Kim Kardashian Exploits Marilyn Monroe’s Style at the MetGala
Kim Kardashian wore Marilyn Monroe’s famous Jean-Louis nude glitter gown from 1962 as she walked up the steps to the MetGala this week. I saw this famous gown years ago (it was behind glass) after it was auctioned at Julien’s. The dress appeared to be very fragile, almost like tissue paper. It was very small, although it was sized as a 1960 size 12, it looked more like a size 2 or 4 on the mannequin. The delicate beads were scattered against the backdrop of the nude fabric, the only embellishment on a rather simple dress design. The Jean-Louis gown was clearly cut to hug Marilyn’s every curve, and the rumor was that she was sewn into it to wear it to Madison Square Garden to sing “Happy Birthday” to President John Kennedy.
This historic gown is now 60 + years old. Was it appropriate to take it out of storage for a public relations opportunity to walk the MetGala’s red carpet? Like many Hollywood preservationists & costume curators, I was outraged to see the dress being worn under the glare of flashing hot lights. Kim Kardashian wearing this dress again seems like the final insult & exploitation of Marilyn’s legacy. It’s unfortunate that Ripley’s Believe it or Not (which bought the dress at auction) and exhibits it at their Florida Museum, allowed Kardashian to wear this fragile garment. Event insiders at saying that even with a significant weight loss before the event, the dress wasn’t a good fit for Kardashian. Marilyn was 5’5 inches tall, Kim Kardashian is reported to be just 5’2 inches tall. To wear the dress, without having it hemmed, she had to wear 3 inch high platforms. It was painful to watch her try to step up the MetGala staircase in the platform heels with a fur draped around her shoulders and back. Was the fur strategically placed on her backside to hide the difficulties zipping up the dress?
Would Marilyn Monroe have wanted someone else to wear her custom gown?
According to my research, Marilyn would not have wanted anyone else to wear her gown. Her intent in wearing this gown was deeply personal: to show off her affair with President Kennedy. She wanted to appear on stage with the illusion of appearing almost nude. This is why she ordered a transparent silk soufflé piece dress from the famous couturier Jean-Louis. Jean-Louis had made similar dresses for Marlene Dietrich.
According to Jean-Louis’s then assistant Bob Mackie (who would later make a similar dresses for Cher & Angie Dickinson), the dress was designed to be a flesh colored, except for a few hand stitched rhinestones & mirrors sewn on in strategic locations.
“I told Jean- Louis to design a dazzling, one-of-a kind historical dress, that only Marilyn Monroe could & would wear. “ — Marilyn Monroe.
Why historic fashions should not be worn
Why was wearing this fragile garment likely to harm it? Fashion and film expert Kimberly Truler shared her thoughts on Kardashian wearing the dress via social media.
“In my opinion, this never should have happened. This is a dress that’s culturally significant to both the film and fashion communities, and a tremendous amount of work has gone into its preservation since 1962. For those of us who wear vintage, we know how fragile these garments can be. JeanLouis’ gown is beyond fragile, especially because of the delicate fabric. But even the thread ages – as I’ve discovered in my own vintage – so the littlest bit of movement can cause strain on the garment and you run the risk of damage.
Garments that are preserved are kept in temperature controlled rooms, and go through a number of steps with professionals to protect them whether they’re being stored or displayed. When someone puts on a preserved garment, they’re now exposing it to the elements in addition to whatever lotion, self-tanner, body makeup, perfume, hairspray, etc. is being worn. All of it damaging no matter how careful you think you are.”-– Kimberly Truhler, Fashion & Film expert and TCM Commentator.
Did Kim Kardashian wear Marilyn Monroe’s vintage Norman Norell dress after the Met Gala?
Following the Met Gala, Kim Kardashian took to Instagram to let the world know that she had another vintage Marilyn Monroe gown in her possession. She posted pictures of her wearing a dress that Marilyn Monroe had allegedly worn to the 1962 Golden Globes from designer Norman Norell.
From the pictures Kim posted on social media, it’s not clear that the dress she is modeling is the same Norman Norrell dress that Marilyn wore to the Golden Globes in 1962, The top and straps on Kim’s dress are very different from the neckline and cut-out straps on the dress Marilyn wore in 1962. This just seems to be another shameless publicity stunt on her part.
Remembering Marilyn Monroe’s style
In studying Marilyn Monroe’s celebrity style and reading the catalogue of the auction of her fashions, it’s amazing how simply designed some of her dresses were. She owned a lot of dresses by Ceil Chapman that were body hugging, but simply designed. The fabrics chosen were of the highest quality. Her wardrobe included dresses from Irene Lentz, Jax, William Travilla and Pucci to name just a few of her designer favorites. She was even buried in her favorite Pucci dress.
To learn more about Marilyn Monroe’s style read my previous post on her style.
It seems nothing of Marilyn’s is sacred. Even her Le Creuset cooking pots were sold at auction after she died. A few years ago the wedding ring Joe Dimaggio gave her when they married was sold at auction.
I sincerely hope that we don’t see anymore of Marilyn’s unique garments taken out of storage and worn by others. Marilyn was an original and from her letters and remarks to friends, we know her intention was to express herself through fashion and to wear garments custom designed to be worn by only Marilyn Monroe.