Following Kim Kardashian’s appearance at the Met Gala last month, a museum in the United States has refuted reports that a historic Marilyn Monroe gown was destroyed.
According to Monroe historians, recent pictures purport to show stretched fabric and missing crystals from the dress.
However, the gown’s owner, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, claims that permitting the gown to be worn was a “calculated risk” and that it was not damaged “in any way.”
Monroe wore it in 1962 when she sang President John F. Kennedy Happy Birthday.
Scott Fortner, who has his own private collection of Marilyn Monroe mementos, shared images online earlier this week showing “severe” damage after it was donated to the reality TV personality.
Author Darrell Rooney has now posted other photos online purporting to show damage to the gown’s shoulder straps.
The TV star’s decision to wear the delicate gown was highly panned by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The damage claims, however, were denied on Thursday.
“From the bottom of the Met steps, where Kim got into the dress, to the top where it was returned, the dress was in the same condition it started in,” Amanda Joiner, Ripley’s vice-president of publishing and licensing, said in a statement.
Ripley’s said that a condition report from 2017 stated “a number of the seams are pulled and worn. This is not surprising given how delicate the material is. There is puckering at the back by the hooks and eyes”.
The dress was purchased by Ripley’s for $4.8 million (£3.9 million) in 2016, breaking the Guinness World Record for the most expensive dress sold at auction. According to the museum, it is currently worth more than $10 million.
The gown was made by renowned French costume designer Jean Louis and features over 6,000 hand-sewn crystals. Marilyn Monroe was said to have had to be sewed into it because it was so tight.
Mr Fortner called the decision by Ripley’s to allow Kim Kardashian to wear the dress “irresponsible” and motivated by “publicity”.
“When you buy something of such significance, you really need to stick to your word to protect and preserve it… and clearly that didn’t happen,” he told the BBC.
“This is a significant piece of American culture, celebrity culture, political culture – it’s probably the most famous gown in the world and definitely the most expensive. So why they would allow it to be worn is really the question.”
Kardashian wore it on the red carpet at the Met Gala before changing into a replica for the rest of the evening. Because the dress’s zipper wouldn’t do up, she paired it with a fur stole to disguise the back of it.
She earlier stated that she only wore the outfit for a few minutes and did not sit in it.
She was accused of conveying a negative message about excessive dieting after her red carpet appearance, saying she had shed the first 2lb (7.3kg) in three weeks to fit into the gown.
Mr Fortner claims that Kim Kardashian should not be blamed for the damage because the museum is responsible for the gown’s upkeep.
“It’s the most famous dress in the world. Who wouldn’t want to wear the dress if they were given an opportunity to do so?”
Although the gown was part of a private collection, the International Council of Museums warned in a statement after the Met Gala on May 2 that “historic clothes should not be worn by anyone, public or private individuals.”
According to Ripley’s statement, Kardashian had brought “the legend of Marilyn Monroe” to a new generation by emphasizing the dress’s historical significance.
The cost of repairs would be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Dr. Kate Strasdin, a senior lecturer in cultural studies at Falmouth University in the United Kingdom, has spent more than 25 years working with curators and conservators of historic gowns.
She told the BBC that detailed standards on how to handle antique clothes had been developed since the 1970s. “One of them is you absolutely cannot wear historic garments, you just can’t,” she said.
“You can’t even handle a dress like that without damaging it in some way, let alone wear it, so it was inevitable that there was going to be significant damage just by even wearing it on the red carpet.”
She went on to say that the garment was “completely unique” because it was made just for Monroe out of a “soufflé-like silk” that was quite pricey. She claimed that repairs would cost tens of thousands of dollars, and that the cloth was no longer manufactured.
Dr. Strasdin said that “there will have been oils in her skin, there will have been all of that chemical reaction with a silk that is fragile” even though Kardashian claimed she hadn’t worn any of her customary body make-up while wearing it.
Scott Fortner wants the dress removed from Ripley’s collection – where it is displayed behind glass on a mannequin custom-made to Marylin Monroe’s measurements – and sent to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, where items like Abraham Lincoln’s top hat and Judy Garland’s iconic ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz are kept – and sent to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.