Often fashion icons reach such a pinnacle of success, such heights of importance, that their name embodies a certain mystique or outfit that becomes synonymous with their vision of dress. Such an icon is William Travilla, otherwise known to fans and posterity simple as Travilla.
A man with inauspicious beginnings, William Travilla grew up in Los Angeles during the Golden Age of cinema, being born in 1920. Being raised in such a climate undoubtedly influenced the young man to the point that he entered the freshly painted world of Hollywood at the ripe age of twenty-two.
His early work was done on uninspired B-list films that flew under the radar. Regardless of his rough start, William Travilla eventually worked his way up to stardom by designing the costumes for the Errol Flynn classic, Adventures of Don Juan. This swashbuckling romp earned Travilla an Oscar for his outstanding attention to detail and flourish.
With the highest accolade Hollywood could present to him handed over at the shockingly young age of twenty-nine, Travilla continued forward with his career by designing costumes for classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Viva Zapata.
However, the height of Travilla’s career, already an illustrious one, had yet to be achieved until he met starlet Marilyn Monroe. The two struck up a friendship in 1952 after he designed Monroe’s costumes for Don’t Bother to Knock and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Travilla began to design outfits for the up and comer that would resonate with popular culture for decades.
Perhaps the greatest example of this is the iconic Marilyn Monroe outfit from The Seven Year Itch. This gorgeous item featured Monroe at her most audacious. Wearing a simple white cocktail dress, Monroe astounded audience, and her co-star, by standing above a subway grate and allowing the rushing air to lift up her dress. Such an image is ingrained in popular culture and perceptions of Monroe usually pivot on that one utterly unforgettable scene.
Moving forward, Travilla continued to work, designing costumes for a number of films and transitioning into television, winning accolades for his work on the television special The Scarlett O’Hara War” and the television show Dallas.
Although Travilla passed in 1990, he lived a wondrous life filled with moments that have earned him a spot as one of the greatest costume designers of all time.