The secrets of Marilyn Monroe’s dress that Kim Kardashian wore to Met Gala 2022

Sixty years after Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” for John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, her iconic nude dress has been put back in the limelight.

Kim Kardashian, 41, took the dress for a spin at last night’s Met Gala, making her the only person besides Marilyn to ever wear the dress. 

The skin-tight mesh dress, which has more than 6,000 hand-sewn crystals, was part of the Monroe estate until Anna Strasberg enlisted Christie’s to sell it in 1999, according to the Daily Mail.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Florida bought the dress at a Julien’s Auctions event in 2016 for $4.8 million.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Florida bought the dress at a Julien’s Auctions event in 2016 for $4.8 million. After taxes and fees, the dress was valued at over $5 million, making it the “world’s most expensive dress” ever sold at auction, Ripley’s told The Post.

The dazzling gown is now valued at over $10 million.

Kim Kardashian attends the 2022 Met Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2022, in New York City.
Gotham/Getty Images

When Monroe asked costume designer Jean Louis to make a dress for her, she told him, “I want you to design a truly historical dress, a dazzling dress that’s one-of-a-kind, a dress that only Marilyn Monroe could wear,” according to Ripley’s.

Bob Mackie drew the original sketch as his first job out of college. 

The unlined gown made it impossible for Monroe to wear undergarments. The nude color perfectly matched her skin tone, with the crystals strategically placed to cover her up. 

Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden for his 45th birthday.
Bettmann Archive

It’s been reported that the dress was so tight that Monroe was sewn into the dress seconds before her curtain call. Kim Kardashian admitted she went on a diet to lose 16 pounds in three weeks in order to fit into the dress for the Met Gala.

The famed dress has stayed preserved at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! until the reality star showed up at their headquarters in Orlando, Florida in late April.

Kardashian, a Monroe fan herself, was set on wearing the classic dress.

“The idea really came to me after the gala in September last year. I thought to myself, what would I have done for the American theme if it had not been the Balenciaga look? What’s the most American thing you can think of? And that’s Marilyn Monroe,” Kardashian told Vogue.

Marilyn Monroe stands between Robert Kennedy and John F. Kennedy on May 19, 1962, at a party following a democratic fundraiser at Madison Square Garden honoring JFK’s birthday where Monroe famously sang “Happy Birthday.”
Cecil Stoughton/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

Of course, Ripley’s didn’t grant the request without hesitations. 

Monroe’s performance in the dress is one of the most noteworthy moments of her career, so a lot has gone into protecting the dress and keeping it in its original form. 

Kardashian and the Ripley’s team spoke to garment conservationists, appraisers, archivists and insurance for guidance on how to make the Met Gala look happen.

It was agreed that no alterations were to be made to the dress in order to keep it in its current condition, which sparked Kardashian’s brow-raising diet. 

Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday at the Democratic rally for President John F. Kennedy’s birthday.
Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

“This is Marilyn Monroe’s dress. It’s sixty years old. I had this idea to put it on and try it on,” Kardashian said on the red carpet of the Met.

“They came with armed guards and gloves. I tried it on and it didn’t fit me. I had to lose 16 pounds,” she added.

Kardashian also dyed her hair platinum blond to channel the “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” singer.

“It was like preparing for a role,” Kardashian told Vogue guest host La La Anthony.

Because the gown’s preservation was the utmost priority, Kardashian only wore the original dress for the red carpet. She later changed into a replica. 

Though the “Happy Birthday” performance in 1962 sparked rumors of an affair between Monroe and President Kennedy, the dress itself was the true scandal. Its barely-there form was “designed to shock” and Monroe “deceived organizers and said she was going to wear a high-necked demure gown,” Ripley’s said.

Ripley’s Exhibits and Archives team believes this dress is the “most famous item of clothing from twentieth-century culture,” and will feature it on display at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Hollywood for a limited time beginning Memorial Day weekend.