Kim Kardashian once again dominated the fashion spotlight at the Met Gala in New York on Monday when she appeared in that dressthe real sheer beaded Jean Louis illusion dress Marilyn Monroe famously wore on May 19, 1962 when she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.
As controversies arise in the days that follow — with museum curators sharply criticizing the ethics of a collecting institution lending a piece of fashion history to be worn on a red carpet — The Hollywood Reporter spoke to the executives of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (who owns the dress) and Julien’s Auctions (which handled the sale and linked Kardashian to Ripley’s) to get the full backstory on how this 2022 Met Gala moment came about. They also spoke about the steps they were taking to ensure the dress was not damaged.
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“We kept it quiet for two months, and on Saturday I heard everything was confirmed,” said Darren Julien, Los Angeles-based founder and president/CEO of Julien’s Auctions, which oversaw sales of the dress, which reached a record price of $4 in 2016. .81 million. Both Kardashian and her mother, Kris Jenner, are regular customers of Julien’s Auctions: In 2019, Kardashian placed the winning bid on a velvet jacket once worn by Michael Jackson, bought as a Christmas present for her daughter North, who was then six years old. . “It was a nice relationship with both Kris and Kim,” Julien added. “They are true fans of the auction process and get genuinely excited when they are the winning bidder.”
So when Kardashian questioned whether the current owners of the dress would be receptive to her desire to wear the landmark design to the Met Gala, she reached out to Julien in late February to ask him to act as an intermediary. “The owner’s first reaction was, ‘We have a replica dress, she could wear them,’ and I said, ‘Kim doesn’t make replicas,'” Julien recalls.
“We have people calling all the time asking about borrowing things, and the answer is almost always no,” said Amanda Joiner, vice president of publishing and licensing for Orlando-based Ripley Entertainment, which develops the Ripley’s Believe. It or Not exploits. † museums in the US and was indeed the winning bidder for the Monroe dress in 2016. “We were intrigued to hear Kim’s thoughts, but it was never an automatic yes. When the idea came to us, a lot of conversations took place.”
Kardashian and her team have had several meetings with the Ripley Entertainment team, including John Corcoran, the company’s president. The parameters were strictly set, including the limited time Kardashian would wear the dress — just for her to walk up the carpeted stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Monroe’s dress also could not be altered in any way and body makeup was prohibited. Early in the process, Kardashian also tried on the replica dress, carefully crafted by a Ripley seamstress shortly after the company purchased the historic dress, primarily to gauge whether the reality star would fit into the original.
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The replica fit and was actually a bit big. When all the criteria were met, Joiner boarded a plane to Los Angeles in late March, carrying the dress in her hand. “Under the points [agreed upon in allowing Kardashian to wear the dress] was that a Ripley representative should stay with the dress at all times, while Kim also requested that it be a woman on our team who would work with her, especially given the private nature of the dress fitting,” Joiner says.
There was only one problem: the original didn’t fit. “The replica dress was measured to be the exact same size, but it’s a newer stretch fabric, and that was probably the difference,” Joiner explains, adding that Kardashian was able to get the dress on even though she did “I didn’t feel like it.” comfortable with the integrity of being able to walk in the dress or walk up the stairs.”
That didn’t stop Kardashian, who asked the Ripley team to give her a few weeks to slim down and fit into the original. On the Met Gala red carpet, Kardashian explained to La La Anthony, co-host of Fashion‘s Met Gala live stream that she needed to lose 16 pounds, so she cut sugar and carbohydrates from her diet for three weeks to do this.
(That comment sparked backlash from body positivity advocates, including actress Lili Reinhart, who followed up her Instagram story decrying celebs who emphasized sudden weight loss with a tweet from May 4th in which she noted, “I’m speaking up because I don’t see enough people with big platforms exclaiming toxic behavior in our industry.” Kardashian’s trainer Don-A-Matrix, who spoke to TMZ on May 4, defended his client by saying she lost the weight through a balanced diet and exercise. “It’s possible to lose 20 pounds in a healthy way,” he said.)
“Kim was very determined,” Julien added. “I don’t think she had many backups that night. She really wanted this to be the dress.”
On April 23, Kardashian flew to Orlando to see if her efforts had paid off, and this time the dress fitted, although Joiner and Corcoran also asked Kardashian to walk up a flight of stairs in the dress to gauge its integrity. “We still had to talk about it internally as well,” says Joiner. “We had to make sure that security was in place, that all of our needs regarding the transportation of the dress would be met and that the dress would not be worn further than at the time on the red carpet.” To this end, a tent area next to the red carpet was set up exclusively as a dressing area for Kardashian. After her red carpet walk, Kardashian morphed from the original and into Ripley’s replica, who was waiting in the wings as soon as she got inside the museum doors, Joiner adds.
Before Kardashian changed clothes at the museum, Kardashian’s hair and makeup were done in a suite at a nearby hotel. To commemorate the moment, Ripley’s has decorated her dressing room with a selection of Monroe memorabilia, including the icon’s makeup bag (with her makeup still inside), a poster advertising the 1962 Kennedy party. and the original sketch of the dress, created by Bob Mackie, who was working as a sketch artist for Jean Louis at the time.
In the hours since Kardashian’s high-wattage appearance, both Joiner and Julien have heard and read the comments about the star wearing the landmark piece. “I definitely got some emails,” says Julien. Critics include the chief curator of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Sarah Scaturro, formerly a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. “In the 1980s, a bunch of costume professionals got together to decide that period costume shouldn’t be worn. So my concern is that colleagues in historical costume collections are now being pressured by important people to let them wear clothes,” Scaturro told the LA Times.
Joiner confirms that the response after the event was anticipated and discussed in advance among other conservators. “Our priority has always been to protect the integrity of the dress,” she says. “But we also saw this as an opportunity to reach out to a new generation, educate a younger audience and [Kim’s] fanbase about a historic moment in fashion, a moment they might not otherwise be familiar with. We have done our job in that regard.”
Julian agrees. “It was on the red carpet for such a short time, and for Marilyn Monroe’s legacy, it’s one of the best things that could have happened,” he says. “Kim will create a new generation of Marilyn Monroe fans from that moment on.”
This Memorial Day weekend, existing and new fans alike will have the chance to see the original dress in person when Ripley’s Believe It or Not! will debut a new exhibit of the dress at the Hollywood Museum. In addition to artifacts that include the Bob Mackie sketch and Monroe’s makeup bag, Ripley’s will include both the scarf and the shoes (the Adore platform peep-toe mule with a 7-inch heel from Brea, California-based Pleaser) on display. that Kardashian wore to the Met Gala.
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