Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
At first glance, the dress Kim Kardashian wore to close out the 2022 Met Gala red carpet doesn't look particularly special. It lacks the over-the-top silhouettes and dramatic, long trains of previous years. But when you hear the backstory, it turns out to be one of the most extreme, iconic moments in the event's history.
As detailed in a piece written by Chioma Nnadi, who interviewed Kardashian ahead of the Met Gala for Vogue, the dress is the one Marilyn Monroe wore to sing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy on his 45th birthday in 1962, just three months before her passing — not a similar style, not a replica, not a duplicate, but the exact dress.
Designed by then-21-year-old Bob Mackie and made by costume designer Jean-Louis, the iconic look sold for a record-setting nearly $5 million at auction in 2016. It was later acquired by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, where it has been maintained in a light-, temperature-and humidity-controlled room since.
Kardashian had the idea to transform herself into Monroe after last year's gala in September. Because there's seemingly nothing she and her family can't leverage their power to achieve, Ripley's agreed to let her wear Monroe's dress as long as she kept it pristine and unaltered.
With her equally legendary, but slightly larger, curves, Kardashian decided to lose weight — 16 pounds, she said during Vogue's livestream — to fit into Monroe's dress, rather than wear something else. She also dyed her hair platinum blonde, which took 14 hours, and had a special, secret room set up near the Met steps, equipped with a conservationist to help her change right before her turn on the carpet. She did all of this just to wear the dress for a few minutes, changing into a replica after she ascended the stairs because she wouldn't be able to sit or eat in the original.
Sheer, figure-hugging and embellished with crystals, the dress is akin to something Kardashian might wear for any old night out at Nobu, but in 1962 it was scandalous, eliciting audible gasps when Monroe took off her fur coat to reveal it. As Kim overcame the controversy that made her famous and worked to infiltrate an industry that previously excluded her, many — including ex-husband and stylist Kanye West — compared her to Monroe, who similarly struggled to be embraced in more elite circles before becoming an American icon.
Fans had actually speculated that Kardashian would wear this very dress to the Met Gala, including @kardashian_kolloquium, who detailed its history and significance to American fashion in the lead-up to the event.
In a few years, Kardashian has gone from the Met Gala's persona non grata to following her mom and, for the first time, all four sisters up the steps to close the red carpet. And that she did it in this particular dress — well, that's pretty iconic.
Also, Pete Davidson was there.