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We have Penny Marshall to thank for the popularity of the monogram

The Laverne & Shirley actress and director of hits like A League of Their Own has died at age 75.

Penny Marshall, with Cindy Williams, as Laverne DeFazio.
Penny Marshall, with Cindy Williams, played monogram-lover Laverne DeFazio in the sitcom Laverne & Shirley.
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Penny Marshall fans will forever associate her with the monogrammed clothes she wore on the 1970s sitcom Laverne & Shirley. Marshall, who died Monday at age 75 from complications of diabetes, was an actress, filmmaker, and pioneer for women in Hollywood. She directed hits like Big and A League of Their Own when few women had the opportunity to helm films, but it was her breakthrough role of Laverne DeFazio that introduced her to the masses. On the sitcom, a spinoff of Happy Days set in 1950s Milwaukee, Marshall made the monogram her signature style staple.

Although monograms date back to antiquity, they enjoyed enormous popularity in the US in the 1950s and ’60s. By wearing monogrammed shirts and sweaters as Laverne more than 20 years after they peaked, Marshall helped to keep this trend alive, as it was her idea for her character to wear a monogrammed L on all of her clothing.

Penny Marshall as Laverne DeFazio in sitcom Laverne & Shirley.
Penny Marshall wearing a monogrammed shirt as sitcom character Laverne DeFazio.
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

In 2011, Marshall explained to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis why her character wore a cursive L. The script, she said, had her repeating her name and profession, a bottle capper in a brewery, on every other page. Marshall thought the constant references would grow boring.

“I was looking for a short cut as I sifted through the vintage clothing that the wardrobe department had collected from the 1950s,” she recalled. “I came across a sweater with an initial sewn in the upper left corner. It suddenly dawned on me how I could save time. Make the initial an ‘L,’ and then everyone would remember that my name is Laverne. The wardrobe department took my suggestion and quickly changed the letter to an ‘L’ and the rest is history.”

As news of her death spreads, fans are remembering Marshall for her contributions to film and television as well as for Laverne’s style. Jessica Morgan of the fashion and pop culture website Go Fug Yourself credited Marshall for her love of monograms.

In fact, 35 years after Laverne & Shirley went off the air, monograms are now having a huge moment. The State of Fashion 2018 report by the Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company highlighted “personalization” as one of this year’s major fashion themes. The clothing and accessories brand Mansur Gavriel recently introduced its monogramming service and several retailers, including Land’s End and JCPenney, offer it as well. Some brands, such as Tory Burch, have even name-checked Marshall as a monogram trendsetter.

So just as fans of Fred Rogers will always remember his trademark cardigans, Marshall will always be linked to her signature cursive L.

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