Kim Kardashian paid homage to one of the most iconic moments in American pop culture history at the 2022 Met Gala on Monday when she donned the same dress Marilyn Monroe famously wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. The dress, a flesh-colored, figure-hugging column gown inspired by a Bob Mackie sketch for costume designer Jean-Louis, is covered in rhinestones and caused a sensation when Monroe revealed it, seemingly nude, after shedding her white fur to sing a sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday” to JFK at Madison Square Garden in front of an audience of nearly 15,000.
For Kardashian, this iconic glittering look was perfect for fashion’s biggest night, especially since the gala’s theme this year was Gilded Glamour. “What’s the most American thing you can think of? And that’s Marilyn Monroe,” Kardashian said in an interview about the dress with Vogue. “For me, the most Marilyn Monroe moment is when she sang ‘Happy Birthday,’ to JFK, it was that look.”
The night’s theme was inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2022 Costume Institute exhibit, In America: An Anthology of Fashion. Procuring Monroe’s original dress was no easy feat, however. To do it, Kardashian reached out to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Orlando, who bought the dress in 2016 in a $4.8 million sale that still holds the record for being the most expensive dress ever sold at auction.
Since the dress is such a precious part of history, plenty of precaution was taken as well. As the dress traveled, it was handled by guards and gloves. It couldn’t be altered, so Kardashian said she lost 16 pounds to fit into it. And on the night of the gala, she changed into the dress at the Met to minimize chances of harm, only wearing the real dress for the customary walk up the stairs of the museum, before changing into a replica of the gown once she reached the event.
Kardashian’s selection of Monroe’s dress for the night was not only an homage, but a surprisingly apropos move, a moment of real recognize real. Monroe was famously one of the most photographed women in the world during her heyday, while the brand of celebrity that Kardashian has pioneered relies on the omnipresence of her image. The dress’s night out at the Met Gala was only fitting.
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