‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Dawn Wells Designed the Iconic Short Shorts Mary Ann Wore

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

Dawn Wells would become one of America’s sweethearts on “Gilligan’s Island.” She has a hand in creating a trademark piece of clothing.

Wells, who died on Dec. 30, 2020, from COVID-19 complications, created those short shorts Mary Ann would wear around the other castaways. In a 2016 interview with Florida Today, she talks about the famed piece of clothing.

“I did! I still have them,” Wells, who played on “Gilligan’s Island” for its entire three-season run on CBS, says. “They are in a drawer at my house. I saw them the other day and wondered how I ever fit in them, they were so tiny.”

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Says She Picked Out Denim For Her Clothing

Wells says it happens to be the first time short-shorts were appearing on television.

“I picked out the denim and everything,” she says. “They knew they wanted the character to wear shorts, so I cut them to make my torso look longer and on the sides to make my legs look longer. We weren’t allowed to show my navel back then, so I had to trim them in a way that covered me up.”

Wells says those “good old family values” would help keep “Gilligan’s Island” still popular in reruns.

“I have said before it would be so hard to raise a family today,” she says in the 2016 interview. “The values are just so different. Now you have the Internet, and it’s hard to know what your kids are looking at. There are half-naked ladies on bus ads, and there is so much to monitor for parents these days.”

Classic TV Show Almost Managed To Bump ‘Gunsmoke’ Off CBS

“Gilligan’s Island” was on network television between 1964-67 and almost lasted longer than three seasons. As the story goes, the show, which was created by Sherwood Schwartz, did quite well in the ratings. “Gunsmoke,” a longtime CBS western standard, was possibly going to get canceled.

Well, a wife of a CBS executive along with numerous letter-writing fans would get their two cents’ worth in on keeping “Gunsmoke” on the air. It worked and, sadly, “Gilligan’s Island” would go off into cancellation land. Yet the show’s popularity picked up when it gets syndicated around the United States and the world.

Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Tina Louise, Natalie Schafer, Russell Johnson, and Wells all would become household names. They also found their careers, for the most part, typecast to these roles.

The show’s premise and humor still keeps fans coming back generation after generation to see the seven stranded castaways. They deal with everything from island headhunters to doing their best to get off the island. But they remained on there throughout the show’s run on CBS. It takes a network TV movie years later to rescue them off “Gilligan’s Island.”