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Forever Marilyn


Marilyn Monroe died 30 years ago Wednesday Aug. 5, but the influence the platinum-haired sex goddess had on style still lives.

Many women continue to imitate Monroe, from the mole above her lip to the roots of her bleached blond curls.

"I've always been intrigued by her. I've read books on her since I was in junior high," says Meri Ann Shore, a Laguna Hills model who can transform herself into a Marilyn look-alike with the help of cosmetics, hair dye and a form-fitting dress.

"Her stardom came to such an abrupt end, when her sexual allure was greatest," she says. "women still want that voluptuous look."

The past three decades have seen a parade of would-be Marilyns, among them the campy Ginger (Tina Louise) of "Gilligan's Island," Debbie Harry of Blondie and the latest and most obvious pretender, Madonna. None holds a candle to Monroe.

Takeoffs on the Monroe look can be seen in current fashions and beauty trends.

Makeup artists are giving their clients strong pouty lips, heavy eyeliner and pale foundation--techniques that owe much of their enduring popularity to Monroe.

Hair stylists are imitating Monroe's softly curled bob, a style created for Monroe by '50s Hollywood hair designer George Masters. In a recent TV interview, Masters said he wanted Monroe's hair to look like the head of a Q-Tip.

Fashion designers are once again creating clothes that emphasize feminine curves. Stores are stocking dresses with halters and full skirts much like the pleated halter dress Monroe made famous when she stood over a sidewalk air vent in "The Seven Year Itch."

Newport Beach designer Holly Sharp grew up watching Marilyn Monroe movies. Her love of Monroe can be seen in her creations, the "hot, hot dresses" that accentuate an hourglass figure.

"Marilyn Monroe is so out-and-out feminine, and real proud of it. She's really bold about being sexy," Sharp says. "She has definitely influenced the way I design dresses."

Looking feminine without, as Sharp puts it, "being stupid about it," is making a comeback.

"In the '80s, we got really serious with our shoulder pads, our short hair and our suits. Then a group of us forged ahead with a feminine image," she says. "Marilyn was real curvy. Our designs are known for compensating for a curvy body."

At the Holly Sharp Boutique in Laguna Beach, one can find the kind of classic dresses Monroe favored, including a short black halter dress with hot pink rickrack around the collar and pockets and a chartreuse and white polka dot halter dress with a long full skirt.

"We always say a lot of our clothes are made to wear with high heels and red lipstick," Sharp says with a laugh.

Glamorous gowns directly inspired by Marilyn Monroe are still created at Travilla in Los Angeles, a design company once owned by Monroe's costume designer, Bill Travilla.

Travilla, who died in 1990, designed costumes for 11 of Monroe's movies, and the company uses copies of the originals in its archives as the inspiration for new collections.

In an interview with The Times two months before his death, Travilla confessed he'd discarded the original costumes:

"I had no idea of their value," he said. "It's incredible what that lady means today."

This season, the Travilla company has introduced a gold lame halter dress with plunging neckline, a direct takeoff on the gown Monroe wore in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." The new version, however, has a long black velvet skirt instead of the original's gold lame accordion pleats.

Model Shore finds plenty of inexpensive Monroe-influenced clothes at Charlotte Russe stores in Westminster Mall, Brea Mall, MainPlace/Santa Ana and South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. This summer, the stores are stocked with halter tops and dresses, and blouses that tie around the waist--the kind Monroe might have worn in "The Misfits."

Monroe's influence in makeup can be seen in the recent resurrection of false eyelashes and eyeliner.

"I always say, 'Yes, I do the Marilyn,' " says makeup artist Jan Thielbar, owner of Make-up Creations in Irvine. Thielbar even keeps a picture of Monroe on the wall of her studio.

"Customers constantly request her beauty mark," Thielbar said. "People who come in relate to her."

Marilyn once told Travilla, "I can make my face do anything, same as you can take a white board and build from that and make a painting."

Travilla once spoke of "the charge (Marilyn) got out of looking in the mirror and seeing that beautiful mouth that she'd painted with about five shades of lipstick, to get the right curves, the right shadows to bring out the lips, because her lips were really very flat."

Others now try to paint their lips the same way, according to Sharon Orr, salon director of Aida Grey in South Coast Plaza.

"Marilyn had great emphasis on the mouth, and we're seeing a lot of that now," Orr says. "Now we line the lips and use deeper lipsticks" to give the mouth that pouty look.

Many women are also imitating Monroe's luminous complexion.

"People are not getting as tan as they used to," Orr said. "They want the paler skin she was noted for."

To get the full Marilyn look, Shore visits Scissors hair salon in Trabuco Canyon where her hair is bleached blond and cut into a layered bob. Her hair is dabbed with mousse and styling gel and set in large Velcro rollers.

"The effect is big, loose curls that stay because of the gel. You run your fingers through it a little bit, but don't brush it," model Shore says.

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