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So What Size WAS Marilyn Monroe…? Marilyn’s (& Other Movie Stars) Measurements

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe’s measurements

There’s a lot of discussion about whether Marilyn Monroe really was a size 16, and whether that was a US size 16 or a UK size 16, so I  thought I’d look into it in more depth and see what I could find out.

Like most women (with perhaps the exception of Sophia Loren who claims (rightly or wrongly) to have the same vital statistics for the last 40 years) Marilyn’s weight fluctuated a great deal over the years, but these are her measurements according to her dressmaker and her studio:

Height: 5 feet 5½ inches
Bust: 35-37 inches
Waist: 22-23 inches
Hips: 35-36 inches
Bra size: 36D

Now according to ASOS (which just happened to be the first place I thought to look) a 36″ bust is a UK size 12, which is a US size 8.  This would make Marilyn’s hips a UK size 10 (US size 6) and her waist would be a miniscule UK size 4 (US size 1).  Personally I didn’t know sizes even went that small, but what do I know..?!

So taking into account the fact that sizing has become more generous over the years, and that the size 16 statistic was probably from one of her slightly heavier times, this would still only make her a UK size 16 (US size 12).

The thing that really stands out to me is how much of an extreme hourglass figure she had. It’s no wonder that she had all her clothes tailor-made when she was a size 12 on top and a size 4 around her tiny waist, wowsers! Most people would have to do some extreme corseting to get a figure like that!

Next I got to wondering how Marilyn compared to other starlets and pin up girls of the time. So here we go. I’ve also included the measurements for Jane Russell, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Grable, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Bettie Page.  Let me know if I’ve missed out anyone important!

Jane Russell’s measurements

Jane Russell

Jane Russell was renowned for having a magnificent bust. Bob Hope once joked, “Culture is the ability to describe Jane Russell without moving your hands”. Her measurements were:
Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Bust: 38 inches
Waist: 24 inches
Hips: 36 inches
Bra size:38D

Brigitte Bardot’s measurements

These measurements are from 1956. There are also reports that her waist was a tiny 19 inches at one point fuelling the argument that Bardot was the original size zero girl…
Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Bust: 36 inches
Waist: 20 inches
Hips: 35 inches
Bra size:  36B

Elizabeth Taylor’s measurements

I had no idea Elizabeth Taylor was this tiny!
Height: 5 feet 2 inches
Bust: 36 inches
Waist: 21 inches
Hips: 36 inches
Bra size:  36c

Betty Grable’s measurements

Betty Grable WWII pin up for YANK Magazine

Betty Grable

At the time of her famous World War II pin-up poster Betty Grable‘s vital statistics were:
Height: 5 feet 4 inches
Bust: 36 inches
Waist: 24 inches

Hips: 35 inches

Sophia Loren’s measurements

Sophia Loren's measurements

Sophia Loren claims to have kept pretty much the same figure since the 1950s. In 1957 her figure was:
Height: 5 feet 9 inches
Bust: 38 inches
Waist: 24 inches
Hips: 38 inches
Bra size: 38c

Audrey Hepburn’s measurements

Famous for her slender gamine figure, Audrey Hepburn still had a real hourglass figure if you look at her statistics!
Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Bust: 34 inches
Waist: 20 inches
Hips: 34 inches
Bra size: 34A

Bettie Page’s measurements:

Bettie Page

Height: 5 feet 5 inches
Butst: 36 inches
Waist: 23 inches
Hips: 35 inhces
Bra Size: 36D

So, who have I missed? I’m sure I’ve forgotten to include some pretty crucial people, so let me know and I’ll add them in! :)

See how these movie stars’ measurements compare to models in the 1950s here, you’ll be quite surprised!


Image source and copyright: This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed | Source and copyright: This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice.| Source and copyright: This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.

  • http://gravatar.com/platinumlovesblue platinumlovesblue


    I really like this post! It is so interesting to see the stats of the various icons. I was trying to think of the celebrities that I often post pictures of on my blog and I thought of Rita Hayworth, Jayne Mansfield, Ava Gardner, and Jean Harlow. Great post!


