William (Billy) Travilla was born on Catalina Island, California, USA, on 22 March 1920.
He was an American costume designer in films. He is perhaps best-known for dressing Marilyn Monroe. By 1952 he was close friends with Marilyn Monroe and created the costumes for Don't Bother to Knock and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. As William Travilla was her favorite designer, he went on to design the costumes for several more of her films. Later in 1953, Travilla created one of the most iconic costumes . It was a snow white cocktail dress Marilyn wore in the film "The Seven Year Itch". She wore it as she stands on a New York subway ventilation grate and the dress raises up around her as a train passes below ground. This photographs of this scene have become synonymous with Monroe herself. She once wrote to Travilla "Billy Dear, please dress me forever. I love you, Marilyn."
Following Marilyn’s death, Travilla vowed to protect his good friends’ memory. While many pieces were sold by the Studio, Travilla placed his items and designs under lock and key in his private quarters. Hence, the collection became known as THE LOST COLLECTION.
Travilla first came to Hollywood in 1941. After work on several B movies, he earned an Oscar in 1949 for the Errol Flynn swashbuckler Adventures of Don Juan.
He joined Columbia in 1942 and left in 1943, then three years with Warner Brothers from 1946 to 1949. He was under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox from 1949 to 1956.
He went on to design River of No Return, Broken Lance (1954), The Rains of Ranchipur (1955), Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955), The Tall Men (1955), Bus Stop (1956), The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957) and Valley of the Dolls in 1967.
Travilla's was also nominated for the Academy Award for How to Marry a Millionaire in 1953, There's No Business Like Show Business in 1954 and The Stripper in 1963.
During the 1950s William started designing his clothing lines setting up his salon in Los Angeles. He became well-known for what was called "California" fashion. This meant comfortable elegant clothes without the restricting and rigid construction of Paris haute couture garments. Even as he developed his high fashion business, he continued to design for both film and the small screen.
In the late 1970s, Travilla began working mainly in television. One of his most widely seen latter day projects was the TV mini-series The Thorn Birds in 1983. Travilla was nominated for Emmy awards seven times for his work on television. In 1980, he won the Emmy for "Outstanding Costume Design for a Limited Series or a Special" for "The Scarlett O'Hara War", and in 1985 he won the "Outstanding Costume Design for a Series" Emmy for his work on the television show Dallas, for creating extravagant dresses for the rich bitchy characters.
He was an avid sportsman, and enjoyed life up to the end. Travilla passed away in 1990 leaving his lifetime works to Bill Sarris. It is now the wish of Bill Sarris, partner of Bill Travilla, owner of Travilla, Inc., and friend of Ms. Monroe that these iconic and priceless items of fashion and art history be displayed in a manner respectful to the memory of Bill Travilla and Marilyn Monroe. Bill Sarris also hopes to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer charities too, a disease he now sadly suffers from, via the series of Travilla exhibitions.
An exhibition of the personal collection of William Travilla began a world tour in 2008. The show began in England, then came to Los Angeles and in 2009 to Palm Springs, California.
Throughout his career he dressed some of the most beautiful women of their time, to name a few, Judy Garland, Sharon Tate, Betty Grable, Greta Garbo, Diahann Carroll Dionne Warwick, , Faye Dunaway, Jane Russell, Joanne Woodward, Barbara Stanwyck and Whitney Houston.