Ripley’s Entertainment bid a record-breaking $4.8 million to land the rhinestone and crystal dress Marilyn Monroe wore in 1962 when she sang to President John F. Kennedy on his 45th birthday.
Edward Meyer, Ripley’s vice president of exhibits and archives, placed the winning bid for the iconic dress last week at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles. Meyer, who started working at Ripley’s as a cartoon editor in 1978, describes himself as “Mister Gee Whiz” and travels the world buying oddities for Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
“This is the most famous item of clothing in 20th-century culture,” Meyer said after placing the winning bid. “It has the significance of Marilyn, of Hollywood, of JFK, of American politics.”
Designed by Jean-Louis, the original sketch of the beige dress was created by a young Bob Mackie during his first job. The floor-length dress has more than 2,500 crystals and 6,000 hand-sewn rhinestones. It last sold for $1.27 million at a Christie’s auction in 1999.
Ripley’s also purchased other Monroe memorabilia, including a ticket to the Madison Square Garden event, where she sang “Happy Birthday” to Kennedy ($6,500), Mackie’s sketch of the dress ($7,000), ceramic tiles signed by Monroe and other performers at the gala ($10,000) and a film of the birthday performance ($10,000).