WILLIAM TRAVILLA – “when I die don't cremate me, pleat me”
Born March 22 1920, died Los Angeles November 2 1990
One of the main driving forces behind the Hollywood approach to period costumes, often ignoring historical fact to sensualise movie stars in the roles that they played. In fact, during his career he was greatly appreciated for having been able to enhance the sensuality of numerous stars, but above all as the hidden architect of Marilyn Monroe's success.
His first contract was with Columbia Pictures, for who he worked from 1941 to 1943, then from 1946 to 1949 he was contracted to Warner Bros.
After collaborating on numerous films and enjoying great success, he was hired by 20th Century-Fox, where he was entrusted with the task of refining the image of the then emerging Marilyn Monroe in Howard Hawks' Monkey Business (1952 - The Magnificent Joke).
From that moment Travilla collaborated on all of her films, enjoying a long working partnership, friendship; and even a short romantic relationship.
The clothes he created for her are have become famous, some even becoming true icons of the history of costume and cinema, whilst also contributing enormously to emphasizing Marilyn's sensual charm.
When in 1954, Travilla had to search for the ideal pleating of the dress he had in mind for Marilyn to wear in the following year's new 20th Century-Fox production, The Seven Year Itch, the famous dress from the subway scene, he couldn't find anyone in Los Angeles to create if for him. However, in those years great Hollywood productions were being filmed in Cinecittà and Rome was beginning to be populated by stars and "film tailors" so he too turned to the Antonini Sisters in via Quintino Sella in the Sallustiano district of Rome. He knew his client needed weight on the bottom of her skirt and around her beautiful ankles, not her hips; bias cut that shaped and slimmed; and lots of pleats, which Trafilla adored. He uttered the phrase "when I die do not cremate me, pleat me". Marilyn loved it, and he loved dressing her.
They worked together on eight films and in his memoirs, “Dressing Marilyn” Travilla tells lots of sexy little anecdotes that punctuated their relationship, like the black bra strap dropped right during the first meeting, as a welcome.
He dressed Marilyn not only on the set but also for many public events and was able to interpret the sensuality of the actress like no other.
He was an Oscar winner in 1948, and during his career managed to create clothes and costumes of a unique, special, and as yet unknown femininity.
He dressed many other actors, including Ann Sheridan, Barbra Streisand, Errol Flynn and Joan Crawford, and was the costume designer of the hit TV series DALLAS in the 1980s.
From 1957 he cut back on his Hollywood commitments to also devote himself to the fashion house Travilla, that he founded in that period, up until the 1970s, but he always continued to collaborate with the cinema, receiving numerous awards and another Oscar nominations.
His creations are still very much imitated today.
Gentlemen prefer blondes 1953 - Travilla Sketch Orange dress
Headpiece by William Travilla – Valley of dolls – Sharon Tate
Gentlemen prefer blondes 1953 - Travilla Sketch pink dress
Marilyn Monroe in The seven year itch 1955
Linda Gray Travilla Kimono worn in Dallas
Marilyn Monroe and William Travilla 50s
Sharon Tate photographed wearing Travilla designs for Valley of the Dolls 20th Century Fox 1967
Valley of the dolls archive
The bill Travilla collection with linda gray Dallas
The valley of the dolls Sharon Tate Travilla
Sharon Tate with designer Travilla, wearing one of his designs for Valley of the Dolls in 1967
Travilla and Marilyn Monroe fitting for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 4
Travilla costume designer for Dallas 80s
Travilla for Dallas 80s