An illustration of Kim Kardashian wearing Marilyn Monroe's dress at the Met Gala.

Why Kim Kardashian Wearing Marilyn Monroe’s Dress Is a Big Deal

50 years after Monroe donned the historic garment, the dress was brought out for the famous reality TV star to wear at the Met Gala — leaving many spectators unhappy.
May 17, 2022
6 mins read

The Met Gala is known for its iconic themes and celebrity outfits, and each year fans wait to see what gorgeous designers will make an appearance. For 2022’s theme of the Gilded Age, many icons came dressed to impress, while others shocked viewers — and not in a good way. On May 2, Kim Kardashian stunned everyone with a dress that’s over 50 years old: Marilyn Monroe’s. Many fans were amazed at Kardashian’s beauty as she walked up the stairs in the sheer gown. However, many people were also outraged by the use of a historical piece for a glorified fashion show. As the pictures surfaced, so did the arguments over whether this public display was insensitive or an act of remembrance.

On May 19, 1962, Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy at a fundraiser for JFK and the Democratic National Committee held at Madison Square Garden. She took the stage in her sheer, form-fitting dress embroidered with over 2,500 rhinestones, and the audience roared over the iconic performance and even more iconic $1,440 dress. The dress was made by Jean Louis and would cost around $13,700 if made today. The dress was made especially for Monroe, and historian Scott Fortner stated that Monroe went to Louis to request a dress after hearing she would be performing for the president’s birthday. She said, “I want you to design a truly historical dress, a dazzling dress that’s one of a kind.“ She asked that it be a dress that “only Marilyn Monroe could wear.” The dress was so form-fitting that Monroe had to be sewn into it the night of her performance. As the dress was made personally for Monroe, fans considered Kardashian’s use of the dress as an act of tampering with a historical piece of fashion.

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“Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” seemed to upset some fans by allowing Kardashian to wear the iconic dress they had displayed in their museum. Ripley’s had only acquired the dress recently in 2016 from Julian’s Auction for $4.81 million. However, they made the tough decision to allow the dress to have one last night of freedom at the Met Gala: “John Corcoran, Ripley’s director of exhibits and archives, said it was a tough decision to let the vintage treasure out for a big night out, but that Kardashian was the perfect person for the job.” Kardashian reportedly showed the utmost respect for the dress and the opportunity she was given to wear it. After its return, Ripley’s announced: “The dress has been returned to the Ripley’s Vault, a dark, temperature (68 degrees) and humidity (40 to 50 percent) controlled room, where it remains in its case, mounted on a form covered in acid-free cotton muslin.”

Kardashian explained the difficult process of getting into the outfit to wear on the red carpet for merely five minutes before walking up the stairs to change into a replica. For a dress stored in a vault at an optimum 68 degrees and 40-50% humidity, Kardashian had intensive rules she needed to follow to wear it. When first putting on the dress, she had to wear gloves and was told that the dress could not be altered. “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” stated on Instagram: “Great care was taken to preserve this piece of pop culture history. With input from garment conservationists, appraisers and archivists, the garment’s condition was top priority.” She was assisted by assistants in white gloves at the gala. Despite the intense care Kardashian and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” took to preserve the dress, fans were still upset over the iconic piece being used for what essentially appeared to be an advertisement for the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” museum in Florida. They also gave Kardashian a supposed lock of Monroe’s hair as a gift to which she replied that she would be sleeping with it every night, followed by an apology to her boyfriend, Pete Davidson.

Fans, however, were not just upset over the gown being worn; they were also upset over the fitting for it. Kardashian originally did not fit into Monroe’s dress. She described her first time wearing it after it was transported by guards: “I imagined I might be smaller in some places where she was bigger and bigger in places where she was smaller. So, when it didn’t fit me, I wanted to cry because it can’t be altered at all.” Some fans were upset over this statement, believing she could have stretched out the iconic dress and ruined it; others were upset over what Kardashian did next. Since she was too big for the dress, there was only one option left: to lose weight and fast. Kardashian took to a crazy diet and exercise routine to lose 16 pounds in just three weeks. “I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein.” Many people criticized Kardashian for glorifying this type of dieting to fit into clothing. For someone seen as a role model, it’s hard for fans to look up to a woman who starved herself just to fit into a dress for under five minutes.

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Although the dress was kept in pristine condition, fans argue that wearing Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” garment was disrespectful to the deceased actress. Her wish was to create a dress so iconic that she would be the only one to wear it. Despite the fact it has been over 50 years since Monroe donned the dress, her wish to keep the garb for herself was changed for publicity’s sake. It’s safe to say that no other celebrity will get the chance of a lifetime as Kim Kardashian did.

Alyssa Griffin, Molloy College

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Alyssa Griffin

Molloy College
English (Writing)

Alyssa Griffin is a senior at Molloy College majoring in English with a concentration in writing. She has a passion for expressing creativity through writing and hopes to pursue a career in writing or editing. They love expressing herself through clothing and especially funky earrings.

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