    • vilvintage

      Thanks, glad you like the post! I’ll definitely do a follow-up post with some more 40s and 50s movie stars. I’ll check out your blog now… :)

      • familyfirst

        One issue though is the bra sizes given… the ‘bust’ circumference & the bra size are not the same thing. My ‘young girl’ measurement was 36″ bust circumference… the band underneath is not going to be that big. My size was measured as 28D. The 28″ being the circumference under the cup…. not a 36D…

  • http://brittskrabanek.com Britt Skrabanek

    This is super interesting. Now I can see why there was such a debate over Marilyn…she was technically two totally different sizes!

    • vilvintage

      It is, isn’t it? I had no idea her figure was so unusual until I started looking into this topic!

    • Robin stofko

      Marilyn was not thin, she had a puffy body. What I mean is, she was fleshy in all the right places.

  • Dar

    Like 99% of men, I don’t understand women’s bra sizes, but

    Audrey Hepburn doesn’t really look like an A.

    Or is she just wearing one of those pointy bras from the 50’s?

  • clara

    36D was NOT Marilyn’s bra size by any means. With a waist that small there is no way her underbust was 36,or even the 32 it would be with the outdated +4 method. So she’d probably be a 32E (wirh outdated +4 measuring) or a 28FF with the way women should be measured today. This is not as unbelievable as it sounds, as a woman in my family has an average sized chest and wears a 32DD because she can’t afford to buy the 28F she should be wearing.

    • Evie

      This. Perhaps the band size is inflated for the benefit of people (men?) who thought it represented the bust size?

    • Robin stofko

      What the heck. I’m a 32C and but of course I’m tiny, about 100 pounds.
      I have a 22.5 waist but when I have to have a baby belt. By the time I’m finished I can get that waist measurement to look like 19. It’s all tricks

  • Betty Cooper

    Times have changed! Until the 1960s (I think, debatable) the VITAL STATISTICS of actresses were published as league tables. I remember elder girl cousins and their friends in the late 1950s measuring each other and asking “am I like actress A or B?”.

    Personally I would not trust at all the publicity put out by the actresses, they were trying to show how desirable / beautiful they were – an extra inch on the bust measurement was more important than the truth. Even their remaining dresses today may not tell the truth – there was enough money around to have 2 versions of every dress made. One to wear, one to show to the press with more desirable measurements. Conspiracy theory??? You bet.

    Also, remember that these actresses could afford the best underwear available- they could have their girdles and bras specially made, just to give a better fit, an inch more here, an inch less there.

    …..and, publicity photos are what they are, photos of clothes made to be photgraphed, not worn everyday. Every since photography was invented women have laced their waists, hitched up their bras, taken deep breaths, puckered their lips, just to get the right shape for the 1 second camera exposure.

    ;;;and another thing. The human body, both male and female comes in a gigantic range of sizes and shapes. The selection process for actresses included their figure shape. Therefore the selectors could select women with the most fashionable shape of the age. Same today with models.


  • Kateri Scott

    Reported measurements vs real measurements or not, what I want to know is how did they get their waists so tiny? Are they all just rare women with tiny waists? Did they corset train? Did they do specific exercises? It seems today women are getting boxier…losing that waist to hip ratio. I have a decent waist to hip ratio, but nothing as dramatic as theirs.

    • Caitlin

      I have a pretty hour-glass figure (35-25-35) and I have never, ever corset trained or exercised for it. I honestly put my figure down to the fact that I have a pretty huge rib-cage. Like, my rib-cage sticks out a lot more than it should. You can see the same thing with Betty Page. I really reckon big bones (A big rib-cage and a big pelvis) causes the hour glass shape. I mean, it makes sense. The waist is really just the gap in between. Just a thought! =]

      • Robin stofko

        That explains why I’ve never been anything but thin, osteoporosis since age 25.

    • Robin Stofko

      They removed one rib or wore very tight belts and starved before perf,

  • Nkosizana

    Just by looking at these women and knowing my measurements I know they are all lies – I’m a US size 4, 5 feet 9 inches…they are all exaggerating their waists and their busts…it’s fiction.

    • Spicy Brown

      I really don’t know if they’re exaggerating, but i believe Marilyn’s measurements are accurate. I’m 5’3″. and my measurements are 37.5-24-38. I weigh about 123 and i’m a U.S. size 4 as well.

      • Spicy Brown

        Sorry, it got posted before I got to my point: her body looks the same as mine. But mine might be a little more compact because I’m about 2-3 inches shorter than she was and my waist is about 2 inches wider.

