Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala appearance in Marilyn Monroe’s iconic Madison Square Garden dress, which she wore to sing Happy Birthday to John F. Kennedy, has sparked controversy. The actress wore the garment in July 1962, destroyed by addiction and with her career on the brink, weeks before she was found dead in her home. And Kardashian acknowledged that she had to lose seven kilos in three weeks to slip into the piece for the few minutes it took her to walk down the red carpet. Later, the businesswoman switched the original model out for an exact replica, since, as she herself admitted in an interview for Vogue magazine, she didn’t dare to “sit in it or eat in it or have any risk of any damage to it.”
But it seems that this short period of time was enough to spoil the historic dress, as evidenced by images shared by collector Scott Fortner. The photographs show that the fabric around the rear zipper has been stretched to breaking, and some of the crystals that adorn the design are missing.
Fortner owns a generous collection of objects that belonged to Marilyn Monroe. He is in charge of the Instagram account @marilynmonroecollection, where he posted the images of the damage. In them, he cites Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the museum that acquired the garment in 2016 and has guarded it ever since, and which arranged for the millionaire influencer to take it.
As the institution’s vice president, Amanda Joiner, told The Daily Beast in early May, they 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.” In fact, she says that a representative of the museum was always present, in case they felt at any time that the dress was at risk of being damaged. “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.” The museum has not commented on the situation since the reports of the damage came to light.
Collector Scott Fortner now wonders if it was all worth it. Monroe paid designer Jean-Louis $1,440—about €1,380 today—to make the custom dress, which was designed by Bob Mackie. In 1999, it sold for more than a million dollars at Christie’s, as part of an auction of various personal belongings of the actress. Later, in 2016, it was auctioned again for $4.8 million at Julien’s Auctions, at which time it was acquired by the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, which is now legally responsible for the damage suffered by the historic piece by lending it to Kim Kardashian for a few minutes.