Kim Kardashian under fire as Marilyn Monroe dress allegedly damaged after Met Gala appearance

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson are seen arriving to The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2022 in New York City.

If you cast your mind back a month, you'll remember that reality television royalty, Kim Kardashian, courted controversy when she wore Marilyn Monroe's iconic glittering gown to this year's Met Gala.

The makeup mogul turned heads and ruffled feathers last month when she appeared at the Met Gala, the prestigious annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, wearing the historic gown that was custom-made by French designer, Jean Louis, for the late icon.

The barely-there gown was famously worn by Monroe on May 19, 1962, when she sang 'Happy Birthday, Mr President' to then-President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. Monroe died of an overdose less than three months later on August 4, aged 36.

The decision by Kardashian and its owners, Ripley Entertainment, to bring the dress out of retirement for the annual fundraising gala has proven highly divisive among curators, historians and commentators alike, as well as the International Council of Museums. Criticisms included the impact the outing may have on the 60-year-old garment, as well as the appearance tarring its legacy. 

And now, evidence has emerged that suggests Kardashian - who infamously lost 16 pounds (7.2 kilograms) in three weeks to fit into the gown after Ripley's initially declined her request - did damage the dress when she donned it for her arrival at the coveted event. After briefly wearing the original gown for photographs and to ascend the museum's steps, Kardashian changed into a replica as the delicate and incredibly fragile fabric was unable to withstand a night of wear. 

But as it turns out, the dress even struggled to endure its fleeting return to the spotlight. Photos shared to social media by collector Scott Fortner, the owner of the world's largest private collection of Monroe's personal property and archives, appear to show stretches and small tears along the back zipper, with several crystals and sequins either missing or hanging by a thread.

Sharing the photos to his official Instagram, The Marilyn Monroe Collection, Fortner described the alleged damage as "significant".

"Just in case you missed it… Missing crystals, and some left hanging by a thread," he captioned an image that presented a side-by-side comparison of the gown before and after its Met Gala debut. The left-hand side shows the dress in all its glory, on display in 2016, while the right shows the apparent damage post-gala.

According to Fortner, the photographic evidence was obtained by a visitor to Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum in Hollywood on June 12, where the dress is currently displayed.

"So much for keeping 'the integrity of the dress and the preservation'," Fortner said, tagging Ripley's in the post. "Was it worth it?"

Fortner also cited a paragraph from a press release issued by Ripley Entertainment on May 2, the day of the Met Gala, which claimed that "great care" had been taken to preserve the piece of pop culture history.

"With input from garment conservationists, appraisers, and archivists, the garment's condition was top priority. Believe It or Not! no alterations were to be made to the dress and Kim even changed into a replica after the red carpet [sic]," the statement read.

Speaking to the Daily Beast following the event, Amanda Joiner, vice president of licensing and publishing at Ripley Entertainment, said "a lot of requirements" were put in place regarding the security and handling of the dress prior to its Met Gala debut.

"The dress was never with Kim alone. It was always with a Ripley's representative. We always ensured that at any time we felt that the dress was in danger of ripping or we felt uncomfortable about anything, we always had the ability to be able to say we were not going to continue with this," Joiner said, a quote which was also cited by Fortner on his Instagram.

According to Joiner, there were two different fittings with Kardashian prior to the event.

"The biggest challenge that we had is that we really wanted to make sure that we kept the integrity of the dress and the preservation, because it's 60 years old, and we feel that it's such an iconic piece of fashion, both from a historical perspective, but also from a pop culture perspective," she told the Daily Beast.

Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson are seen arriving to The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2022 in New York City.
Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson are seen arriving to The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2022 in New York City. Photo credit: Getty Images

Also sharing the alleged evidence to their Instagram, fashion watchdog and industry authority Diet Prada noted that the photos appears to counter Ripley's assurances that "great care" was taken with the piece of history. 

"Compared to images of the dress on display in 2016, the differences are more than apparent," the watchdog said. "It appears that Marilyn's iconic 'Happy Birthday, Mr President' dress, which was custom made for the actress in 1962, is damaged after Kim Kardashian wore it to the Met Gala."

Controversy has surrounded Kardashian's decision to wear the gown since the evening of the coveted event. The designer who drafted the original sketches for the dress, Bob Mackie, told Entertainment Weekly in May that Kardashian should have never worn the dress in the first place, adding: "It was designed for [Marilyn Monroe]. Nobody else should be seen in that dress."

Speaking to the LA Times, former head of conservation at the Met's Costume Institute, Sarah Scaturro, said she was frustrated by the decision: "In the '80s, a bunch of costume professionals came together to state a resolution that historic costumes should not be worn. So my worry is that colleagues in historic costume collections are now going to be pressured by important people to let them wear garments."

The apparent damage has also stoked outrage among commentators and critics on social media. Commenting on Fortner's posts, many have expressed their disappointment and anger at both Kardashian and Ripley Entertainment for proceeding with the decision. 

"What a bad decision and what a pity that she didn't wear the replica from the start," one user said.

"This is so sad," a second added, with a third writing: "Shame on Ripley's. Their press statement is hollow. Both parties sold out for publicity with zero regard for the sanctity of the dress."

"So inappropriate for it to be worn - by anybody," a fourth agreed.

Speaking to Vogue ahead of the gala, Kardashian reiterated that she was "extremely respectful" to the gown and its legacy, adding: "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 makeup I usually do."

In a statement following the gala, a representative for Ripley's affirmed the decision was not an easy one, but agreed that Kardashian had "continued to show the utmost respect for this opportunity and historic garment".

"From extensive research to following guidelines such as no body makeup, only wearing the dress for the short red-carpet appearance, and making absolutely no alterations, she has become a steward - and added to - its history," the representative continued.

At the time, Ripley's also claimed that "no damage" had occurred to the garment during the fittings and its Met Gala appearance.