Did Kim Kardashian Disgrace Marilyn Monroe's Legacy?
Bramley Legg '23

Kim Kardashian upended the fashion world when she decided to wear Marlyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress to the 2022 MET Gala. Monroe’s dress is a piece of fashion history and has been worn only once by Monroe herself, mere months before her death. Many were stunned that Kim K had the gall to wear the iconic dress, and believe that it should have never left the museum. Some argue that the quick appearance at the MET tarnished its historic reputation, while others are more upset about the means that Kardashian took in order to fit into the dress. As Kim K is a well known celebrity due to her famous family, reality show, and mammoth social media following, the fact that she lost 16 pounds in three weeks does little for her respectability as a role model. 

Marilyn was the epitome of beauty during her era and her legacy remains over sixty years later. She was known for her sultry voice, hourglass figure, and was symbolic of the sexual revolution during the mid twentieth century. The iconic dress that Kardasian brazenly wore was designed and built specifically for Monroe, a jaw dropping gown that she had to literally be sewn into. The nude colored, full-length gown is coated in 2,500 hand-sewn rhinestones and was designed to hug Monroe’s natural curves in order to accentuate her hourglass figure. Monroe rocked the dress while singing “happy birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962, months before her death and the year before his assassination. While Monroe paid 1,400 dollars for the dress, the history behind it puts the value at over 13 million dollars today. After the actress’s death, the dress lived in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! collection in Orlando, Florida, until Kardashian decided she wanted to wear it. Kardashian was able to convince Ripley’s to allow her to borrow it with sizable donations to the organization, as well as agreeing to armed guards and gloves in order to keep the dress safe. 

The theme for the 2022 MET Gala was the “Gilded Age,” a time of rapidly growing wealth at the end of the nineteenth century. The years 1870-1900 were considered the Gilded Age in American history, and attendees were encouraged to dress to the theme. It is clear that many were unaware of the actual time period as there were few outfits that paid homage to the economic boom of the late nineteenth century. While actress Blake Lively wore a gown designed after the Statue of Liberty, a New York City landmark built during the Gilded Age, others like Kardashian wore outfits that missed the point. Kim took an iconic dress from the 1960s, over half a century after the Gilded Age ended. While the dress has received renewed recognition since the Gala, Kardashian’s motive is questionable as it can only be tied to the theme through its country of origin, the United States. 

Along with her dubious rationale, Kardashian forced herself to lose 16 pounds in three weeks in order to fit into the dress, a bad look for promoting body positivity and female empowerment. With the fight for women’s rights being rehashed in 2022, showcasing a dress from the wrong era and being vocal about an unhealthy, and unnecessary weight loss in order to prove she could fit in the dress exposes Kardashian's superficiality and true priorities. Kim must be aware that she has one of the largest celebrity fan bases but continues to abuse her power by leaving a harmful impression on the millions of people that support her. Kardashian disgraced Monroe’s legacy and the history associated with the dress by wearing it to the Met Gala, though she gained the attention she is constantly always seeking.