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Was Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn Dress A Mistake?

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn dress she wore at the Met Gala ranging from conservation issues to issues surrounding body image and eating disorders. ...
Credit: Getty Images

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn dress she wore at the Met Gala ranging from conservation issues to issues surrounding body image and eating disorders.  

There was a lot to talk about at this year’s Met Gala: celebrities ignoring the theme en masse, Kylie Jenner’s hilarious “glow-down”, but one of the biggest topics has been Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn dress. There are a few reasons for this and at this point we have to ask, was wearing the dress a mistake?

The dress itself has become a piece of history since Marilyn Monroe wore it when she sang “Happy Birthday” to the then President of the U.S, John F. Kennedy. Since then the dress was sold as part of Monroe’s estate sale by Christie’s after her death. Afterwards it sold for $4.8 million USD at Julien’s Auction’s in 2016. Now it is held by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, where Kim got a hold of it.

“I’m a big fan of auctions and I own several JFK pieces, so I know the owner of Julien’s,” Kardashian told Vogue. “He was able to connect me [with Ripley’s] and that’s how the conversation started.”

The Conversation Around Crash Dieting & Thinness

When Kim first approached Ripley’s, they offered her a replica which fit her perfectly. But she wanted the real thing. The problem was that the real dress did not fit her. As Kardashian told Vogue, “I always thought she [Monroe] was extremely curvy. I imagined I might be smaller in some places where she was bigger and bigger in places she was smaller. So when it didn’t fit me I wanted to cry because it can’t be altered.”

She added that she really had two choices, “Slim down to fit into the dress or find something else to wear.” It seems many people now are wishing that she chose the latter.

Kardashian lost 16 pounds (7.25kg) in just three weeks to fit into the dress. To achieve this, she “would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein. I didn’t starve myself, but I was so strict.”

A lot of discourse surrounding the dress has been directly aimed at the toxic aspects of diet culture. Some voices have been more fervent than others and whilst some have simply called it an eye-rolling publicity stunt or a harmless short-term crash diet. However, Glamour went even further and put forward an argument that posits that these publicity stunts have a profound impact on those who do have eating disorders. Reinforcing thinness, as Glamour puts it, is an “age-old tactic to distract, demoralise, and exterminate women… and to profit off our insecurities (see: every ‘flat tummy tea’ and waist trainer the Kardashians have ever sold).”

You might be thinking to yourself that Glamour have gone a bit overboard with the “exterminating women” part, but according to the National Eating Disorders Association, “Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions.” According to a study, “overall people with anorexia nervosa had a sixfold increase in mortality compared to the general population.” However, there is no certainty as to whether these figures also apply to bulimia or non-specified eating disorders.

Whether or not Kim intended this or not, it has entered the conversation especially since she is credited with early arguments against thinness. As she told Harper’s Bazaar in 2010, “Embrace your curves and who you are. I feel proud if young girls look up to me and say, ‘I’m curvy, and I’m proud of it now.’”

Kim is still curvy, but it feels like being curvy is okay as long as you’re curvy in the right way. Viewers felt that Kim would be a star who would “break the wheel” surrounding modern ideas of beauty and thinness, and it’s those people who felt the most hurt.

As fashion journalist, Amy Odell, tweeted, “The big #MetGala fashion moment, I guess, was Kim Kardashian wearing the Marilyn Monroe dress, which she said she lost 16 pounds in three weeks to fit into. If that’s not the regressive messaging this industry has tried desperately to distance from, what is?”

And do you know the worst part of all of this? The dress still didn’t fit as TMZ discovered. That was why she wore the fur stole on the red carpet. So it was all for naught in the end.

That Belongs In A Museum!

The dress is a museum piece and plenty of people have been quick to point out that because of that fact, she shouldn’t have worn the dress in the first place.

Several conservators have spoken up and expressed indignation that Kim would even suggest wearing it and risk any damage to the historical dress. One such conservator, Sarah Scaturro, former Head Conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institution, took to Instagram to express her feelings: “When I was the head of the Costume Institute’s conversation lab, I had to swat off requests by people (including Anna Wintour) to have irreplaceable objects in the collection worn by models and celebrities.”

In a fantastic article from the Daily Beast, fashion historian, Keren Ben-Horin, told them that,

“In my opinion, [Kim wearing the dress] was not a good idea. It raises a lot of questions about ethics. Sarah [Scaturro] raises very important points that this is a one-of-a-kind, historical garment that should not leave the museum.”

Granted, Kim only actually wore the real dress for a few minutes as she walked into the Met Gala due to its fragile nature and historical value. She changed into the replica shortly after her entrance.

Under normal circumstances, the dress is stored in a darkened vault at 68 degrees Fahrenheit at around 40-50% humidity. All involved knew the risks. “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 damage to it and I won’t be wearing the kind of body makeup I usually do,” Kim told Vogue. But if that were the case, why wear the dress at all?

Amanda Joiner, Vice President of Licensing and Publishing at Ripley Entertainment, told the Daily Beast that they hadn’t made this decision lightly. “We had to make some decisions as far as whether or not we were willing to let Kim borrow the dress. We did two different fittings with her. The first one was in L.A. in April and then the second one later in April to see whether or not the dress would fit.

“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.”

Again, if they were really worried about preservation, they wouldn’t have let her wear the dress. It’s a guaranteed way to avoid damage, isn’t it?

Joiner claims that the motivations behind allowing Kim to wear the dress was “to bring something that’s 60 years old and very iconic to a new generation.” In some way, they succeeded, but for all the wrong reasons.

Ripley’s were not stupid though and did take quite a few precautions, as Joiner explained,

“We basically had many conversations with Kim and her team and put a lot of requirements in place with security and with the handling of the dress. 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.”

Kim also echoed Joiner’s remarks saying that, “everything had to be specifically timed and I had to practice walking up the stairs.”

But once again, Ben-Horin makes an excellent rebuttal to all of this,

“Once a dress enters a museum collection, the same way you wouldn’t let [Kardashian] leave with the Mona Lisa, I think it’s the same thing. We can’t expect people to understand conservation issues, but I think it’s the role of the museum itself to set up very clear guidelines and ethics codes around how pieces can leave the museum. All of us have a fantasy to wear something from a museum. That’s what makes fashion exhibitions so successful. But you can’t, and it’s up to the museum to educate people about why they cannot do that.”

Most people are against what Kim did for one reason for another and the people defending her seem to be missing the point. One viral tweet described the backlash as, “Misogyny in history repeats itself,” but this isn’t about Kim wearing a racy outfit, it’s about her ethical decisions and the consequences of them.

What do you think? Was Kim’s decision a mistake? Comment down below and let us know. 

For more Met Gala content, check out the Winners & Losers list and the Best Watches at the Met Gala


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