Ever since Kim Kardashian walked onto the Met Gala red carpet in Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress, the Internet has been in debate. Some loved the moment—the callback to American fashion history, the climax of Kardashian’s journey from Met Gala outcast to star of the show—but it’s safe to say no small mount of others were disappointed in the reality star’s dress choice. It didn’t fit the theme, it lacked the originality Kardashian has brought to the Gala in recent years, but most importantly, many believed that Kardashian wearing the dress was disrespectful to, not only the garment itself, but also Monroe’s legacy. The argument that a dress like that should be in a museum, not flaunted on a red carpet has been held strongly by many costume historians and conservationists. Pretty much everyone has chimed in to share their opinion on the matter. And now, legendary designer Bob Mackie is joining the conversation.
Twitter trolls may think their view is the be-all and end-all of this Kardashian-Monroe debate, but no one has a stake in the game quite like Mackie. The designer actually drew a sketch for the original gown in question when he was working as an assistant for the designer Jean Louis back in 1962 (Mackie, of course, would strike out on his own a few years later to design for Cher, Diana Ross, and other legends). Sixty years later and the dress is back in the public conversation, but Mackie is not happy about it.
“I thought it was a big mistake,” the designer told Entertainment Weekly. At the time Mackie made the original sketch for the dress, he was just 23. He said he didn’t know where the dress would be worn, but he knew it was for Monroe. “She was just fabulous,” he said. “Nobody photographs like that.”
Mackie continued, saying, the dress “was designed for her. Nobody else should be seen in that dress.” But it’s not just the legacy of the dress and Monroe that Mackie is concerned about, but also the garment itself. Like many other critics, the designer is concerned that wearing the piece “was undoubtably damaging to its preservation and structural integrity,” according to EW. Alicia Malone, host of Turner Classic Movies, chimed in, saying that even oxygen can have an effect of the dress.
“Usually, these outfits are kept very much in controlled environments and we see that with the Met,” she said. “The Costume Institute is so careful about how they are handling these historic items. So, it was quite alarming that she was able to wear it. I personally wish she wore a replica instead of the real thing.” And while Kardashian did change into a replica immediately after walking the red carpet, there was a good chunk of time was she was in the original piece and because of that, the dress is forever changed, both physically and ideologically.
“Now, Kim will be tied to that dress as Marilyn is,” Malone said. “So it'll be the Marilyn Monroe dress that Kim Kardashian also wore to the Met Gala.”