The secrets behind Marilyn Monroe's JFK dress

A $4.8million wisp of fabric that’s still wowing 60 years on! ‘Naked dress’ worn by Marilyn Monroe to sing Happy Birthday to JFK was taken off display at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for Kim Kardashian to wear to the Met Gala

  • Marilyn Monroe’s iconic nude gown stole the show at the MET Gala last night
  • The mesh and marquisette dress has been embellished with 2,500 rhinestones
  • Dazzling dress was one of Bob Mackie’s first works after graduating aged just 21
  • Sultry outfit fuelled spculation of an affair with Monroe and President Kennedy

Six decades after Marilyn Monroe stole the show at Madison Square Gardens with her version of Happy Birthday, her legendary nude dress has been thrust back into the spotlight. 

The dazzling gown, worn by Kim Kardashian at last night’s MET Gala, was last worn  publicly in 1962 when Monroe took to the stage to celebrate President John F. Kennedy’s birthday. 

Despite the audience of thousands at the gala, the icon’s sultry performance seemed directed only at the President, fuelling rumours of a secret affair between the two. 

The mesh and marquisette dress, embellished with 6,000 crystals, remained part of Monroe’s estate until her friend Anna Strasberg enlisted Christie’s to sell it in 1999. 

It was auctioned again in 2016 and was bought by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Florida where it’s been on display until Kim Kardashian had the idea of wearing the ‘original naked dress’ to this year’s Met Gala. 

The gown was so form hugging that Marilyn had to be sewn into it, and Kim has raised eyebrows by admitting she went on a crash diet to lose 16lbs in three weeks because it didn’t fit her. 

The mesh and marquisette dress, embellished with 6,000 crystals, was so form hugging that Marilyn had to be sewn into it and according to Kardashian became the ‘original naked dress’

After selling for at Julien’s, the dress was put on display by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and was lent to Kim Kardashian – who made history by being the only person besides Marilyn to ever wear the iconic dress in 40 years 

Marilyn made the choice to step out in the dress despite knowing the seductive garment wouldn’t go down well with her employers following her previous nude calendar scandal. 

The first sketch of the dress was the debut project by American fashion designer Bob Mackie, who aged 21 had left Chouinard Art Institute to work for French costume designer Jean Louis. 

Speaking ahead of the dress’ auction at Julien’s, Mackie said: ‘My job working with Jean Louis was my first job I booked in Hollywood when I was just out of school. 

‘That was the first time I had ever been involved in a dress like that. Since then I’ve done probably millions of them. 

Despite the audience of thousands at the gala, the sex icon’s sultry performance seemed directed only at the President, fuelling rumours of a secret affair between the two

‘That kind of dress, the illusion of being naked, thinking you can see something but you really can’t. It was magical and it was simple. It was simple, yet so powerful.

‘It was Marilyn, Marylin was used to being naked she didn’t care and she looked amazing. Nobody had ever seen Marilyn in person like that, it was unbelievable.’ 

The garment was inspired by costumes created by Louis for Marlene Dietrich and her cabaret act in the 1950s and 60s and was crafted by acclaimed designer himself. 

Monroe purchased the bespoke gown for $1,440 and Mackie told Vogue that after giving the sketch to Louis he had ‘no idea what it was for until photos of the event appeared in the newspaper’.

Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions, revealed before the dress’ auction in 2016 that Monroe had asked Louis to make her something ‘truly historical’. 

‘She wanted the wow factor, to show the world how good she was looking’, he said. ‘She had lost weight recently and she really was feeling good and she wanted to show that off to the world.’ 

Mackie, who has since found fame working with high profile clients including Judy Garland and Lucille Ball, claimed that her employers, Fox Studios, were hesitant about letting the star dress too revealingly in films. 

Actress Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday at the Democratic rally for President John F. Kennedy’s birthday in 1962 three months before her death 

It was auctioned again in 2016 and was bought by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Florida where it’s been on display until Kim Kardashian had the idea of wearing the ‘original naked dress’ to this year’s Met Gala

They were said to be concerned about her image following the emergence of nude photographs taken of the actress in 1949, when she was desperate for money after being released from contracts with both 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures. 

But according to Mackie, the star ‘really didn’t care’ about their view – having recently been fired from the romantic comedy Something’s Got to Give by 20th Century Fox.  

Monroe was met with gasps from the 15,000 audience when she removed her white fur coat to reveal her translucent dress at the event, which doubled as a fundraising gala for the Democratic Party.

Kennedy joked after Monroe’s performance that he could ‘retire after having had ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.’

Despite her starring role in the evening, Marilyn bought five tickets – at $1000 a head- to the gala event, because it was the only way to guarantee an invite to the private supper afterwards. 

Described by one journalist as ‘making love to the President in the direct view of 40 million Americans’ – her provocative performance further increased speculation they were having an affair. 

Monroe was met with gasps from the 15,000 audience when she removed her white fur coat to reveal her translucent dress at the event, which doubled as a fundraising gala for the Democratic Party

Kennedy joked after Monroe’s performance that he could ‘retire after having had ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way’

According to Douglas Thompson in his recent book, Marilyn danced five times with JFK’s brother Bobby, the U.S. Attorney-General, at the post-gala party in a New York penthouse suite. 

But she left with President Kennedy and went via a basement corridor and a private elevator to his suite at the next-door Carlyle Hotel. Next day, she returned to California

According to Thompson, the gala was to mark the end of their interactions after the actress heard from the President’s camp she would never see JFK and she must never try to contact him again. 

The famous performance was one of Monroe’s last major public appearances before her death nearly three months later on August 4, 1962. 

In 1999, gown was sold by Christie’s Auction in New York for $1,267,500. In 2016, California-based Julien’s Auctions sold the dress for $4.8million.

‘The dress is so much more than just an item of clothing,’ said Nolan before the dress’ auction in 2016. ‘It’s historical, it’s political, it’s a work of art. It’s Hollywood, it’s Marilyn Monroe. It’s the Kennedys.

After selling at Julien’s, the dress was put on display by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and was lent to Kardashian – who made history by being the only person besides Marilyn to ever wear the iconic dress in 40 years

‘It’s everything wrapped up into one piece of fabric soufflé gauze … This dress, this story, this momentous occasion represents a defining moment in history.’ 

After selling at Julien’s, the dress was put on display by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and was lent to Kardashian – who made history by being the only person besides Marilyn to ever wear the iconic dress in 40 years. 

‘This is Marilyn Monroe’s dress. It’s sixty years old. I had this idea to put it on and try it on. They came with armed guards and gloves. I tried it on and it didn’t fit me. I had to lose 16 pounds,’ she said on the red carpet. 

‘I was determined to fit it… I did it…’ adding that she hasn’t eaten carbs or sugar for three weeks and also dyed her hair blonde.

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