The entertainment franchise, known for its archive of pop culture memorabilia, said in a press release Thursday that Kardashian “did not, in any way, damage the garment in the short amount of time it was worn at the Met Gala.”
“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,” said Amanda Joiner, Ripley’s VP of Publishing and Online Marketing. Joiner was “continuously with the dress the day of the Gala and during transport from Orlando to New York.”
The skin-tight, sparkling nude dress became a part of American history after Monroe wore it while singing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
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Allegations that Kardashian “literally ruined” the dress surfaced when ChadMichael Morrisette, a visual artist who curates museum and costume exhibits, said he observed irreparable damage to the dress firsthand.
“This is the dress we have to look at now for the rest of our history,” Morrisette told USA TODAY Wednesday after he saw it on display Sunday at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Morrisette said he previously handled the dress in 2016 when he displayed it for Julien’s Auctions, where Ripley’s purchased it for $4.8 million.
Morrisette took photos of the dress Sunday, which he shared with Monroe memorabilia collector Scott Fortner, who reposted them on Instagram to compare how the dress looked before Kardashian wore it.
“When you’re dealing with 60-year-old material and fabric and thread and sequins… everything you do damages it. Every time you display it damages it,” Morrisette said. “When someone has the audacity to put it on and walk in it up the stairs, you’re so ignorant to the history of that piece of fabric that it makes me so angry.”
Morrisette’s photos, alongside pre-Met Gala images of the dress, lit up social media amid criticism at the time of the gala that Kardashian should not have been allowed to don the delicate and historically notable dress. It was made of a flammable fabric that is no longer on the market.
Ripley’s said while it is not “the first owner of this dress,” a 2017 report on the condition of Monroe’s dress indicated the garment already had damage, including “pulled and worn” seams and “puckering at the back by the hooks and eyes.”
The dress adorned with more than 2,500 crystals was custom made for Monroe. It was based on a sketch by the famed designer Bob Mackie, working for the costumer Jean Louis at the time.
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According to Vogue, Kardashian only wore the dress for a matter of minutes before changing into a replica so as not to damage the original.
“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 any damage to it, and I won’t be wearing the kind of body makeup I usually do,” Kardashian told Vogue at the time. “Everything had to be specifically timed, and I had to practice walking up the stairs.”
Ripley’s said Thursday it will continue to display the dress in its current state at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Hollywood through the fall.
“Our mission is to both entertain and educate visitors and fans, and sparking conversations like the discourse around Marilyn Monroe’s dress does just that,” the release states. “No matter which side of the debate you are on, the historical importance of the dress has not been negated, but rather highlighted. (An) entirely new group of young people have now been introduced to the legacy of Marilyn Monroe.”
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Contributing: Charles Trepany, USA TODAY; Leanne Italie, The Associated Press