It is definitely impossible to pick which is Marilyn Monroe’s TOP look, but a few dresses do stand out.
With Kim Kardashian choosing what is now considered the most famous of them, the “naked dress” that the actress wore just over two months before her death, 60 years ago, we once again remember her story and how she was so connected to farewell to Marilyn Monroe. By the way, as Marilyn was skinny in 1962, it is said that Kim went on a strict diet to fit into it. I believe it!
Scandal calculated in 1962
John ‘Jack’ Kennedy’s 40th birthday party was “the” political and entertainment event of 1962, with so many guests and fans that it was held at Madison Square Garden in New York. The biggest stars in the world came to honor the American president, from Maria Callas – who opened the night – to Marilyn Monroe, who was scheduled to close the event.
Marilyn, at age 36, was facing a difficult time in her life and career. Single after the end of her third marriage, with Arthur Miller, as she was approaching 40, roles started to get scarce. Bearing in mind that in Hollywood, even actresses with Oscars still suffer the passage of time from what executives call “young girlfriend” directly to “grandmother”. That is, between the ages of 40 and 60, there are few prominent roles.
In addition, in the 1960s, the romantic comedies and musicals that made Marilyn a star were in decline, cinema was tackling more forceful themes such as the Cold War and she was unable to make the transition to dramatic actress, as she tried in The Misfits, her last full-length film and directed by John Huston. To make matters worse, her historical delays, her insecurity, and dependence on her teachers, her undisguised use of drugs and drinks also collaborated to isolate her professionally.
Against this backdrop, it’s no surprise that he was living his passions even more intensely. Today the notorious and accepted affair with the two Kennedy brothers, Bob and Jack, was her main focus in 1962. Somehow, the actress convinced herself that the two would leave their wives for her (first John, then Bob), but of course, the two never considered the possibility, accelerating her depression and suspicious death less than two months after the birthday party. But let’s talk about the dress.
In May 1962, Marilyn’s connection to JFK was not yet known worldwide, only internally. So much so that Jackie Kennedy refused to participate in the event when she saw that her husband’s (then ex) lover was going to perform for him. Marilyn loved the decision as she was determined to force Kennedy’s hand to end the marriage. For that, you would have to have an unforgettable look. Thus came the ‘naked dress’.
Signed by Oscar-winning designer Jean-Louis, who was working with her on the film Something’s Gotta Give, and who had already created Rita Hayworth‘s dresses in Gilda, the flesh-colored dress was so tight that Marilyn Monroe was completely naked for down and the dress had to be sewn, to finish, already on her body. With more than 2,500 crystals, the process was so complicated that it contributed to the actress being more than two hours late in singing her famous “Happy Birthday to You”.
To make sure the moment would be unforgettable (as if it could), the actress walked on stage covered in a fur coat. When she took it off, provocatively, she was effectively “naked” and the audience of over 15,000 people sighed. You can imagine the president’s reaction… From then on, as Jackie feared, everyone knew there was something more between the two of them. So much so that John Kennedy joked in his acknowledgment that “I can now retire from politics after being sung ‘Happy Birthday’ in such a sweet and healthy way.”
Jean-Louis’ dress was inspired by a sketch by legendary designer Bob Mackie years earlier, also thinking of something like what he had created for Marlene Dietrich at her Las Vegas shows.
The most expensive dress in the world
The astronomical amount paid by the actress in 1962 was 1,440 dollars, something that would be close to 15 thousand dollars today. In 1999, the piece was auctioned by Christie’s for more than a million dollars, beating the record at the time. In 2016, it surpassed itself again when Julien’s Auctions got 4.8 million dollars plus taxes, that is, more than 5 million dollars. It was purchased by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, which had already paid US$4.6 million for the white dress from The Seven Year Itch, in 2011.
The ‘naked dress’ was Marilyn Monroe‘s last major public appearance. When she returned to California, she was fired from the movie Something’s Gotta Give and on August 4, 1962, she was found dead in her bedroom in an apparent suicide. For Kim Kardashian, Marilyn is what she calls the “greatest American symbol I can think of” and the moment she sang happy birthday also became the most remembered of her brief life. That’s because she knew it would. “Nowadays everyone wears see-through dresses, but back then it wasn’t like that… In a way, it’s the original nude dress. That’s why it was so shocking,” he told Vogue. Possibly Marlene Dietrich would disagree, but how not to love Marilyn Monroe?