Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress has sustained “permanent damage” after Kim Kardashian wore it on the red carpet of the 2022 Met Gala, according to a blog post from a collector.
Scott Fortner posted to The Marilyn Monroe Collection website that the sequined dress, the most expensive Monroe dress ever sold at an auction at $4.8 million, he said, now has rips and tears down the back and crystals missing, with “some literally hanging on by threads.”
Fortner, who assists in authenticating and verifying memorabilia related to Monroe, posted photos of the dress before and after Kardashian wore it on the red carpet in early May. Photos were also shared on the Marilyn Monroe Collection’s Instagram page, which Fortner runs.
“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,” Fortner wrote, adding that Kardashian donned a replica of the JFK dress for the rest of the gala.
Fortner said a friend of his noticed the damage while visiting Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Hollywood on June 12. Ripley’s, which currently owns the dress, lent it to Kardashian after receiving a request from her a couple months before the gala, according to Fortner’s post.
Fortner called it “irresponsible” for the museum to loan out what he considers “the most famous dress in the world.” The museum acquired the historic gown in 2016, and it is usually kept in a darkened, temperature-controlled vault at 40 percent to 50 percent humidity to preserve it, according to reports.
Ripley’s vice president of licensing and publishing, Amanda Joiner, told the Daily Beast in May that the museum “had to make some decisions as far as whether or not we were willing to let Kim borrow the dress. … The biggest challenge 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.”
Joiner added in an interview with Slate that at the gala, “the dress was never with Kim alone. It was always with a Ripley’s representative.”
Some online lobbed criticism at Kardashian for wearing the dress in the first place.
“This is like walking into the Louvre and throwing paint thinner directly onto the Mona Lisa. Fashion preservation is so important,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“[Kardashian] should pay for repairs. And whoever gave the OK to let such an iconic dress be used as a prop should lose their job ASAP,” another said.
But Fortner said he never intended for outrage to be directed at Kardashian.
“I think the disappointment that I’m experiencing is Ripley has made multiple statements that they were doing everything that they could to protect and preserve the gown,” Fortner said. “I do feel that it [was] irresponsible; this is not just a dress. This is a cultural icon. It’s a political icon. It’s a Hollywood icon.”
The dress was created by French designer Jean Louis and was worn by Monroe on May 19, 1962, when she performed the now-famous rendition of “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy.