Kim Kardashian and 'That Dress'

Posted by Katie Wilkins on

marylin monroe in vintage dress

Ok, so. The Kardashians have been breaking the internet again, and this time I give a shit.

If you have not been living under a rock, you will know that Kim Kardashian rocked up to the Met Gala wearing Marilyn Monroe’s 1962 iconic beaded nude illusion dress that has been hanging in ‘Ripleys Believe It Or Not’ since its purchase in 2016 for over $5million. It became the most expensive dress to have ever been sold at auction.

Do not get me started on the glorification of the ‘diet’ regime that she underwent in order to fit in the historic piece. That is not a healthy life to brag about so let’s just leave that there. What I am raging about is the principle of lending out historic artefacts, and the way in which it was treated.

Marilyn Monroe

Designed by Jean Louis, the dress was made for Monroe’s rendition of Happy Birthday sang to JFK, and it created a storm of controversy due to it looking like the star was naked on stage which for the early 1960s was a big deal. Now, I realise it was chosen to again create controversy BUT, should something which has such a socially historic story be used to dress a reality TV star?

Yes, clothes are made to be worn. I am very aware of this as a vintage trader, but I don’t sell garments with such a hefty relevance to them. The last person before the Met Gala to wear that dress was Monroe herself (unless a sneaky intern shoved it on in a lunch break), and it has been on display as an iconic item to preserved for the future, like all fashion history in the care of museums around the world. Is this now going to open up the market for celebs to request wearing pieces from museums? Will Julia Fox be wearing Cleopatras jewellery? How about Cardi B popping the Queens Coronation dress on?

But principle aside, the treatment of that Jean Louis dress was like watching a horror story that all vintage fashion lovers were screaming at. In the video you can see it being hung on a wooden hanger (not sure why that is an issue, read my blog on Thursday), and to watch that delicate silk and beaded creation being dragged up her body with force to fit over her rump was painful………you can see the woman’s face that is helping contorting and grimacing, she was not enjoying the experience either. If the dress managed to get past all that with no damage, it was then tied up to fasten it as it didn’t fit, then trampled and stretched as Kim tried to walk in those massive platforms.

And then we could go into the fact that the lotions, make up and perfumes that Kimmy K wore would have been starting to do some damage the moment it touched her skin, with the humidity of her body and the bright lights adding to the cellular degrading of a piece that really should not have been out of the cabinet. There is a damn good reason why you see fashion history behind glass; it is all climate controlled from humidity, temperature and lighting to ensure it lasts as long as it can.

This publicity stunt will welcome polarised opinions, that is the point. But I feel an unspoken line has been crossed, where celebrity and money has been deemed more important than history and preservation. We live in a time when clothes are seen as disposable, people are kept in modern slavery to make oil-based dresses for influencers and stylists are chopping up vintage pieces to make them more modern. So really, I suppose I should not be surprised.  


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