Marilyn Monroe was one of the most iconic women of last century. Now, in this century her famous curves have become the go-to example for those arguing in favour of larger sizes in the ongoing debate over body image and the unrealistic expectations that much of the media places on women.

The typical argument states that Marilyn was anywhere from a size 12 to a 16. Which is true but the problem lies in comparing 1950′s sizes to today’s sizing.

In the US in the 1980′s the Department of Commerce did away with uniform sizing and allowed manufacturers more variance to cater for people’s egos. Likewise around the world, clothing sizes tend to vary from brand to brand and country to country. Overall the effect has been that a size 16-18 in the US back in the 1950′s would be anywhere between a 4-8 today.

In other words, by today’s standards Marilyn Monroe would have been about a size 4 in US sizing or an 8 in British sizing. What’s more, that was largely because of her very shapely figure. If you took her waist measurement in isolation it would be more reflective of someone who is about a size 2.

Here are her measurements according to her dressmaker:

Height: 5 feet, 5½ inches
Weight: 118-140 pounds
Bust: 35-37 inches
Waist: 22-23 inches
Hips: 35-36 inches
Bra size: 36D

Go grab a tape measure and see what a 22- 23 inch waist actually looks like. It’s tiny.

Did her figure look great on film and in photos? For sure. Does she look far better in pictures than many of the stick figures gracing the pages of magazines today? Definitely. But the reality is that Marilyn was extremely petite in real life and saying that she was a size 16 – despite the good intentions of the argument – is simply not true when a realistic comparison is made.


The Easy Way To Learn Something New Each Day

Well, twice a week actually but who's counting? Get our free newsletter for interesting articles, quizzes, and facts delivered to your inbox.

Thanks! We've sent you a confirmation email. You'll need to click the link to complete your subscription.