Fashion + Celebrity: The Lady in the Size-Six Pumps

Before email Blasts went out proclaiming “Celebrity X spotted in Brand Y at Red Carpet Event Z,” the relationships between actors and designers were less transactional. One of the most intriguing of these relationships is the subject of an exhibition at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence. The exhibit, entitled simply Marilyn, explores the disparate worlds of the Florentine cobbler and the Hollywood starlet and how they overlapped from the late 1950s to her death in 1962.

Though the two never met, Monroe was Ferragamo’s most devoted client. She wore, almost exclusively, his five-inch size 6 pumps, which she ordered at his Park Avenue boutique in an endless variety of colors and textures. As curator Stefania Ricci writes, “The shoes forced her to wiggle her hips as she walked, so seductively and in a manner that was all her own.” The shoes, therefore, were integral to turning Norma Jean Baker into the icon and eventually into the myth of Marilyn.

But the exhibit also seeks to draw parallels between Monroe and the broader Florentine cultural history from which Ferragamo also emerged. Juxtaposed with Tom Kelley’s infamous pinup photographs is Francesco Furini’s Penitent Magdalene from the 17th century. Monroe’s pouty beauty is prefigured in sketches by Michelangelo of Cleopatra which were, fittingly, completed a few blocks from the Ferragamo museum. Exhibit continues through January 2013.