Claims that Marilyn Monroe’s famed “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” gown was damaged after Kim Kardashian wore it to the 2022 Met Gala are apparently unfounded
Recent photos of the dress purportedly show that fabric along the back has been stretched and ripped and crystal embellishments are missing and in some places hanging by a thread. The photos were taken on Sunday by a visitor to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! museum in Hollywood and sent to the Instagram account @marilynmonroecollection for posting.
“So much for keeping ‘the integrity of the dress and the preservation,'” the account tweeted, alluding to comments made by Ripley’s and Kardashian that they went above and beyond to preserve the dress as it made its Met Gala outing. The Marilyn Monroe Collection Instagram tagged Ripley’s, asking, “was it worth it?”
However, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! debunked the allegations in a statement, referencing a 2017 report on the condition of the dress which stated that “a number of the seams are pulled and worn. This is not surprising given how delicate the material is. There is puckering at the back by the hooks and eyes,” among other instances of damage.
“Since then, as a privately owned company, Ripley’s has displayed the historical gown at a number of its attractions around the world,” the company stated. “The company understands the risks associated with this, but Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has been collecting notable pop-culture memorabilia, historical items, and unbelievable artifacts for over 100 years. Our mission is to both entertain and educate visitors and fans, and sparking conversations like the discourse around Marilyn Monroe’s dress does just that. No matter which side of the debate you are on, the historical importance of the dress has not been negated, but rather highlighted. A entirely new group of young people have now been introduced to the legacy of Marilyn Monroe.”
The statement added, “Kim Kardashian wearing the ‘Happy Birthday’ dress has been hotly contested, but the fact remains that she did not, in any way, damage the garment in the short amount of time it was worn at the Met Gala.”
“From the bottom of the Met steps, where Kim got into the dress, to the top where it was returned, the dress was in the same condition it started in,” said Ripley’s VP of publishing and licensing, Amanda Joiner, who was continuously with the dress the day of the gala and during transport from Orlando to New York.
Ripley’s also committed to displaying the dress at their museum in Hollywood through Fall 2022.
Ripley’s bought Monroe’s Jean Louis dress in 2016 at an auction, paying $4.8 million. Monroe famously wore the dress to sing “Happy Birthday” to U.S. President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1962.
Kardashian said that when she tried the dress on for the first time in the run-up to the Met Gala, it didn’t fit her. But she told Ripley’s, “Give me three weeks”, adding, “I had to lose 16 pounds down today.” Kardashian only wore the gown for the red carpet portion of the Gala, changing into a replica dress for the remainder of the evening.
For its part, Ripley’s claimed “great care was taken to preserve this piece of pop culture history.” In a statement released after the Met Gala, Ripley’s said “no damage” had occurred to the dress. “This was no easy decision for Ripley’s, however, Kim Kardashian has continued to show the utmost respect for this opportunity and historic garment,” the oddity museum said. “From extensive research to following guidelines such as no body makeup, only wearing the dress for the short red-carpet appearance, and making absolutely no alterations, she has become a steward — and added to — its history.”
Legendary designer Bob Mackie, who drew the sketch for Monroe’s dress while working as an assistant to Jean Louis, criticized Ripley’s and Kardashian after the Gala. “I thought it was a big mistake,” Mackie told EW. “[Marilyn] was a goddess. A crazy goddess, but a goddess. She was just fabulous. Nobody photographs like that. And it was done for her. It was designed for her. Nobody else should be seen in that dress.”
In a followup post, The Marilyn Monroe Collection Instagram shared a video of Monroe’s dress taken before Kardashian wore it, responding to commenters who doubted how much damage had actually been done.
“To anyone who may be questioning the actual condition of Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ dress prior to being purchased by @ripleysbelieveitornot or implying that low quality photos of the dress were shared to somehow make the newly discovered damage to the dress seem worse than it actually is, this is 4K video that I took of the gown while it was on display at @juliens_auctions in November of 2016,” the account captioned their post. “Without question, the damage is significant.”