How to Marry a Millioniare (1953) - Grable, Bacall, Monroe in a Fashion Show RomCom

3 models charm their way into a high end apartment in New York City to rub elbows with and marry wealthy men in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953).

The ladies' mercenary plans are hilariously frustrated time and again. Will they end up marrying for love or money or both and quit modeling? Or will they just call the whole thing off and keep earning their own cash?

In any case, they will be perfectly dressed.
This is a movie about models, so these ladies -Schatze (Lauren Bacall), Loco (Betty Grable) and Pola (Marilyn Monroe) - have access to the latest styles on the runway and off. The movie even incorporates a fashion show into the narrative to give one of the prospective husbands an excuse to see the three ladies at work. (And to give the audience an excuse to go "Ooooo!" and "Ahhh!")

Costume designer Travilla uses the clothes to showcase each woman's personality. 

Schatze is Practical and Savvy.

The leader of this marriage caper, Schatze, runs a tight ship. No guys that you meet among the cold cuts, she demands, only men at Stork or 21 Club. Schatze can be rather snooty, but she has it all figured out.

As such, she's the first one you find wearing a suit. Securing the ritzy apartment in a grey suit with slight peplum on the jacket, Schatze is regal and all business.

Unfortunately, Schatze always puts on an act.  In her attempts to be mature when dating an older man, her outfits turn out frumpy sometimes.

Case in point, this green chiffon, mink-lined gown. Schatze's slim figure can carry the excess fabric but, somehow, this dress begs for a full-figured matron to do it justice. It simply looks dowdy on Schatze.

Schatze's style is more becoming when she's not expecting to see anyone, not trying to impress.  Her choices for relaxing at home fit her much better than anything else.

A simple oxford blue shirt and slim black slacks with flats showcase her trim limbs and make her appear less strident and approachable.

(It's around this time in the film that Schatze starts to date a guy whose company she -Gasp!- actually enjoys.)

Pola is Adventuresome and Flirty.
Pola has the least amount of screen time of the three. Her character isn't fleshed out as much as the other two, so you don't really know her. Thus, this role becomes only about her form-hugging outfits, which is kind of sad. You really want to know what's on her mind.

You do get a sense of her specific goals when she dreams. She's the only one who dreams of flying outside of the country and having an adventure. There are hints that she achieves that excitement at the end, but we don't know.
This role is simply the most famous blonde bombshell of the day wearing clothes...and does she ever!

This one-strap satin, halter aubergine number is one of the more frequently-used gowns to make the rounds on a image or doll of Marylin Monroe these days. (The white dress from The Seven-Year Itch remains the most famous, of course.)

Figure-flattering dresses with a bit of flair at the skirt for ease of movement, keep this saucy woman fully-covered and ready for a quick jaunt to Atlantic City (or wherever else life takes her), all while appearing unbelievably gorgeous.

Demure and sensuous. How does she do it?

Even her terry cloth bathrobe is tailored specifically for Pola, emphasizing her enviably-trim waist. When a guest pops in for a second,  Pola's bathrobe keeps her well-dressed and perfectly appropriate for receiving visitors.
(That terry cloth gown looks better than anything I wear on a given day. Will tailors sew one of these? It's incredibly tough to find a ready-made bathrobe that doesn't look like something the cat dragged in.)

Loco is a Bubbly and Comforting presence.
You enjoy Loco the most because she welcomes everyone into her sphere.

She's very much grounded in reality (unlike Pola) but she's not cynical (unlike Schatze). Loco just goes with the flow and is never stressed. What a barrel of fun!

Her sunny disposition shows in her clothes. 

Loco arrives in a stunning cobalt blue gown with yards of underskirts that produce a wide a-line skirt. It's as if this extrovert's dress reaches out to touch everyone she meets.

 Later at dinner, Loco resembles a Barbie doll. Very cute. However, the dress washes her out.

Come on, movie! Loco can handle more color!

That's better. She's a knockout, but it's her smile that captures you.
 Loco is friendly. She charms her way to a ski lodge in Maine, ostensibly to meet someone... anyone.

During this sequence, we see Loco in sportswear. You cannot imagine either of the other two in ski clothes having a snowball fight. This is all Loco and no one else. Love this character.

Near the end, Loco wears a demure indigo, pencil-skirt dress. Here the wardrobe reflects Loco's increased maturity.

She's a little older, a little wiser. We hope she hasn't given up her child-like enthusiasm for living to the fullest.

How to Marry a Millionaire is a great movie for a few chuckles and elegant mid-20th century fashion which reflects each characters' personality.

This is a remake of Ladies in Love (1936) with Loretta Young and Tyrone Power. Read more by clicking here.


  1. I just love this movie, Java! It's fun, the women are sassy and gorgeous, and of course the dresses! Just once in my life I would like to have been able to dress like that. My favorite of your wonderful pictures is the one with all the models and the stars...classic. Good job of spotlighting a fun movie!

    1. That fashion show was one of my favorites in childhood because it's the right length (most go on too long, interrupting the flow of the plot) and it's so well incorporated into the story.

  2. You're right – this film is a thinly-disguised fashion show, but what fun! You've made me want to see it again....for the 50th time.

    1. It's a great fashion show. I'm inspired by it for my own closet.


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