Ripley’s Believe it or Not is denying that Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” dress was damaged after Kim Kardashian wore it on the Met Gala red carpet last month.
Earlier this week a Monroe collector posted before-and-after images of the dress, claiming that the dress was left with stretched and buckling fabric, along with missing crystals or ones “left hanging by a thread,” after Kardashian wore it to the ritzy fundraiser.
“So much for keeping ‘the integrity of the dress and the preservation.’ @ripleysbelieveitornot, was it worth it?” Scott Forner wrote.
But Ripley’s attempted to set the record straight on Thursday, issuing a statement that they say “debunks” Forner’s assessment.
“A report written on the dress’s condition in early 2017 states, ‘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,’ among other instances of damage,” the museum wrote.
“Kim Kardashian wearing the…dress has been hotly contested, but the fact remains that she did not, in any way, damage the garment in the short amount of time it was worn at the Met Gala,” the statement continued.
They also defended their decision to let Kardashian wear the dress, arguing that “the dress could have been locked away in a private collection, unable to tell its story.”
The dress, which has belonged to Ripley’s Believe It or Not since they bought it at auction in 2016 for US$4.8 million, was only worn for a short time by Kardashian, who changed into a replica dress after walking the red carpet.
But Thursday’s statement was a doubling-down from the museum, who also had to explain themselves in May when they faced backlash for allowing someone to wear the iconic piece of fashion history.
“Great care was taken to preserve this piece of pop culture history. With input from garment conservationists, appraisers, and archivists, the garment’s condition was top priority,” the museum wrote at the time.
Earlier this week, Pop Crave shared side-by-side photos to give more context to the alleged damage.
Kardashian’s decision to wear the dress has been mired in controversy from the moment she stepped onto the red carpet, as conservators and socialites took to social media at the time to express their disappointment.
Sarah Scarturro, the former head of the Met’s fashion conservation department, took to Instagram at the time to blast those involved.
“I had to pause before I posted this because I am so angry. #kimkardashian wearing Marilyn’s historic and iconic dress is unethical,” she wrote.
“Now fashion conservators, collection managers, and curators are going to suffer under pressure from fancy powerful rich people who think they should be able to wear objects in costume collections since after all ‘it’s just a dress’ rather than irreplaceable fragile material culture.”
Bob Mackie, the designer responsible for the original sketches of the dress, told Entertainment Weekly back in May that the dress “was designed for (Marilyn Monroe). Nobody else should be seen in that dress.”
Even the International Council of Museums (ICOM) weighed in, posting in a statement that “historic garments should not be worn by anybody, public or private figures.”
“Prevention is better than cure. Wrong treatment will destroy an object forever,” ICOM wrote in May.
To make matters worse, Kardashian admitted that she did not fit into the dress at the first fitting and went on a crash diet to lose 16 pounds over the course of three weeks. She had to carry a fur stole on the red carpet as the dress would not close completely in the back.
However, Amanda Joiner, Ripley’s VP of Publishing and Licensing – who accompanied Kardashian and the dress to the gala – said in the statement, “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.”
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