A lot to unpack from the last 24 hours, but today, let’s linger a little longer on the Met Gala.
The first Monday of May was upon us, and with it Anna Wintour’s fashion fundraiser for her closest 700 friends, tickets at $35,000. I would have attended, but the ticket price was the exact same amount as my electricity bill for this April, so for once I decided to revel in the fashion excess remotely.
And what excess it was! With everybody stepping out all fancy, anxious to out-Instagram each other, for a moment it was almost as if there were no actual cares in the world. Then some clever PR-professional had timed the leaking of the US Supreme Court document showing that a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade has been taken. From that moment on the $35,000-costing, Gilded Age- themed Spiel on the red carpet just seemed grotesque. But more about Roe v. Wade in an incoming post. I cannot think straight yet.
Today, our – like everybody else’s – eyes shall be on the Dress. For some inexplicable reason the Orlando-based museum that holds the original dress Marilyn Monroe wore to John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday party at the Madison Square Garden on 19 May 1962, had agreed to borrow it to Kim Kardashian to wear to the Gala yesterday.
As the dress was flown to her – accompanied by armed guards, no less – and as she was trying it on, it wouldn’t fit. “I always thought Marilyn was, like, extremely curvy“, surprised Kardashian reminisced her horror. Curvy, yes. Surgically enhanced to comical proportions, no.
But Kim’s heart was set on the legendary dress, so she went on a mad diet of (dust?) and wearing a sauna suit (why she didn’t wear the sauna suit to the gala I will never understand) twice a day to lose almost 8 kilos in three weeks. (She did announce on the cover of last month’s Vogue that she’s chosen herself, while ‘tucking into her breakfast banquette for a plant-based stir-fry prepared by one of her two full-time chefs‘ – weren’t those the days!)
After shedding the pesky pounds, Kardashian dyed her hair blonde (took her hairdresser 14 hours) shoehorned herself into Monroe’s dress, accessorised with lethally high platform heels to make up for her height (Monroe was much taller, and the dress was not to be altered), arranged for barricades set up outside of her hotel so as to I don’t even know, and hobbled to the Gala – only to change into a replica after she had posed for photographs.
Credit must be given where it’s due, of course, and at least Kardashian treated the iconic garment with ultimate respect. “I didn’t even use any body makeup so as to be careful with the dress”, she modestly added before jetting off to a carbs-bingeing party she’d wowed to organise to mark the end of three weeks of sweating and surviving on tomatoes.
Everything about the above is wrong.
First, you ask how in the world do I have the time to do all this research? I don’t exercise or socialise.
Second, Kardashian parading around in Marilyn Monroe’s dress is a perfect illustration of why I disapprove of knock-off merchandise. You rarely can beat the real thing, and they are called knock-offs for a reason.
Third, doing a Marilyn/Audrey Hepburn –lookalike do is a thing and I get it. Many people do it. It’s fine, if not terribly original. This was neither. The Dress, worn 60 years ago, was a scandal at the time. For number of reasons, surely, but people had not quite* seen anything like it before. Belting out a slightly drunken ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President‘, Monroe appeared literally naked. Kardashian, on the other hand, would have to swallow a camera to film her insides in order to show us some part of her body not yet seen.
Her pouting on the red carpet, after having starved herself to fit into a priceless piece of pop-culture history had little to do with Gilded Glamour. History was channeled, for sure, and the New York Times fashion editor put it best: In receiving the honor of being the last to arrive, she, a pop culture figure born of reality TV who had once been barred from the gala guest list, conclusively demonstrated that it is influence and fame, not just pedigree and filthy lucre, that are the real currency of success; the keys that unlock the doors of even the most exclusive events. Today, even more than in the original Gilded Age.
*And this is where we come to the quite anything –part: For it was not Monroe who wore the nude dress first in the swingin’ Sixties. It was the sassy German, Marlene Dietrich, who was the inspiration behind the design. Monroe had called Dietrich’s dress designer Jean Louis for a version after seeing Dietrich perform. Eventually a designer called Bob Mackie does the sketch for the dress that ends up on the podium of the Madison Square Garden. And, alas, on the red carpet of the Met Gala 60 years later.
Who wore it best?
Marilyn Monroe arriving at the Madison Square Garden on 19 May, 1962.