The Marilyn Monroe size 16 myth: What size was she really by today’s standards?


Sure, beauty icon Marilyn Monroe had curves, but there is a pop culture myth, propped up by quotes from Roseanne Barr and Elizabeth Hurley, that she was much larger than she really was. It’s all a complicated misunderstanding.

The claim is that Marilyn was a size 16 (which people think of in today’s size standards.) While sometimes Marilyn did appear to have a fuller figure, she almost always looked tiny.

For instance, Chloe Marshall, who was the first size 16 girl to compete in Miss England, is a lovely representation of what a 16 size is today:

Here’s Marilyn Monroe at what was probably her heaviest:

Possibly a size 10 or 12 by today’s sizing, but the truth is during most of her career, Marilyn was more slim than this.

There’s a lot that goes into the confusion about Marilyn’s size and weight. The argument is that our perception of beauty as a society has changed to prefer waif-thin girls over 1950’s hourglass pinup shapes. What’s odd about that is the fact that our population as a whole has gotten much bigger since the 50s, and clothing manufacturers have actually changed the sizes to be more kind to our egos. Maybe at one point Marilyn did wear a size 16 dress, but it was probably more of what a size 12 is today.

Here are the quotes that really pumped up the Marilyn plump myth:

Roseanne Barr:

“I’m more sexy than Pamela Lee or whoever else they’ve got out there these days. Marilyn Monroe was a size 16. That says it all.”

Elizabeth Hurley:

“I’ve always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I’d kill myself if I was that fat…I went to see her clothes in the exhibition, and I wanted to take a tape measure and measure what her hips were. She was very big.”

That’s strange, because many others have also reported back from actually measuring an owning her clothes, and those reports paint a much different story than what Elizabeth Hurley is speculating about.

There’s are also Marilyn’s measurements from her dressmaker:

Height: 5 feet, 5½ inches

Weight: 118-140 pounds (Hollywood studios listed her between 115-120 lbs.)
Bust: 35-37 inches
Waist: 22-23 inches
Hips: 35-36 inches
Bra size: 36D

Hmm, so her waist never got above 23 inches, and her hips never got beyond 36.

When British Journalist Sara Buys actually tried on Marilyn Monroe’s clothes, here’s what she experienced:

Contrary to received wisdom, she was not a voluptuous size 16 – quite the opposite. While she was undeniably voluptuous – in possession of an ample bosom and a bottom that would look at home gyrating in a J-Lo video – for most of the early part of her career, she was a size 8 and even in her plumper stages, was no more than a 10. I can tell you this from experience because a few weeks ago, I tried to try on her clothes.

British sizes are also different from American sizes, as in they are less forgiving. A British size 8 is actually an American size 4, a 10 is a 6.

Daven Hiskey on the website todayIfoundout.com notes that Marilyn’s infamous Seven Year Itch white dress was too small to fit on a size 2 mannequin. He also noted that many times her clothes were so tight she had to be sewn into them. Often she was wearing what would be considered now to be a size 2, when she probably would be more comfortable with a 4.

So why worry about all this? Because the truth behind myths matter, and in a society that’s full of body conscious young women it’s better to know that if you’re a size 16 you’re not going to look like Marilyn Monroe, because she was a size 4. It’s also important to know that Marilyn Monroe was not overweight in any way, and if your body does resemble hers, neither are you.


web stats

Latest Comments

  1. seamstress August 10, 2012
    • Turbulentbeauty June 3, 2014
      • Statik August 10, 2014
        • RDF November 5, 2016
  2. Ashley August 10, 2012
    • Turbulentbeauty June 3, 2014
  3. Nathan August 10, 2012
    • girl101 August 11, 2012
      • Alisha August 19, 2012
    • Angelgirl2013 December 19, 2013
  4. Brittany August 10, 2012
    • Turbulentbeauty June 3, 2014
      • Minerva, the Wise June 11, 2014
      • JenBooth21 May 29, 2016
    • Becca Bankston September 20, 2015
      • JenBooth21 May 29, 2016
  5. Heather August 10, 2012
  6. whoa August 10, 2012
    • uh August 10, 2012
      • whoa August 11, 2012
      • kirbyu June 17, 2013
        • MaryLynnM February 2, 2015
          • Candiiey February 17, 2015
        • Sime August 21, 2015
      • MissyAllThat May 29, 2015
    • dorothy mcconnell November 30, 2016
  7. Dre August 11, 2012
    • Turbulentbeauty June 3, 2014
  8. Courtney August 11, 2012
    • Jo October 27, 2012
      • Serena November 2, 2012
      • Tbird September 29, 2013
      • EllaSilverYeah! January 20, 2014
        • EllaSilverYeah! January 20, 2014
      • Me January 11, 2015
      • Candiiey February 17, 2015
      • JenBooth21 May 29, 2016
    • wll777 December 30, 2013
  9. Serena November 2, 2012
    • Alisha November 2, 2012
    • Kathy November 13, 2012
      • kathy November 13, 2012
    • obviously November 25, 2012
      • Becca Bankston January 5, 2015
    • Grazio Beegirl June 23, 2013
    • Michelle Mulch October 19, 2013
      • Robin February 27, 2015
        • Becca Bankston September 20, 2015
    • Turbulentbeauty June 3, 2014
    • mesme September 20, 2015
      • JenBooth21 May 29, 2016
    • mesme September 22, 2015
  10. Lolli Hara December 25, 2012
    • AaliyahAurora March 17, 2014
  11. alex March 25, 2013
    • cest moi September 9, 2013
      • She Rock January 29, 2014
  12. ... August 16, 2013
  13. stop calling fat curvy September 19, 2013
    • Becca Bankston January 5, 2015
      • mesme September 20, 2015
        • Becca Bankston September 20, 2015
          • RDF November 5, 2016
            • Becca Bankston November 5, 2016
  14. kim October 7, 2013
  15. Kaitlynn October 21, 2013
  16. Regi November 4, 2013
    • Turbulentbeauty June 3, 2014
  17. Stella Jester December 7, 2013
    • Becca Bankston September 20, 2015
  18. Liz May 28, 2014
  19. Lucia June 28, 2014
  20. Lucia June 28, 2014
  21. nikki August 28, 2014
  22. Bastet September 9, 2014
    • IntrebuloN March 20, 2015
  23. rageroid January 11, 2015
    • IntrebuloN March 20, 2015
  24. Me January 11, 2015
    • IntrebuloN March 20, 2015
  25. jgsanfrancisco January 18, 2015
  26. MaryLynnM February 2, 2015
  27. Martine April 2, 2015
  28. Michael Francis May 31, 2015
  29. ylas June 23, 2015
  30. leelee July 4, 2015
  31. Sime August 21, 2015
  32. Alexia James November 11, 2016
  33. Wtf March 12, 2017