susan Bradley cream two piece, The Harvey Girls

239. Annie Oakley two-piece, Annie Get Your Gun

Meet Me in St. Louis: Mary Astor, Margaret O'Brien, Judy Garland

Rita Hayworth - waist 24"

161. Maribelle Hicks two-piece, Cover Girl

217. Carmen death scene dress, Carmen

311. Princess Salome beaded chiffon, Salome

Grace Kelly - waist 23"

307. Linda Nordley safari outfits, Mogambo

357. Frances Stevens rose crepe, To Catch a Thief

372. Princess Alexandra ivory silk chiffon, The Swan

Deborah Kerr - waist 24"

294. Catherine Parr blue and gray with fur, Young Bess

300. Portia toga, Julius Caesar

387. Terry McKay taupe chiffon, An Affair to Remember 

388. Terry McKay black chiffon, An Affair to Remember 

How thin was Carole Lombard

Hedy Lamarr - waist 22.5"

220. Delilah peacock, Samson and Delilah

Carole Lombard - 21"

25. Connie Randall beige gown, No Man of Her Own (no, I did not touch it when demonstrating how tiny it was for the photo)

Marilyn Monroe - for these four dresses her average waist is 22" and bust is 34"

282. Lorelei Lee red sequined dress, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

313. Kay Weston gold charmeuse saloon girl gown, River of No Return

314. Vicky tropical print, There’s No Business Like Show Business

354. The Girl white “subway” dress, The Seven Year Itch

Mary Pickford - waist 20"

16. Katherine green velvet, The Taming of the Shrew

Debbie Reynolds Unsinkable Molly Brown embroidery beading detail copy Debbie Reynolds - waist 24"

273. Kathy Selden flapper dress, Singin’ in the Rain

455. Lilith Prescott silk floral, How the West Was Won

458. Lilith Prescott pleated silk, How the West Was Won

497. Molly Brown pale green beaded, The Unsinkable Molly Brown

500. Molly Brown wool period dress, The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Ginger Rogers - waist 24"

222. Dinah Barkley gold dress, Barkleys of Broadway

Katherine Ross - waist 24"

536. Etta Place chartreuse two-piece, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Barbra Streisand - waist 24"

529. Fannie Brice purple and green, Funny Girl

531. Fannie Brice black velvet, Funny Girl

537. Dolly Levi purple, Hello, Dolly!

538. Dolly Levi gold velvet, Hello, Dolly!

Elizabeth Taylor - waist 19.5"

345. Lady Patricia yellow satin, Beau Brummell

396. Susanna Drake brown, Raintree County

398. Susanna Drake ivory and black, Raintree County

399. Susanna Drake dark red, Raintree County

Mae West 

94. Peaches O’Day purple, Every Day’s a Holiday - waist 24"

545. Leticia van Allen beige gown, Myra Breckinridge waist 26"

Many thanks to Lisa Urban for generously spending the time, during a very busy period, to get these measurements on the record.

[Photos by by Virginia Postrel. Full Flickr set here.]