    • Kayla

      i kinda feel like that too. i’m a US size 4 – 6 and am a 38 – 27 – 38 and everyone’s always telling me my waist is too thin, they can see ribs, i need to eat more, etc., so either these women just have really small frames, used corseting, or…i don’t even know. xD

  • F.A.M

    Theres no such thing as Marilyn was a size 16.. She was 14 but she prefers to wear 12 for a tight fit. But as u said they sew her own clothes mostly. However in the 1950s size 14 today is a size 8 uk. Size 12 is a size 6 uk now. Back then, in the 1950s size 8 was children/teenagers size, 8 wasnt an adult size. I know because i always use vintage patterns ;) so i know their sizings and i actually have similar body frame except for my bust is smaller, im 33-23-35 and i wear 6-8 uk :) and i always adjust the waist because theres no clothes that is made for my waist size. makes sense now?;D

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  • Robin Stofko

    The waist measurements are at least two inches to low. No one can have a 20 inch waist at 5’7. A lot of exaggeration.

    • Maria

      Why not, Robin? I’m 5’11 and during my twenties I had a 22.5 waist. Now, in mid-thirties, with more lazy lifestyle and love for chocolate and fried foods, I’m at 36-26-37 and as I’m averse to dieting I won’t come back to my old measurements – but that was definitely possible.

      • Robin Stofko


        • BennieLynne McEnette

          I’m 5’6″ and have a 20″ waist. It’s a lot of upkeep but it’s definitely possible. I’ve never tried corset training, but I imagine one could get an even smaller waist.

  • Evie

    Unless bra sizing has changed a LOT, there’s something wrong with the reported sizes. The number in the size should not be the same as the bust measurement (unless she’s using the +4 method AND is an A cup by that method!)

    And yeah, those waist measurements seem more like “the smallest measurement I can cinch to with a corset” rather than the actual measurement or what it looks like in the photos. They do look like true hourglass (9″ or more difference between waist and bust/hips), but not the 12-16″ they’re reporting.

  • elseless

    As someone who’s sold vintage clothing for over 20 years, let me tell you – these were NOT far off of the standard measurements of the time. Yes, maybe the movie stars are a LITTLE on the extreme side… but that’s not unusual, even today.

    Yes, Marilyn Monroe DID wear a size 12 and 14 – that’s because the entire size scale changed in 1968. Prior to this, a size 10 garment was Bust 32, waist 22, a size 12 was Bust 34, waist 24 and a size 14 was Bust 36, waist 36. And keep in mind that the bust size is the amount of room inside the garment at the bust – nothing to do with bra or cup size. A 10″ difference between bust & waist (and hips) was the standard – and the sizing I just listed encompasses at least 80% of everything pre-1960s that I’ve found over the years. I currently wear a vintage size 16 (Bust 38, waist 28) – which is approx an 8/10 (US sizing) today, depending on what store I’m shopping at.
    But – there are important things to know about sizing of the past: people were MUCH SMALLER! The average woman was both smaller AND more petite (shorter), and generally smaller boned, as well. Even their feet were much smaller – the average shoe size in the 1940s was about a 5 or 6 – and on top of that, they were AAA at the ball and AAAA at the heel (that’s triple narrow and quadruple narrow, respectively). If you go back as far as the turn of the century (1900s), the average waist sizes were closer to 18-20″!! AND women pretty much ALL wore appropriate undergarments. A corset or girdle was STANDARD until the 60’s. During certain periods, different looks were desired, and there were undergarments made for each look. In the 20’s, they went away from the very exaggerated waist corseting (plus the puffed out “pigeon bust” & bustles (padding of the hips/butt) to exaggerate their figures even MORE!) of their parents, and instead began binding their busts down for a more androgynous look. The 30s saw a return to girdles & waistlines, but with a less severe silhouette. The late 40’s into the 50’s was the post-war prosperity era and they wanted to celebrate being women after the austerity of WWII rationing – with the popularity of Dior’s “New Look” their skirts got super full, and the busts high, and pointed, with a (once again) tightly bound waistline.
    Not long ago, I bought a wedding dress from a woman who wore it originally in 1953. I took out my tape measure and said “The waist is 26 – and you’re STILL pretty small!” She said “Small? But… in my group of friends, I was considered CHUBBY!” With her was her long time best friend & maid of honor in the wedding – she nodded her head and said “that’s true!”.
    Perspective is everything!
    I hope that helps! I’ll try to check back in case anyone has any questions :)