Mm-Mania Hits the Stores, and a New Generation Discovers Wearing Marilyn's Dress Is a Breeze

updated 02/21/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/21/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

It was 2 a.m., but a crowd of nearly 1,000 fans whistled and cheered as America's No. 1 sex symbol stepped onto the Lexington Avenue subway grate in her heels and off-white crepe dress. An electric blower under the grill was turned on, her skirt flew up, and the cameras rolled. Nearly 30 years after the filming of that memorable moment in The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn Monroe fever has broken out again. This seems all the more peculiar since many of Monroe's current fans were not born when the star died from an overdose of barbiturates in 1962.

In an otherwise bleak sales year, department stores like Saks and Macy's have suddenly discovered a new market for fashions popularized by Monroe in the '50s. Bloomingdale's in New York City has launched a "Remembering Marilyn" campaign, jamming store windows and shelves with pedal pushers, circle skirts and vinyl purses. But the fastest-selling item is that dress newly done up in cotton in a choice of four colors (white, black, blue or pink) at prices ranging from $40 to $72. And as eager young Monroe fans tugged and wiggled into it, PEOPLE was there to shoot them.

Meanwhile, out in Hollywood, the designer Bill Travilla, who dressed Marilyn for The Seven Year Itch, is also reintroducing the fabled frock, along with other Monroe designs. "It's very demanding to wear," says Travilla of his most famous creation (Debbie Reynolds has the original, now beige with age, in her collection of Hollywood memorabilia). "Not too many women have the figure for it." No kidding.

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