Setting the record straight:
Since breaking the news about the current state of Marilyn’s Happy Birthday, Mr. President dress following Ripley’s allowing it to be worn by Kim K. to the 2022 Met Gala, I’m seeing a number of inaccuracies online, which I’d like to clear up.
First, I blame Ripley’s, as they allowed the dress to be worn. I feel that any and every celebrity offered a chance to wear this garment very likely would jump at the opportunity. It’s the most famous dress in the world, worn by one of the most famous women in the world. There’s a reason someone would want to wear it. Kim K. just happened to be the one who got to do it.
Ripley’s had an obligation to protect and preserve this historic garment, and they have not done that. It’s now permanently damaged, and likely would have been damaged regardless of who wore it. Based on what I’ve seen, Ripley’s doesn’t appear to care about preservation or even accuracy. In fact, on their website they are displaying a box of candy with a modern-day barcode and an expiration date of October 2010, saying it was part of Marilyn’s traveling makeup case, which they purchased in 1999 at Christie’s.
View the Ripley’s page here.
Next, I do not now nor have I ever owned the JFK dress. If I did, we wouldn’t be having these conversations. After Marilyn’s death, it was first owned by Lee Strasberg as part of Marilyn’s estate, which she left to him in her will. In 1999, his widow, Anna Strasberg, put the dress up for auction at Christie’s, where it sold for more than $1.2 million, and it was purchased by financial investor Martin Zweig. He passed away in February 2013. His family auctioned the gown in 2016 at Julien’s Auctions, where it was purchased by Ripley’s for $4.8 million.
Finally, I am not the designer of the dress (an impossibility considering Marilyn died before I was born). Academy Award winning designer Jean Louis designed it, and Bob Mackie is the individual who sketched the gown.
I’ll borrow a phrase from Marilyn Monroe herself: “Please quote me right,” as stated to author Maurice Zolotow.
If you’re like me you’ve been wondering if Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday Mr. President Dress,” worn by Kim Kardashian to the 2022 Met Gala on May 2 suffered any damage. For those unaware, this is the most expensive dress ever sold at auction at $4.8 million. See Julien’s Auctions here.
The current owner of the dress (Ripley’s Believe it or Not!) loaned it to Kardashian to wear on the red carpet. She changed into the gown onsite at The Met in New York, wore it as she ascended the red carpet stairs, and then took it off before she proceeded to the actual event. She donned a replica of the JFK dress for the gala itself.
Yesterday a good friend of mine, ChadMichael Morrisette, visited Ripley’s in Hollywood just to see the dress on his own birthday. He shared the below photo of the dress with me, and now we know. The dress has sustained permanent damage.
The photo below shows before (left) and after (right) photos of the gown. When he saw the back of the gown he immediately noticed rips and tears, crystals missing, and some literally hanging on by threads.
Below are before and after closeups of the left side of the back of the gown.
Ripley’s made multiple statements following the Met Gala on May 2, claiming the protection of the dress and its integrity was a top priority.
“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. Believe It or Not! no alterations were to be made to the dress and Kim even changed into a replica after the red carpet!”
Source: Ripley’s Press Release, May 2
And to be fair, Ripley’s said it did try to protect the dress: “We basically had many conversations with Kim and her team and put a lot of requirements in place with security and with the handling of the dress,” Amanda Joiner, a vice president of licensing and publishing at Ripley’s, said to the Daily Beast. “The dress was never with Kim alone. It was always with a Ripley’s representative. We always ensured that at any time we felt that the dress was in danger of ripping or we felt uncomfortable about anything, we always had the ability to be able to say we not were going to continue with this.”
Source: Slate.com, May 5
After receiving Kardashian’s request to wear the dress a couple of months ago, “we had to make some decisions as far as whether or not we were willing to let Kim borrow the dress,” Joiner said. “We did two different fittings with her. The first one was in L.A. in April and then the second one later in April to see whether or not the dress would fit. The biggest challenge that we had is that we really wanted to make sure that we kept the integrity of the dress and the preservation, because it’s 60 years old, and we feel that it’s such an iconic piece of fashion, both from a historical perspective, but also from a pop culture perspective.”
Source: The Daily Beast Interview with Amanda Joiner, Vice President of Licensing and Publishing at Ripley Entertainment, May 3
Hey Ripley’s! You paid $4.8 million for an iconic piece of film, political and American cultural history. Everybody wants to know. Was it worth it?