Photos of the gown first worn by Marilyn Monroe in 1962 and, more recently, by Kim Kardashian at the 2022 Met Gala were swirling around the web on Tuesday, June 14, and promptly set the internet ablaze. Reports claimed Kardashian’s big night out on the first Monday in May caused some serious wear and tear to the crystal-studded garment, and fashion fans weren’t happy. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the company that owns the dress, the founder of The Marilyn Monroe Collection, the people behind the Instagram account @dietprada, and basically, everyone on social media immediately had an opinion. But while the collective seems to agree that extensive damage was done to the integrity of the vintage dress, when it comes to who’s to blame and when the damage occurred, opinions differ. On Tuesday, June 21, Kardashian herself finally weighed in in hopes of putting the discussion to rest once and for all.
One thing that folks seem to agree on is that Kardashian can’t be blamed for wanting to create a major fashion moment. The Met Gala is one of the biggest annual events in the fashion industry, and the celebrities who attend are expected to go all out. The media mogul definitely made a major statement in the infamous gown Monroe wore to sing “Happy birthday, Mr. President” to JFK, although she received mixed reviews on the lengths she went to in order to squeeze into it, admittedly dropping 16 pounds in less than a month to fit the garment.
Photos claiming to have been taken before and after Kim wore the sparkling gown showed stretched seams, missing embellishments, and crystals barely hanging on by threads. The photos had fans of Monroe, Kardashian, and vintage fashion understandably upset. Many were questioning whether Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the company that owns the gown should have let a celebrity wear it for an evening, even one as big as the Met Gala. But then, according to a June 16 report from TMZ, a spokesperson for Ripley’s entered the chat, claiming that the dress was showing signs of wear and tear back when it was purchased in 2016. The rep said the photos circulating on social media were misleading.
“Honestly that’s more the fault of the owners/ ‘curators’,” one Instagram user commented on a photo originally posted by The Marilyn Monroe Collection on June 13 and shared by fashion insider account Diet Prada. “I mean, why would you lend out a garment, particularly one this delicate, that's over 50 y[ea]rs old for someone to go to A PARTY and expect it to come back exactly the same???” pondered another user.
The comments on The Marilyn Monroe Collection’s original post include vintage fashion fans' insights and a much sadder tone. “She ruined Marilyn's dress, I'm really sad,” shared one Instagram user. “This is so upsetting to see. Damage has been done, and it can’t be fixed. The fabric is torn. Imagine what could have happened to it if Kim had worn the dress even longer. I’m so sad to see this,” wrote another while a third commented that “the dress is a piece of art with historical and cultural value. No one should use a cultural and historical legacy for personal purpose.”
During an appearance on The Today Show on Tuesday, June 21, Kardashian finally opened up about just what occurred when she wore the gown. When host Hoda Kotb asked Kardashian point-blank about whether or not she damaged the dress, the mogul shut down the rumors “No,” Kardashian said, before elaborating further. “And, I mean, Ripley’s, we worked together so well. There were handlers with gloves that put it on me.”
Kardashian also reiterated how everyone involved worked as a team during her short stint in Marilyn’s dress to preserve its integrity. “I mean, it was such a process…I showed up to the red carpet in a robe and slippers and I put the dress on [at] the bottom of the carpet, went up the stairs. I probably had it on for three, four minutes, and then I changed right at the top of the stairs,” she said.
Kardashian’s story matches up with the version of events that Ripley’s shared with TMZ on Thursday, June 16. The spokesperson for the company brought receipts in the form of a report dated back to 2017, right around the time Ripley’s acquired the dress. According to TMZ, the report shows the dress had “pulled and worn seams” and “puckering at the back [of the gown] by the hooks and eyes.” The spokesperson went on to tell TMZ that the extensive touring process the dress underwent added to its present level of wear and tear.
Marilyn Monroe historian and collector Scott Fortner, who runs The Marilyn Monroe Collection, the largest private collection of Monroe’s personal property and archives, explains the overarching issue behind the public’s outrage. “Everyone was concerned about the integrity and safety of the dress when it was loaned to Kim Kardashian for this year's Met Gala,” he previously shared with Elite Daily over email on June 13. “In spite of their repeated statements about working to ensure the dress was safe and protected, Ripley’s failed and now the dress is permanently damaged. It cannot be repaired or restored to its original condition.”
In terms of who’s to blame, Fortner doesn’t assign any blame to Kardashian. “I think it's safe to say that probably any and every celebrity would have jumped at the opportunity to wear this gown. It's iconic and forever a part of American history and culture. But it was not a costume to be loaned for a red carpet event, even for the 10 minutes it was worn,” he says. At the end of the day, Fortner believes that “Ripley's is responsible because they allowed it.” Elite Daily reached out to Ripley’s for comment on Fortner’s claim but didn’t hear back in time for publication.
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