Much has been said and posted about the #MetGala2022 so far! But too little has been criticized about the ONE dress worthy of a real discussion: Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress worn by Kim Kardashian. You’ve read that right: Kardashian wore the original gown Monroe wore in 1962 when singing HAPPY BIRTHDAY to president John F. Kennedy.
As a fashion historian, costume designer and huge Marilyn Monroe lover seeing this happen at such a huge event meant a lot to me – so here are my thoughts on this pretty problematic incident!
Now where do we start? We of course could look at this dress with a focus on the two main questions, that are generally asked when looking at the Met Gala gowns: How did it correspond to the theme of the evening and how did it look generally? How did the wearers look? But talking about Kardashian wearing the HISTORICAL dress of Marilyn Monroe at this occasion asks for the larger questions to be addressed than these.
Wearing HISTORICAL fashion
Let me ask you one thing ahead of my opinion: Would you like to try on an original dress of Marilyn Monroe? Of course you would. But should you wear such a dress? No. And never. No matter if it’s touching, trying on or even wearing such a dress – no one should ever do any of these things. Why? Because of many aspects speaking against it. First of all: It’s a dress, that is 60 years old. It is something, that is very sensitive to light, to sweat and to any kind of movement. Wearing it means damaging it. Even if it’s only for ten minutes or for a few meters on a red carpet – wearing it means damaging it, no matter how careful you are.
It’s not JUST A DRESS
Damaging a dress is one thing. Damaging a pop cultural icon of American history is another. Kim Kardashian did not just damage a ‘simple’ dress, she damaged a historical object. No matter who the owner of the dress is, it shouldn’t be worn by somebody else than Monroe. Kardashian did and unfortunately added another layer of history to this object. It’s a moral question: Wearing historical clothes is – to a certain extent – unethical.
Please take a close look at the video footage of one of the fittings of Kardashian at Ripley’s Believe it or not, who is the owner of the dress. If you take a look at how the dress was handled, how difficult it was for her for her to get into the dress you can really see, that it wasn’t handled the way I deserves. You do not need to be a fashion historian or a conservator in order to see that this the handling is wrong on many levels (starts at minute 1).
A question of the SILHUETTE, not of WEIGHT
Surprise: It is more than apparent that Kardashian didn’t fit into the dress. And even if she was the same size as Monroe her body could never ‘fit’ into the dress, which was made-to-measure for Marilyn Monroe. The Kardashian body with its unnaturally large bottom is totally different from the Marilyn’s silhouette and from any kind of natural body shape. Kardashian herself addressed this problem saying that she had to lose 7kg in three weeks in order to fit into the Monroe gown.
About the IRRESPONSIBILITY of KIM
Which leads us directly to the next very problematic aspect of the whole affair: First, you should never ever try to fit into a fashion. Fashion should be here for YOUR silhouette not the other way round. Secondly, stating proudly, that you lost 7 kg in three weeks, in front of an international audience and your own 307 millions of followers (!) is wrong on so many levels one can hardly verbalize it (even more so as a woman). So many girls and women watching this will think: Well, I can do that too! This is the most irresponsible thing she could have done – beyond wearing the dress.
A choreography created by VOGUE
Kardashian was the one closing the red carpet of the Met Gala this year, which in the world of fashion means a huge honor. She also claimed herself, that she had to get dressed right before the red carpet and get undressed on top of the stairs of the red carpet meaning that she actually wore the original dress for a short time.
This whole choreography shows, that it’s not only Kardashian to be blamed for this fiasco. It’s actually the event makers and the host, which is VOGUE and the Metropolitan Museum. And this is the REALLY disappointing fact around this story. Are we surprised or disappointed by Kim? No. We all know her character, her wit and intellect. We all know that she is always behind a scandal and a social media (shit-)storm.
But one would have thought, that VOGUE would act differently. Installing changing cabins and offering the last place of the red carpet means knowing about the dress and enabling this whole appalling performance. So, it’s this worldwide fashion authority that VOGUE and CONDÉ NAST represent, that are a massive disappointment with that decision. They should actually pay the respect to this historical dress. And they didn’t. They didn’t care at all – but instead opted to stage it and afterwards enjoy posting the content and glorifying her ‘iconic performance’.
The making-of of an ICON
Talking about Kardashian’s “iconic performance” we also have to ask the meta question behind her motivation to wear Monroe’s dress. Why did she do it? What was the goal behind it? The claim is – on the one hand – to be Marilyn Monroe of course. But it doesn’t stop here. The claim is, that Kardashian is as famous, as iconic and as history-making as Marilyn. Kardashian claims that throne via wearing that dress. A lot of people know, that this is highly ridiculous. But a lot of people agree and see her as the new American icon of pop history.
PARTNERS in CRIME
And VOGUE has recently been largely supportive of this. For a long time they have been ignoring Kardashian (we all remember Naomi Campbell reaction to being asked about Kim years ago). All of a sudden Kardashian appeared on the cover and ever since has been a strong ally of Anna Wintour and VOGUE. No matter if you appreciate this development or not (I personally don’t) Kardashian is slowly but surely becoming this icon. And wearing that Monroe dress was the next very important puzzle piece of that plan of hers.
Finding the appropriate word for this kind of behaviour is difficult. Pretentiousness. Disrespect. Arrogance. Audacity – these might be close for this kind of attitude.
An HOMAGE or rather a CATASTROPHE?
What is even more appalling is how Kardashian is even trying to make the public believe that she is full of respect and standing in awe of the honor to wear Marilyn’s original dress. That her act is actually not an offense but an homage to Marilyn Monroe. Well, I wouldn’t call that an homage – I’d rather call it a catastrophe. If you are looking for a really tasteful and respectful AND fabulous homage I highly recommend Lana del Rey and her tribute to Monroe:
An epic SACRILEGE
What Kardashian did was one thing only: A sacrilege. You do not do this kind of thing just because you have the money and fame to do it.
The CLASSIC questions
Concluding this review we actually still need to discuss the two main questions, all journalists ask at the Met Gala: How did the look correspond to the theme GILDED GLAMOUR? Well, not at all. It has nothing to do with the gilded age of the finale decades of the 19th century in New York city. It might be an icon of American Fashion History but has nothing to do with the gilded age. It’s not even gilded to be precise.
The point of having a THEME
Stating this and thinking of VOGUE posting glorifying content all over their communication channels of Kim and many more, who did not at all make an effort to link their looks to the theme, we really have to ask ourselves: What is the point of establishing a theme and not at all caring about how it was interpreted?
Did she at least LOOK GOOD?
The second question needs to focus on how she actually looked? Now, this is where Karma is kicking in in my modest opinion: Kardashian and her team made so many wrong decisions when choosing her outfit and in the end she didn’t even look good. The dress was too long and too small – she could barely walk in it. Furthermore the ‘fur’ stola was of a very poor quality, and we’re not even going to mention the horribly bleached hair.
Yesterday we also had the opportunity to see how the backside looked and have been witness of her bottom being wrapped up in the Skims shapewear while the zip couldn’t be closed at all and was open all the way down to her crotch during her appearance. Pretty glamorous, right?
Furthermore, Kardashian stated that she loved the dress, because it is the first nude dress of history and therefore so important to her. Taking a look at how it fit her, it wasn’t at all ‘nude’ since her skin tone is much darker than Marilyn’s was and so the dress somehow lost all its scandalous and fabulous effect, it had in 1962.