Marilyn Monroe dress that sold for $5M on display at SF museum

The most expensive dress sold at an auction— Marilyn Monroe’s sheer gown — was revealed at San Francisco’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf on Thursday.

“Art, history, culture, politics — whatever you want to call this dress, it’s part of it. It’s a slice of Americana,” Edward Meyer, Ripley’s vice president of archives and exhibits, told the San Francisco Examiner on Thursday morning at an unveiling event for the gown.

Meyer said the dress was purchased for $5 million at an auction.

Monroe wore the nude gown, designed specifically for her and decorated with 6,000 hand-sewn rhinestones, to sing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 at a Madison Square Garden gala.

“Watch the film footage,” Meyer said. “She takes the fur off, and the air is sucked out of [people’s] mouths. I hope we can create this kind of effect 55 years later.”

Ripley’s bought the one-of-a-kind dress designed by Jean Louis from a private collector last year, earning a Guinness World Record for the most expensive dress sold at auction. For the last 17 years, the gown was “kept well, but away from the public,” Meyer said.

The dress, along with the gala’s poster, advertisement and a ticket, will be on display at San Francisco’s Ripley’s at Fisherman Wharf every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the next month.

After that, Ripley’s will tour the collection around its 32 locations in 10 countries. The dress will be traveling incognito with at least two guards and in a case designed specifically for it.

“America needs to be aware of its history,” Meyer said. “If there is an iconic piece of clothing from the last 50 years, it’s this dress!”

Alena Naiden
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Alena Naiden

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