Update: This article was updated at 2:58 p.m. June 16, 2022, to include additional comments from Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Kim Kardashian has the fashion world up in arms once more, after photos of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic skin-tight dress now looking torn at the seams emerged on Instagram Monday. Close-up shots show the mesh fabric stretched dangerously thin along the zipper, and multiple crystals appear to be either missing or hanging by a thread. That’s allegedly different than how it looked when Kardashian wore the dress on the Met Gala red carpet in May, which already caused a ton of controversy.
For Kardashian to wear the famous dress out for a night on the town raised more than a few red flags among spectators: Monroe first wore it 60 years ago, when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy, Jr., thus cementing the outfit’s place in history. While the dress was partially covered by a fur coat when Kardashian wore it—to hide the fact that it wouldn’t zip over her famous backside—these new photos may suggest that the mogul is at fault for its supposedly worsened condition.
Kardashian is certainly who ChadMichael Christian Morrisette feels is at fault here. Morrisette, a mannequin collector and self-proclaimed “die-hard Marilyn Monroe fan,” took the incriminating photos on Sunday at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Hollywood, where the glittery gown is now on display.
“To see what [Kim Kardashian] did at the Met Gala was such a disgusting gut punch that I have been waiting to see this dress show back up on Hollywood Boulevard,” Morrisette told The Daily Beast by phone Monday, not long after his photos of the dress went viral on social media. “I stopped by Ripley’s to see it and that’s where I took the picture.” (Until recently, the dress had been on display at Ripley’s museum in Orlando, where Kardashian was spotted picking it up in April for the Met’s “Gilded Glamour”-themed night.)
“I went in and I saw the visible damage–unbelievable damage from what it was before,” Morrisette went on to say. “And to see that dress destroyed and ripped and tattered and torn–it’s unbelievably shocking that that would be allowed.”
Morrisette’s alleged evidence of the dress’s current state has spread across the internet, prompting questions about whether the billionaire businesswoman is responsible for the perceived damage to it—despite Ripley’s previously claim that the dress was closely monitored during its trip to New York City.
The photos were first posted to Instagram by Morrisette’s friend Scott Fortner, who calls himself the “world’s largest private collection of Monroe’s personal property & archives.”
“So much for keeping ‘the integrity of the dress and the preservation,’” Fortner wrote in his initial Instagram post, alongside quotes about how dangerous it was for Kardashian to wear Monroe’s dress out in the first place. Fortner later posted before-and-after comparisons of the dress, and responded to criticisms that these comparisons are misleading.
The photos were later picked up by fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada, whose base of 3 million followers helped give more traction to the drama.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Kardashian’s camp noted that the original dress already exhibited some amount of wear before Kardashian put it on.
Four days after the publication of this article, Ripley's put out a statement assuring fans of Monroe and fashion history alike that the dress looks exactly the same now as it did before Kardashian slipped it on.
"Kim Kardashian wearing the 'Happy Birthday' dress has been hotly contested, but the fact remains that she did not, in any way, damage the garment in the short amount of time it was worn at the Met Gala," the statement reads.
"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,” added Ripley's Vice President of Publishing and Licensing Amanda Joiner, who kept her eye on the dress during its journey from Orlando to New York.
Morrisette’s relationship to Monroe’s famous dress runs long and deep, however, bolstering his confidence that he knows the state of it better than anyone else. He first saw the shimmering frock in 1999, he said, when he “pilgrimaged” to the Christie’s New York auction house for a closer look. Seventeen years later, in 2016, he donned white gloves and helped set it up for auction at Julien’s in Culver City, as part of his work displaying historical garments. It was there that Ripley’s snagged it for $4.8 million.
The reality star’s sartorial selection was controversial from the start. For one, she admitted to going on a strict diet and losing 16 pounds just so she could fit in it, even though she still had to walk the carpet with the back of the dress open.
Morrisette mentioned this physical discrepancy as part of the issue at hand. “Kim Kardashian is not Marilyn Monroe’s body size,” he said, going on to criticize Ripley’s as a “clown show” for allowing her to borrow Monroe’s iconic frock. He later called her a “pig. With her fat ass.”
Promotion of unhealthy body ideals (and subsequent body-shaming comments) aside, other critics worried about any possible damage that would interfere with the outfit’s preservation, a delicate task that requires even sweat stains to be protected.
“In my opinion, [Kim wearing the dress] was not a good idea," fashion historian Keren Ben-Horin told The Daily Beast last month. “It raises a lot of questions about ethics.”
Kardashian’s choice to take the dress out for a spin was also slammed by Bob Mackie, who drew the sketch for it while working as an assistant to designer Jean Louis. “[Marilyn] was a goddess. A crazy goddess, but a goddess. She was just fabulous. Nobody photographs like that. And it was done for her. It was designed for her. Nobody else should be seen in that dress,” he told Entertainment Weekly.
While the Skims founder’s team maintains the dress has aged like any other piece of clothing would, the outsized attention, particularly for a celebrity used to battling questions of cultural appropriation and misuse, may inspire museums to put an extra lock on their vaults.
Asked to respond to the Kardashian camp’s pushback against his claims, Morrisette called it “bullshit.”
“I’d say it right to her face,” he told The Daily Beast. “I’d slap her like Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. You destroyed that dress. It was in perfect condition.”