New photos released to Instagram by Marilyn Monroe historian Scott Fortner show damage to the late actress’s 60-year-old gown, which Kim Kardashian recently wore on the Met Gala red carpet. And many collectors and enthusiasts have spoken out against the “offensive” move by the SKIMS magnate and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which rented out the gown.
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Monroe’s crystal-studded gown, which she memorably wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to then-President John F. Kennedy in 1962, was first seen by fellow collector ChadMichael Morrisette when he was an adolescent kid and it first went up for sale in 1999, according to Yahoo Life. “At the age of 19, I’m in Los Angeles, and her belongings are on exhibit at Christie’s, including the dress. And I go view the outfit, and I have a photograph of myself in front of it “he declares “I was overjoyed to visit it in person and to see all of her belongings before they were auctioned off at Christie’s.”
Years later, while working in the exhibition industry, Morrisette was reunited with the garment in 2016, and found himself in charge of putting it on display for its second sale at Julien’s.
“I get to see it. I could hold it. I get to touch it,” he recalls. “I got to actually handle that garment and put it on display for sale to Ripley’s f***ing Believe It or Not, believe it or not, which is where we’re now just so disgusted by everything.”
Ripley’s Believe It or Not did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo Life.
Monroe’s dress was reportedly sold for $4.8 million at that auction to a business known for documenting odd historical events, making it the most expensive dress ever. Morrisette replies, “That’s how reverend this is.”
However, historians appeared to agree that the gown was in the wrong hands when rumours circulated that it was coming out of exhibit for Kardashian’s red carpet appearance.
“I think my initial reaction was just shock,” Fortner says. “You know, this is not just a dress. This is an iconic costume, it’s an iconic gown. Not only is it the most expensive gown that’s ever sold at auction, it’s really kind of a representation of a period in time. I mean, it’s a fashion icon. It’s a celebrity icon. It’s a political icon. It’s cross cultural, you know, it’s part of American history. So it was really shocking to see that Ripley’s would allow anyone to wear the dress.”
Morrisette continues: “I work at the Academy Museum, and they told me that Ripley’s had contacted their head of textiles conservation, and they had asked the Academy Museum, “Should we do this?” ‘No,’ they said. They went ahead and did it anyway. This is something you’d never see in the Smithsonian.”
The behind-the-scenes information inundated news feeds when Kardashian walked the red carpet in Monroe’s gown on May 2.
“I had this brilliant notion to try it on, but they arrived with armed guards and gloves. I tried it on and it was too big for me “That night, Kardashian unveiled it during a red carpet interview. “Today, I had to lose 16 pounds in order to suit this.”
She went on to say, “I’m really respectful of the outfit and what it represents in American history. I’d never want to sit in it, dine in it, or risk damaging it in any way, and I won’t be applying the kind of body cosmetics I normally do. Everything had to be precisely timed, and I had to become used to walking up the stairwell.”
“It was disturbing to watch how this gown was being treated and aggressively, I mean, it appeared to be forcibly forced up around her,” Fortner adds. “As part of those fittings, it wasn’t looked after.”
Morrisette continues, “I had a feeling there would be visible damage.”
He confirmed it on June 12 when he walked into Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Orlando, Florida for the third time in his life to see the dress in person.
“It crushed my heart to see the destroyed material,” he says. “I was in tears as I left.”
Morrisette adds that he was escorted inside the room where Monroe’s clothing was once again on display by a manager.
When he first saw it, he said, “Oh, my God, this is what she did.” He was referring to Kardashian. “It’s something I’ve seen before. So I’m aware of the distinction. It’s a dramatic scene. It’s a significant change. It’s literally stretched out to the point of being unusable. It won’t even fit the same dress form shape anymore. It’s been permanently changed.”
Morrisette describes the degree of the damage, pointing out that crystal sequins are missing and the original silk soufflé fabric is ripped. A number of historians and collectors reacted similarly to the damages after sending photographs of the outfit to Fortner to be shared on the Marilyn Monroe Collection Instagram page.
THIS IS WHY HISTORIANS SAID NOT TO WEAR IT! it was literally made to fit Marilyn to exact measurements — and it's a part of cultural history. there's nothing like it and won't ever be. even the type of fabric doesn't exist anymore https://t.co/s03Wi4NWPy
— HintofPallas 👁️ (@HintofPallas) June 13, 2022
“These are the first images of the state of the clothing that the world has seen,” Fortner explains. “This is more significant than the fact that Ripley’s has loaned the outfit to be worn.”
Much of the attention of the debate has remained on Kardashian, who has been blamed for downplaying the gown’s historical significance in her relentless attempt to create a memorable red carpet moment. Yahoo Life has reached out to her representative for comment and will post any response here if she responds; she has not publicly addressed the subject.