Updated: May 25
The first Monday of May is arguably the fashion event of the year- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York City hosts their Gala. This Gala began in 1948 as a dinner to raise money for their Costume Institute. In recent years, editor in chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour, became synonymous with the event as she is an honorary co-chair of the Met Gala. “In America: An anthology of fashion” is the Costume Institutes latest exhibition and the theme of this year’s gala was “Gilded Glamour”
Kim Kardashian first attended this Gala in 2013, up until now the main questions that arose included, which fashion designer she worked with to create a unique look and did she complete the assignment and follow the theme of the gala.
However, this year controversy surrounding her look rose amongst none other than historians, museum workers and in particular conservationists. People flooded to all social media platforms to show their disgust in Kim wearing Marilyn Monroe’s famous dress that she wore on stage the night of her infamous “Happy Birthday Mr. President” song to John F. Kennedy, a dress that Monroe had to be sewn into.
Kardashian reportedly said that when she thought of iconic American fashion, she immediately thought of this dress. The infamous dress was designed by the legendary Bob Mackie and is reported to have cost Monroe $1,400.
It was put on display at the Museum of Style Icons in Newbridge before being sold at auction in 2016 by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. They bought it for $4.81 million. It is said to be kept on a dress form in a case with low light, kept at 68°F (20°C) and 40%-50% humidity. It is made from a material called soufflé gauze. As the name suggests it is a very fine, airy fabric but the downside is that it’s highly flammable. Additionally, the six thousand beads sewn onto the dress weigh it down.
All textiles, particularly silk, is categorised by museum consultant, Barbara Applebaum, as the most sensitive to light damage. Colour is faded by light and the fibre of fabrics weakens. In addition, she cites Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), further increasing damage to textiles. Examples of these are as follows: evaporated solvents, chemicals that are released from wood, plastics or linoleum, smoke from cigarettes and air fresheners, the list goes on. Furthermore, fast alterations to the relative humidity of a textile can be damaging. Applebaum’s book Preserve, Protect and Defend was published in 2018 and is a great source of information regarding preservation.
Kardashian admitted that she tried the dress on three weeks prior to the event, it would not fit, so she lost sixteen pounds to make it fit. She is said to have worn a sauna suit twice a day and cut sugar and carbohydrates from her diet. The admission was not welcomed by many members of the public who voiced their opinion that celebrities should be moving away from arguably promoting diet culture. Additionally, it is being reported that the back of the dress still would not close so she had to cover it. Now most conservationists are not body shaming Kardashian; they are stating their case that this piece of history was put under strain. Curator of FIDM, Kevin Jones, states that on a microscopic level one would expect to see tears after the delicate garment being worn again after years of being protected. Obviously, no alterations were allowed, so Kim being around four inches shorter than Marilyn had to wear platform high heels.
Kim did take several steps to protect the garment. Kim didn’t wear any full body makeup which she usually does so as to not stain the dress. She also had a replica of the dress made. It is said that she solely wore the original on the red carpet steps and the replica all times after. It is also reported that the dress will not be washed after wearing. Again, this is being debated. It is also said that Kim donated money to two organisations on behalf of Ripley’s. In addition, it is argued that by Kim Kardashian wearing this dress, it put it on display for a younger generation and those not overly familiar with the life and times of Norma Jeane Mortenson.
On a Waterford Treasures level, I can only compare this affair to an individual wearing one of the medieval museum’s cloth-of-gold vestments out for the night- perhaps an idea for next year’s MET Gala?
More and more details of the wearing of this garment are being released, so watch this space. What do you think? Should the dress be allowed to be worn? Tell us your opinion below.