The star caused 'irreparable' damage to the historic gown when she wore it to the Met Gala, says Monroe expert and collector Scott Fortner
Most of us will have tried to wrangle a dodgy return to ASOS before, but the stakes are a little higher when you’re dealing with what has been dubbed “the most famous dress in the world.” It is no exaggeration to say that the crystal-adorned gown is one of the most iconic garments in American history: Monroe was wearing it when she famously sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F Kennedy in 1962.
Following its reappearance at the Met Gala, it was returned to its home at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, which is where the trouble began: Monroe expert and collector Scott Fortner posted before-and-after photos online which appear to show extensive damage, including stretched fabric and missing crystals. What’s worse, this damage is now “irreparable”, as the fabric from which it’s made is no longer available.
Fortner has argued that Ripley’s had been irresponsible in lending out the dress, and motivated more by a desire for publicity that its responsibilities towards historical preservation.The gown was first acquired by the museum in 2016 for $4.8million and is normally kept in a darkened and tightly temperature-controlled vault, which does make the decision to send it out to on the red carpet – to be subjected to thousands of flashing cameras - seems irresponsible.
It’s true that Kardashian only wore the dressed for 20 minutes before changing into a replica, but then what is even really the point? Why not just wear a replica to begin with? She could probably have had one made that actually fit, unlike the Monroe dress.
”This is not just a dress. This is a cultural icon. It's a political icon. It's a Hollywood icon. It's part of American history from an event that happened 60 years ago and… it should have been archived and preserved and taken care of” – Scott Fortner
“I think the disappointment that I'm experiencing is Ripley’s has made multiple statements that they were doing everything that they could to protect and preserve the gown,” Fortner said.”I do feel that it [was] irresponsible, this is not just a dress. This is a cultural icon. It's a political icon. It's a Hollywood icon. It's part of American history from an event that happened 60 years ago and… it should have been archived and preserved and taken care of.”
While Fortner stated that it wasn’t his intention for outrage to be directed at Kardashian, the star has faced considerable backlash on social media for borrowing the dress in the first place. Doing so was certainly a mistake, but given she’s not an archivist or collector, perhaps a forgivable one – the more salient point is that she shouldn’t have been allowed to. It betrays a lack of respect for fashion history and the vital preservation work which upholds it, for one thing.
For Kardashian’s part, she has denied returning the gown in poor condition and claimed that it was already exhibiting signs of wear-and-tear. Her social media vilification also provides an echo of the life of Monroe, who was widely disparaged throughout her life and only achieved beloved icon status posthumously. Who knows what Kardashian dresses we’ll be arguing about in 60 years time?