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The story behind the most expensive dress ever sold at auction


The story behind the most expensive dress ever sold at auction
It sold for US$4.8 million.

Ever wondered how to make a quick buck from fashion? Find an iconic piece and hold onto it.

Marilyn Monroe’s 1962 ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ dress returned to the headlines in 2022 when Kim Kardashian wore it to the Met Gala.

The dress was loaned to Kardashian by Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, who were the winning bidders of the dress in 2016, purchasing it for an impressive US$4.8 million which, when coupled with auction fees, topped $5 million, making it the most expensive dress ever sold at auction.

Designed by Jean Louis, the nude coloured dress has more than 6000 rhinestones hand-sewn into its fabric. Edward Meyer, VP of Exhibits & Archives for Ripley’s Believe It or Not! said the importance of the dress cannot be understated. “This is the most famous item of clothing in twentieth-century culture,” he says. “It has the significance of Marilyn, of JFK, and of American politics.”

Image: Bill Ray, Time Magazine.

When collector, the late Debbie Reynolds, bought ‘The Girl’ ivory pleated ‘subway’ dress that Marilyn wore in the movie The Seven Year Itch for $4.6 million, it seemed anything attached to Marilyn sells well.

Another Reynolds’ favourite from the star’s extensive collection is the ‘Ascot Dress’ from My Fair Lady. Worn by Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle when visiting Ascot to test her new diction, the dress sold in 2011 for $4.5 million. In 2013 the Do-Re-Mi outfits from The Sound of Music sold for $1.5 million, including the Von Trapp children’s curtain outfits and the brown dress Julie Andrews wore while singing Do-Re-Mi.


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