Is this the most undervalued area in movie collectibles?

It's been a hot topic of debate here in the office this week.

If Marilyn Monroe's "Subway Dress" from The Seven Year Itch can make $5.6m (as it did in 2011), how can Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain costume from the film's most famous scene be given a low estimate of just $20,000?

Kelly's outfit is coming up for auction at Heritage Auctions' December 6 sale and has already attracted lots of media attention.

Which scene is more famous?

Both costumes are from two of the most celebrated scenes in movie history (see the videos below if you need a reminder). In fact, I would suggest that the Singin' in the Rain scene is the more famous of the two.  


But that is the only area in which Kelly's outfit has the advantage.

Monroe still has the edge

Who is the more famous name today? Monroe, undoubtedly.

Which outfit is the more visually iconic? If you know your movies, you'll instantly recognise The Seven Year Itch dress - no need for an explanation. I don't think that's the case with Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain costume.


There's also the aspect of sex appeal. The majority of major collectors are men. And the allure of one of cinema's most enduring sex symbols is hard to ignore!

Still undervalued

So that's why Kelly's costume won't make $5.6m, yet at $20,000 I still feel it is seriously undervalued.

Rarity is a big factor behind my reasoning. In a recent interview with film expert Sir Christopher Frayling, he told us male costumes are scarce.

"How do these things survive? Half of these things disappeared, either because the studios junked them, or they went into costume houses which remade them," explained Sir Christopher.

"I went to a costume house in Hollywood called Western Costume, which has been around since the 20s. It's absolutely full of reworked costumes, where they have been remade over and over again for countless westerns. In there there may well have been all the costumes for John Ford movies but they're unrecognisable."

The fact that Kelly's outfit still exists is a miracle.

Auction precedents also suggest it should make a considerable sum.

The Dude's dressing gown from The Big Lebowski sold for $18,500 earlier this year. A Christopher Reeve film-worn Superman suit made $35,200 in April. Kelly's costume is in a different league of importance.

Bids on the suit stand at $15,000 at the time of writing. I'm anticipating six figures when the gavel falls.

Do you agree?

Thanks for reading. Until next week,


P.S A further test of the male movie costume market is Profiles in History's Hollywood Auction on December 21, which will feature Orson Welles' Citizen Kane suit and Dick Van Dyke's jacket from the "Jolly Holiday" scene in Mary Poppins.

P.P. S Be sure to check out the many film memorabilia lots in our sister company PFC Auctions' current sale - including the only known love letter from Elizabeth Taylor to Richard Burton.

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