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The MET Gala’s popularity has slowly declined as the invitees list has expanded into influencers and tiktokers, but nevertheless, the fashion will forever be something to discuss. One of the hot debates this year has got to be the dress of Marilyn Monroe’s by Bob Mackie, which she wore when she famously sang happy birthday to President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and how Kim Kardashian obtained the honor of wearing it. The dress was sold at Julien’s auction house for 4.8 Million in 2016 and later acquired by Ripley’s Believe it or Not to be put on exhibition. It still holds the record for being the most expensive dress sold at auction. The historic piece is 60 years old, making the dress more at risk of damage  and therefore raises all the more questions about whether it was a responsible decision of the Kardashians and the dress’s owner to put it on such a live display.

This iconic and elegant dress was made specifically to fit Monroe, even down to the last stitch, as it had to be sewn onto her body before the event. Monroe wanted the dress to be unique to only her and fit her form like a second skin. Scott Fortner, a Monroe historian, stated that Monroe had told the designer, “I want you to design a truly historical dress, a dazzling dress that’s one of a kind.’ She asked that it be a dress that, ‘… only Marilyn Monroe could wear”.  Fortner continued to share that “Marilyn stood nude as the fabric for the dress was literally sculpted to her body to precisely match every curve. The fabric, which is a flesh-colored soufflé gauze imported from France, was layered strategically so she wouldn’t need to wear undergarments”. With this in mind, it is safe to assume that if someone other than one with Monroe’s exact shape were to wear this dress, that the stitching would be stretched and the piece would be altered in many ways. 

The dress came with a security team and Kim Kardashian was required to wear gloves in order to protect the fabric. There were many other conditions that came with wearing this historic piece, including the inability to eat or sit down in it. Because of these terms, Kardashian had a replica made to allow action such as walking the red carpet and dinner more normalized. This concept sounds somewhat foolish, as many ask that if she made a replica of the dress, why wouldn’t she just wear that for the entire event? Dr. Justine De Young of the Fashion Institute of Technology told People Magazine that “She can –– and did –– commission a replica which would be indistinguishable from the original. Such an iconic piece of American history should not be put at risk of damage just for an ego-boost and photo-op”. Other historians agree with Dr. Young’s remarks and it brings up a valid point about the security of the state of the dress. 

During an interview at the gala, Kim Kardashian explained that the first time she tried on the dress it did not fit her figure, to which she was very upset. She intimately shared that she dropped 16 pounds in a matter of 3 weeks, paired with a severe diet of no carbs or sugars or dairy and a strict gym routine of working out three times a day in order to squeeze. Controversially, Kardashian has been all the buzz about promoting this concept to society that it is better to alter yourself to fit into a dress rather than finding a dress that can fit you. The message is not only an unhealthy and glamourized one, but it creates even greater risks coming from someone with such a large platform and spotlights at events such as these. The public has since weighed in, including Riverdale actress Lili Reinhart, who took to her Instagram story and expressed her disappointment and anger towards Kardashian’s message.

For such a historic dress, it seems irresponsible for someone, no matter their status or position, to risk the destruction or damage of it, both socially and physically. It is even rumored that the zipper was unable to completely close completely, as Kim’s accessorized with a fur coat which covered the back section up. Again, this raises the question of how necessary it was to break out the original if a replica of the dress was already commissioned. This is especially a head scratcher as no one would be able to tell the difference between the two, despite being told it wasn’t the replica. With this in mind, it has been concluded that Kardashian went through all the trouble and extra dress simply to inflict on her ego. 

Kardashian did not “kill it” at the Gala, not only because of the cheap shot at promoting her ego, but the toxic message of starving oneself to fit into a specific piece of clothing, destroying body image globally. Lastly, Kardashian ruined Monroe’s untouched story of the iconic dress, as it is no longer the dress “only Marilyn could wear”. Not only is the physical piece damaged, but the history and glamor of it, as it is now tainted with the fact that another woman has worn it. The outrage over this clothing decision for the MET is rightfully justified and has raised questions and discussions for the future regarding the usage and confliction on historical pieces for major publicity events. 

Colette Offermann

Holy Cross '23

Colette is currently pursuing an English major and minoring in Studio Art and Social Ethics and Business at Holy Cross. On her free days she loves to paint abstract works, try out new recipes, play tennis, go to wine tastings, and experience new activities within her community such as new restaurants and boutiques.
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