Fashion historians are not pleased with Kim Kardashian for wearing Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress to the Met Gala.
On Monday, Kardashian, 41, appeared at the annual benefit in Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress — the outfit worn by the actress for John F. Kennedy’s birthday celebration in 1962 –– which has been on display in Orlando, Florida, at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Dr. Justine De Young, professor of fashion history at the Fashion Institute of Technology, tells PEOPLE that Kardashian’s look was “irresponsible and unnecessary.”
“She can –– and did –– commission a replica which would be indistinguishable from the original. Such an iconic piece of American history should not be put at risk of damage just for an ego-boost and photo-op,” Dr. Young adds.
Referencing Kardashian’s comments that she lost 16 pounds in three weeksand cut out sugar and carbs so she could fit into the dress, Dr. Young continues, “Crash-dieting to fit into the original dress is also an unfortunate message to be sending one more in keeping with ideals of the 1960s than today.”
Monroe historian and collector Scott Fortner also tells PEOPLE why Kardashian’s look is “cause for concern.”
“While I understand the appeal of wanting to wear such an iconic gown, it can’t be dismissed or overlooked that anyone other than Marilyn Monroe wearing the famous ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ dress might be cause for concern for several reasons,” says Fortner, adding, “The dress was custom-made for Marilyn Monroe. It’s not an off-the-rack garment. It was created by Academy Award-winning designer Jean Luis, who had designed costumes for Marilyn’s final two films: The Misfits and Something’s Got to Give.”
Fortner, who has one of the world’s largest private collections of Monroe’s personal property, says the late actress wanted the dress to be one that was unique to her. “When Marilyn knew she’d be performing at President John F. Kennedy’s birthday gala she contacted Luis and said, ‘I want you to design a truly historical dress, a dazzling dress that’s one of a kind.’ She asked that it be a dress that, ‘only Marilyn Monroe could wear,’ ” Fortner tells PEOPLE.
“Marilyn stood nude as the fabric for the dress was literally sculpted to her body to precisely match every curve. The fabric, which is a flesh-colored soufflé gauze imported from France, was layered strategically so she wouldn’t need to wear undergarments,” he continues.
Fortner says that Monroe’s dress “fit her perfectly. The gown worn by anyone else will not be a precise fit. In this case, Kim Kardashian’s measurements are somewhat different than Marilyn’s. It’s logically assumed the fabric and seams were stressed.”
Fortner, who witnessed Ripley’s Believe It or Not! buy the dress for $4.81 million in 2016, notes that “the age of the gown” is also an “issue” as Monroe wore it in May 1962, making the piece 60 years old.
He goes on to address speculation that the Keeping Up with the Kardashians alum didn’t actually fit the gown on Monday night.
“Was it able to be zipped and closed in the back? The fur she wore on the red carpet hid this area and so that’s an ongoing question. Yet, there are photos of her in the gown that show it fully zipped and closed in the back,” Fortner says, noting the sizing changes in the fashion industry over the last six decades. “One of the most enduring topics about Marilyn Monroe, aside from the manner in which she died, is her true size. What were her body measurements? What size did she wear? Was she plus-sized?”
He adds, “Several years ago, I wrote an article on the topic and I demonstrated Marilyn’s true size using actual clothing from her personal everyday wardrobe which I now own. Yes, she wore a size 14 Pucci blouse in 1962. However, a 1962 size 14 is not a 2022 size 14 due to vanity sizing.”
Fortner concludes, “There are limited photos from the Kennedy gala, and only low quality, black and white film footage of Marilyn in the dress. While I wouldn’t have approved anyone wearing Marilyn’s gown were it part of my collection due to its value and overall significance, at least now we have seen what it looked like ‘in motion’ when worn by Marilyn.”
These people are really passionate about a woman’s dress. We hope they’re equally as passionate (and vocal) about the current attack on women’s rights.