Five Things You Didn’t Know about Kim K’s Marilyn Monroe Met Gala Dress

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Kim Kardashian Marilyn Monroe Met Gala 2022
Photography by Greg Swales

Last night at the Met Gala, a platinum blonde Kim Kardashian donned the dress Marilyn Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday, Mr. President to JFK in 1962 – here are five things you might not know about the multimillion dollar gown

The first Monday in May is arguably the most important day in the fashion calendar; every year, Anna Wintour rallies the world’s biggest celebrities together for the Met Gala, a legendary fundraising benefit for the Metropolitan Museum that has the power to elevate – or destroy – a celebrity or a designer’s career. Following on from last year’s Met Gala theme of ‘American Independence’, this year’s sartorial specifications were ‘gilded glamour and white tie’, with guests embodying the grandeur of New York in the late 19th century; Andrew Bolton’s accompanying exhibition, In America: An Anthology of Fashion (part two), celebrates the unsung heroes of US design. 

Kim Kardashian, as is often the case, stole the show. Dressed in a nude, rhinestone-encrusted, floor-length dress – immortalised by Marilyn Monroe in 1962 when she wore it to sing Happy Birthday, Mr. President to John F Kennedy at a Democratic Party fundraiser – Kardashian appeared to morph into the infamous blonde bombshell in more ways than one. “What’s the most American thing you can think of? And that’s Marilyn Monroe,” Kardashian told American Vogue. With her hair pulled back tightly into a platinum blonde bun, and her new boyfriend Pete Davidson on her arm, Kardashian exuded the inherent, pin-up glamour of Monroe – with their shared hourglass figures and confident, unabashed sexuality. 

In celebration of Kardashian’s internet-breaking look, here are five things you might not know about Monroe’s multimillion-dollar gown.

1. Marilyn Monroe caused a scandal when she first wore the dress in 1962

On May 19, 1962, Monroe performed her famously sultry, breathy rendition of Happy Birthday, Mr. President for John F Kennedy at the Democratic Party fundraising gala. In front of a crowd of 15,000 people, Monroe appeared on stage in a white fur coat, which she then shed to reveal the sheer, form-fitting beige dress with a plunging back; a highly controversial outfit choice at the time (even Kennedy mocked Monroe’s rendition as “sweet” and “wholesome” thanks to its full-tilt sexuality). “Nowadays everyone wears sheer dresses, but back then that was not the case,” Kardashian told Vogue. “In a sense, it’s the original naked dress. That’s why it was so shocking.”

2. It’s the most expensive dress ever sold at auction 

Based on a sketch made by Bob Mackie for his boss at the time – the Hollywood costume designer Jean Louis – the dress is adorned with more than 6,000 hand-sewn crystals. Monroe reportedly paid Jean Louis $1,440 for the dress at the time, which was custom-made for her. Later, it sold at auction in 1999 for over a million dollars, and then for $4.8 million at Julien’s Auctions in 2016; it was later acquired by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. 

3. Kim Kardashian lost 16 pounds to fit into it 

After trying on a replica of the dress that fit perfectly, Kardashian was disappointed to find that she couldn’t squeeze into Monroe’s actual dress. “I always thought she was extremely curvy … So when it didn’t fit me I wanted to cry because it can’t be altered at all,” she told Vogue. “It was this or nothing.” After wearing a sauna suit twice a day, running on the treadmill, cutting out all sugar and carbs, and eating plenty of vegetables and protein, Kardashian reportedly lost 16 pounds (7kg) – and finally fit into the dress. Following this feat, Kardashian was joined by Davidson after the gala for a well-earned ‘pizza and donut party’ at the Ritz Carlton hotel.

4. But she only wore it for a couple of minutes 

Despite all the rigorous preparation Kardashian put into wearing the dress on “fashion’s biggest night out” – flying it over on a private plane from Orlando to her home in Calabasas, and losing 16 pounds in a matter of weeks – Kardashian only wore the dress for that short, infamous flight up the Met Gala steps. “I’m extremely respectful to the dress and what it means to American history,” Kardashian told Vogue. “I would never want to sit in it or eat in it or have any risk of any damage to it and I won’t be wearing the kind of body makeup I usually do.” 

5. This isn’t the first time Kardashian has broken the internet at the Met Gala

The Monroe dress is not the first time Kardashian has gone ‘nude’ – or close to it – at the Met Gala; in 2018, she wore a custom Thierry Mugler latex wet-look dress, dripping in crystal trim. Last year, Kardashian took the opposite track – and set off thousands of memes with her all-black, head-to-toe Balenciaga look by Demna Gvasalia. The outfit was read by many as a potent comment on the nature of celebrity and erasure of the self. “People would know instantly it was Kim because of her silhouette,” Gvasalia told Vogue at the time. “And I think that’s the whole power of her celebrity, that people wouldn’t need to see her face to know it’s her.”