Reawakening Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” Dress

Now valued at $10M, one of history and pop culture’s most significant garments has been recreated by Angelica Hicks.

Pop Culture Art & Fashion
3 min
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Reawakening Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” Dress
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Pop Culture Art & Fashion

As the first Monday in May approaches, fashion fans are bracing themselves for the most anticipated red-carpet event of the year: the Met Gala. And this year’s theme, Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion , has reawakened a sleeping beauty in the Ripley’s exhibit collection.

Steve Smith with Marilyn Monroe at Private Reception in New York City
When prepping for President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 birthday event, Marilyn Monroe deceived organizers and said she was going to wear a high-necked demure gown. She ended up making a splash in this dress, singing a scandalous version of “Happy Birthday.”

Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” Dress

Reentering the annual Met Gala conversation, Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress, originally worn when she performed at John F. Kennedy’s birthday celebration in 1962, made its only modern-day red-carpet appearance on Kim Kardashian at the 2022 Met Gala . The divisive moment introduced the one-of-a-kind dress to a new generation (and simultaneously awakened a legion of apparent fashion conservation enthusiasts).

While the Monroe dress is undoubtedly one of the most iconic pieces of fashion from this century, the Sleeping Beauties inspiring this year’s Met Gala looks span 400 years of fashion history. The Costume Institute’s exhibition will focus on 50 historically significant pieces deemed too fragile to ever be worn again.

Kim Kardashian
Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” dress made its second-ever appearance at the 2022 Met Gala on Kim Kardashian. With preservation being the highest priority, Kim only wore the original dress for her carpet appearance, later changing into a replica.

There is no disputing the fragility of Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” dress, and there was certainly calculated risk associated with wearing it, but Ripley’s stands by previous statements that the dress was not damaged by Kardashian. That said, we can’t help but feel we at least partially inspired this year’s gala theme about preserving and displaying historical fashion garments. We hear you, Mrs. Wintour…

Collaborating with Angelica Hicks

Angelica Hicks, a visionary artist and fashion influencer whose creativity knows no bounds, is known for reimagining iconic red-carpet looks with her own unique twist. Ripley’s invited her to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Hollywood to reawaken Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” dress in Angelica’s signature way.

Possibly her most ambitious project yet, it presented Angelica with plenty of challenges.

First considering butcher paper or a big balloon, she landed on a single stocking leg as the basis of the dress. She was searching for a material that showed off the shadow of the knee, which she believes is one of the most important elements of the original Bob Mackie design.

“When I cut the final [video], it looks so seamless and effortless, but really it can be so stressful,” she explained. “This is the most satisfying recreation I’ve done.” –Angelica Hicks

Adding Pop Culture Significance and Value

Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” dress has grown in value since its appearance on Kim Kardashian.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! acquired Monroe’s dress at a Julien’s Auctions event in 2016 for $4.8 million. With taxes and fees, the dress’s value surpassed $5 million, making it the world’s most expensive dress ever sold at auction.

Today, its value only continues to grow.

Marilyn Monroe Dress
Ripley’s strongly feels that the “Happy Birthday” dress is the most famous item of clothing from twentieth century culture. With both political and pop culture significance, Monroe’s dress continues to tell her unbelievable tale.

According to a recent CNN Style article, Executive Director of Julien’s Auctions, Martin Nolan, noted, “[Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’] dress would now sell for $10 million because of that double whammy connection of a celebrity.”

A formal reappraisal of the garment is currently in the works.

Honoring and Preserving History

Ripley’s has been collecting notable pop-culture memorabilia, historical items, and unbelievable artifacts for over 100 years. Our mission is to both entertain and educate, and sparking conversations like the discourse around this dress does just that. No matter which side of the debate you are on, the historical importance of the dress has not been negated, but rather emphasized.

Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” dress remains on display at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Hollywood. Visit soon to get an up-close look at this stunning garment, along with a behind-the-scenes peek at Kim’s Met Gala look and other memorabilia from Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy.

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