Everyone's seen photos of Marilyn Monroe standing on a subway grate in a free-flowing white dress. The shot filmed for Monroe's 1955 release The Seven Year Itch, was totally intentional—but the filmmakers didn't imagine it would cause such a stir.
It didn't take a genius to figure out that filming Monroe in public might generate some buzz for The Seven Year Itch, so they shot on a real New York street, invited 100 photographers, and let a crowd of over 2000 watch the action. Photographer George Zimbel was there and said the crowd went "'50s wild" (a more polite kind of enthusiasm than we see from crowds today) every time Monroe's dress flew up. The crowd loved Marilyn and she easily stole the picture, but one man was definitely not a fan of the stunt.
Baseball star Joe DiMaggio, Monroe's husband at the time, unexpectedly arrived at the raucous set. After watching his wife ogled and hollered at, he decided to leave with his friend and columnist Walter Winchell. Zimbel recounted the moment, recalling, "They were very publicly leaving and everything stopped for their exit…There was a changed mood on the set and everyone could feel it." According to the New York Times, Monroe and DiMaggio got in a terrible fight after filming, and the next day on set, Monroe needed makeup to cover the bruises. Though the revealing dress wasn't the only problem in the marriage, it did seem to be the straw that broke the camel's back, as Monroe filed for divorce three weeks after the infamous scene.
As for the dress itself, costume designer William Travilla didn't imagine it would become his most memorable piece. He took care to give Monroe an outfit that would convey her sweet, innocent nature, while still letting her sexiness shine through. The dress was hand pleated with metal boning and made in an ivory crepe. Weirdly, ivory would look more white than white on film, so every Marilyn Monroe impersonator has been getting it wrong for years. Despite his detailed work, Travilla always called it "that silly little dress" and didn't seem to appreciate all the fuss.