In an interview with vogueKardashian explained that she borrowed the dress from Ripley‘Believe it or Not Museum in Orlando, which itself acquired the creation from Julien’s Auctions in 2016 for $4.8 million; the dress, originally designed by Bob Mackie, then designed by Jean-Louis, is the most expensive already sold at auction. In a press release, Ripley’s described the dress as “very heavy”: more than 6,000 crystals adorn it, making the garment weigh around six pounds.
In the aftermath of the gala, anger began to spill over into the fashion archivist community: Several restorers of flimsy clothes, including the former chief conservator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, expressed outrage that Kardashian had gone until pulling out the original blouse and wearing it, which may damage the garment.
“When I was head of the Costume Institute’s conservation laboratory, I had to respond to requests from people (including Anna Wintour) for irreplaceable items from the collection to be worn by models and celebrities,” said writes conservator Sarah Scaturro in an instagram caption.
A Met representative said the museum had no comment. The Daily Beast has reached out to Scaturro, Condé Nast and Wintour for comment.
Scaturro’s review was reposted by Marjolein Koek, curator of textiles at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Madelief Hohé, curator of fashion at Kunstmuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands. (The Daily Beast reached out to Koek and Hohé for comment.)
“In my opinion, [Kim wearing the dress] was not a good idea” fashion historian Keren Ben-Horin told The Daily Beast. “It raises a lot of ethical questions. Sarah brings up some very important points that this is a one of a kind historical piece of clothing that should not leave the museum. For restorers, there are many things they consider before even taking steps to restore the dress. Sometimes they can even leave sweat stains, as this is part of the integrity of the dress.
Scaturro said that because Kardashian’s request to wear Monroe’s dress has been met, it’s likely that other “powerful and fanciful rich” will now be inspired to pressure restaurant owners to let them borrow outfits “everything so irreplaceable”.
After the Daily Beast reached out to Scaturro for comment, the curator changed her Instagram Account settings to private.
“Wearing historical clothing damages it,” Scaturro continued in his caption. “Full stop. A 60-year-old embellished silk dress is going to have issues, weak points. And Kim definitely puts on products, lotions, creams, perfumes, body makeup, etc., that will damage her any further.
“Once a dress like that is on the body, the body sweats, there’s makeup,” Ben-Horin said. “You could see that when Kim Kardashian was walking up the stairs, it was very difficult for her to take big steps. The dress could have easily stained or torn, and I think that was an unethical choice of their hand to let the dress leave the museum.
Actress Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.
“I haven’t seen the comments on Instagram that [Scaturro] wrote, but one of our missions is to educate and bring different and wonderful exhibits, people, places and things that truly intrigue the world,” said Amanda Joiner, Vice President of Licensing and from publishing at Ripley Entertainment, to the Daily Beast. “We thought it was a way to bring something that’s 60 years old and very iconic to a new generation.”
On Tuesday, The Daily Beast contacted Joiner – who oversaw Kardashian’s Marilyn Met Gala project – by phone as she sat wearing the Monroe dress in a sprinter van in Manhattan alongside “a ton of security.”
After receiving Kardashian’s request to wear the dress a few months ago, “we had to make decisions about whether or not we were ready to let Kim borrow the dress,” Joiner said. “We did two different fittings with her. The first was in Los Angeles in April, then the second later in April to see if the dress would fit or not. The biggest challenge we had was that we really wanted to make sure that we had the integrity of the dress and its preservation, because it’s 60 years old, and we feel it’s such an iconic piece of fashion, at the both from a historical point of view, but also from a pop culture point of view.
No one but Marilyn Monroe had ever worn the dress before, Joiner said, so allowing Kardashian to take the look for a spin required a lot of preparation.
“We basically had many conversations with Kim and her team and put in place many safety and dress handling requirements,” Joiner said. “The dress was never with Kim alone. It was always with a representative from Ripley. We always made sure that at any time we felt the dress was in danger of tearing or that we felt unwell. comfortable about anything, we always had the option of being able to say that we weren’t going to continue with this.
During one of Kardashian’s attempts to try on the dress, which Ripley typically stores in the dark, damp and temperature-controlled vault, she discovered that Monroe’s tailored look didn’t suit her. Determined to make it work, Kardashian accidental regimeand claimed she lost 16 pounds in 3 weeks.
The strict measures to protect the dress, which could not be changed, did not stop there. On gala night, Kardashian was dressed by a gloved environmentalist from Ripley’s, and she only wore the dress when she appeared on the red carpet before changing it quickly. For the rest of the evening, she wore a replica, and had three on hand altogether in case she needed it.
“I’m extremely respectful of the dress and what it means to American history,” Kardashian said. Told vogue. “I would never want to sit in it or eat in it or risk damaging it and I won’t be wearing the kind of body makeup I usually do. Everything had to be specifically timed and I had to practice climbing stairs.
It is common practice for celebrities to wear obscure archive couture clothes or vintage dresses to red carpet events, but because Monroe’s dress is undeniably famous, the stakes at the Met Gala were particularly high.
The dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” to U.S. President John F. Kennedy in May 1962, is displayed in a glass enclosure at Julien’s Auction House in Los Angeles, California November 17, 2016, in front its auction.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
“The fabric is very, very thin and the stones are personally hand sewn onto the dress,” Joiner said. To fly the dress from Ripley’s in Orlando to Calabasas for fittings, Joiner and her team flew on the private plane sent by Kardashian.
“When we transport the dress, the dress is still on its dress form,” Joiner said. (A dress form is essentially a mannequin torso only without a head or limbs.) “The dress form is specially fitted just for the dress, and the fabric that is over the fitted form is specifically there to keep archival quality. There’s also archival paper in the box, and the box doesn’t even fit under the cargo part. He’s going on the plane with us.
Then, Ripley’s will put the dress back in the Orlando vault until Memorial Day weekend, when it’s due for display at Ripley’s in Hollywood. Even with every possible precaution taken, the onus falls on Ripley to protect the dress, which Ben-Horin believes they failed to do.
“Once a dress enters a museum collection, the same way you wouldn’t let [Kardashian] leave with the Mona Lisa, I think it’s the same,” Ben-Horin said. “We can’t expect people to understand conservation issues, but I think it’s the role of the museum itself to put in place very clear guidelines and codes of ethics on how the pieces can leave the museum.”
In other words, even if Kardashian’s desire to respect the dress and its historical value is truly genuine, her vision should never have come to life.
“We all have the fantasy of wearing something from a museum,” Ben-Horin said. “That’s what makes fashion exhibitions so successful. But you can’t, and it’s up to the museum to explain to people why they can’t.