Kim Kardashian hit the Met Gala red carpet wearing Marilyn Monroe’s original 1962 Jean Louis gown & it made a LOT of people mad.
Some celebrated Kardashian for her tribute, others worried about her wearing the actual dress. Some costume historians and conservationists said it created a dangerous precedent.
Fashion designer Bob Mackie, who sketched the original gown as an assistant to Jean Louis, was in the latter group. Mackie told EW,
I thought it was a big mistake
[Marilyn] was a goddess. A crazy goddess, but a goddess. She was just fabulous. Nobody photographs like that. And it was done for her. It was designed for her. Nobody else should be seen in that dress.”
Mackie now thinks historians’ concerns that wearing the gown was undoubtably damaging to its preservation and structural integrity.
Fresh out of college and just 23 at the time, Mackie remembers,
After the day the sketch was drawn, I had no idea what it was for until photos of the event appeared in the newspaper. Marilyn looked amazing and accomplished exactly what she intended to. Fox Studios would not let her wear anything too revealing in films, because of the previous nude calendar scandal. And she didn’t really care, because she had already been fired.
Her figure was at its peak, the dress was a classic shape of fashion at the time.”
This dress has history…
- Monroe paid Jean-Louis $1,440 for the custom piece (equivalent to $15,000+ today)
- It was first sold at auction in 1999 at Christie’s for over a million dollars as part of a sale of Marilyn’s estate
- It then sold again for $4.8 million at Julien’s Auctions in 2016
- The dress was later acquired by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum
- It still holds the record for being the most expensive dress sold at auction
- It’s stored in a darkened vault that’s temperature controlled at 68 degrees & 40-50% humidity
- The dress had never been worn by anyone other than Marilyn –until now
I’m a big fan of auctions and I own several JFK pieces so I know the owner of Julien’s. He was able to connect me [with Ripley’s] and that’s how the conversation started.”
The dress was transported by guards and I had to wear gloves to try it on…
I always thought she was extremely curvy. 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.”
TCM host Alicia Malone, who spoke with Mackie as part of the network’s forthcoming Follow the Thread series and can be seen on CNN’s Reframed: Marilyn Monroe, also raises concerns for the impact on the gown.
There are all the issues with the actual preservation of the dress and things like oxygen can affect a dress.
Usually, these outfits are kept very much in controlled environments and we see that with the Met. The Costume Institute is so careful about how they are handling these historic items. So, it was quite alarming that she was able to wear it. I personally wish she wore a replica instead of the real thing.”
Malone says there are striking similarities between Kardashian and Monroe…
You can draw many parallels between Marilyn Monroe and Kim Kardashian in the way that they’re both very publicity savvy.
Of course, this was very much a publicity stunt that worked for Kim Kardashian. Marilyn Monroe was someone who also loved to create sensation, as she did with that naked dress. Also, they are women who have changed the ideal beauty of the moment. Marilyn Monroe, when she came in her curves became very popular during the 1950s. And we see a lot of young women vying to look like Kim Kardashian.
For better or worse, she’s changed the ideal body shape for women.”
Marilyn Monroe is just such a mess of contradictions.
She’s not easy to place in a box and that’s why she has that appeal. I don’t know what Kim Kardashian sees in Marilyn herself or how much she knows about her history. But definitely now, Kim will be tied to that dress as Marilyn is — so it’ll be the Marilyn Monroe dress that Kim Kardashian also wore to the Met Gala.”
In wearing Monroe’s dress and going on the record about her risky crash diet to fit into it, and dying her hair blonde, Kardashian celebrated a small part of the woman Marilyn actually was.
And Kim apparently changed into ANOTHER of Marilyn’s dresses that same night. What’s next, Kim? Jackie’s pink suit from Love Field?
To top off my night after The Met, I had the honor of changing into Marilyn Monroe’s Norman Norell dress that she wore to the Golden Globes in 1962 —where she received the Henrietta Award For World Film Favorite. pic.twitter.com/NMeniQ9VaF— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) May 6, 2022