What is now known as the “Happy Birthday Mr. President Dress” has become one of, if not THE, most famous dress of all time.
In early 1962, having been asked to perform at a Democratic fundraiser & JFK’s 45th birthday celebration, Marilyn approached Hollywood designer Jean Louis to design a dress that “only Marilyn Monroe could wear.”
The colour of the nude souffle chiffon dress was said to match Marilyn’s skin tone and was embelleshed with 2,500 hand sown round crystals, strategically positioned so that her modesty was maintained. The dress was a column design with a scoop neck, sleeveless but with shoulder straps, and a zipper that went from the bottom of Marilyn’s rear to her lower back. The zipper was hidden by a hook and eye tab closure. The dress was so form fitting that Louis incorporated an 18 inch slit in the bottom so that Marilyn could walk in it.
It has been said that on the night of the performance, 19th May 1962, Marilyn was sewn into the gown, however, it seems more likely that there was a slight tear along the top of the zipper that was fixed at some point.
In 1999, during her last week of cataloging Marilyn’s personal property for the Christies auction, Nancy Valentino found a box that had been overlooked. Upon opening the lid, Valentino found the dress amongst reams of tissue paper. On 27th October 1999, the dress was auctioned for over $1,267,500 to a private collector. The collector had conservators at Kensington Palace design a custom mannequin that the dress has been mounted to for over seventeen years.
On 26th October 2016, the dress arrived in Ireland to be displayed at Newbridge Silverware’s Museum of Style Icons . Before the dress went on display at the museum, there was a press event at The Westbury Hotel in Dublin City which I was lucky enough to attend to view the dress (pictures below). There are no words to describe what it was like to actually see this up close and personal. It was truly breathtaking, especially thinking that Marilyn wore it and so close to her untimely death too. The dress has been kept in immaculate condition over the years, being preserved on a mannequin of Marilyn’s form and, standing beside it, you could almost imagine you were standing side by side with Marilyn.
The dress was displayed in The Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware from 29th October – 6th November 2016. This was a major coup for Newbridge Silverware as it was not displayed anywhere else outside of the USA! Fans travelled from all across Europe to view the display there.
On 17th November 2016, the dress returned to the public eye in an auction held by Juliens Auctions. Upon sale it became the most expensive privately owned dress to be sold at auction, when Ripleys bought it for a total of $4,800,000.