Armed guards, private jets and an extreme diet — the story behind Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn Monroe moment

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Kim Kardashian is dedicated to the artform of serving looks. From the shockingly clinched “wet look” Mugler dress in 2019 to the mysterious Balenciaga blackout gown outfit she donned last year, the Skims founder knows how to wow the social media critics nit-picking Met Gala attendee outfits from their beds.

This year was certainly no different.

The star arrived on the red carpet wearing the bedazzled sheer beige floor-length gown Marilyn Monroe wore in 1962 to serenade President John F Kennedy on his 45th birthday. She was accompanied by boyfriend Pete Davidson, who was on hand to help the reality TV star waddle up the stairs in the multi-million-pound dress.

According to Vogue, Kardashian came up with the idea to wear the gown during last year’s Met Gala, as she noted Monroe is one of the most “American thing[s] you can think of”.

“The idea really came to me after the gala in September last year. I thought to myself, what would I have done for the American theme if it had not been the Balenciaga look? What’s the most American thing you can think of? And that’s Marilyn Monroe,” she said. “For me the most Marilyn Monroe moment is when she sang Happy Birthday.”

Of course, pulling off a stunt of that magnitude was quite the military operation. To this day, the dress holds the record for being the most expensive dress sold at auction, after Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum bought it for $4.8 million at Julien’s Auctions in 2016. To preserve the 60-year-old artefect, it is usually stored in Ripley’s Florida outpost in a darkened vault that’s controlled at the optimum 68-degrees and 40-50 per cent humidity — and it hasn’t been worn since Monroe’s star turn in the gown.

Before the institution would consider lending the dress, which was based on a sketch by Bob Mackie for the French-born Hollywood costume designer Jean Louis, Kardashian tried on a replica for size. Although the replica fitted just right, the original dress – which was flown to her Calabasa mansion on a private plane alongside armed guards and gloved conservationists to assist the star with trying on the dress – didn’t.

Kim Kardashian attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Artin 2021 (Getty Images)
Kim Kardashian attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Artin 2021 (Getty Images)

“Give me, like, three weeks,’” she said, before claiming that she lost 16 pounds to fit into the dress. “It was such a challenge, it was like a roll. I was determined, I was determined to fit.”

The Kardashian has since shared how she lost the weight which included a strict diet of “the cleanest veggies and protein” as well as wearing a sauna suit twice a day. It worked, and with one last fitting at the Ripley’s Orlando vaults operation Marilyn Monroe Takes Met Gala was a-go (even if it didn’t quite fit – hence the white fur shawl artfully used to cover up the unzipped back).

Although Kardashian went to extreme lengths to secure the original, she only wore it for a matter of minutes before changing into a replica once inside the building. “I’m extremely respectful to the dress and what it means to American history. I would never want to sit in it or eat in it or have any risk of any damage to it and I won’t be wearing the kind of body make-up I usually do,” says Kardashian, who also left her hotel in a dressing gown to change into the dress in a sectioned off green room adjacent to the Met Gala steps. “Everything had to be specifically timed and I had to practice walking up the stairs.”

Kim Kardashian, Corey Gamble, and Elon Musk attend The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating
Kim Kardashian, Corey Gamble, and Elon Musk attend The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating

While some have pointed out that the dress isn’t exactly in keeping with this year’s theme of “gilded glamour”, which was coined by Mark Twain and refers to the gilded age between 1870 to 1900. That hasn’t stopped the fashion moment becoming the most talked about look of the evening.

It’s hardly surprising, the dress also caused a stir when Monroe first wore it when she serenaded President John F Kennedy for his 45th birthday in 1962. In fact, when the actress and singer dropped her fur coat at Madison Square Gardens to reveal 2,500 crystals on a nude mesh fabric you can actually hear the audience gasp in the brief film footage of her performance. “Nowadays everyone wears sheer dresses, but back then that was not the case,” says Kardashian. “In a sense, it’s the original naked dress. That’s why it was so shocking.”

While Kardashian might have only had a few minutes of fun wearing the original, she had another three replicas made, and even joked about how she will be using them post-Met Gala. “I think I might just wear that one to eat pizza in my hotel room.”