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Marilyn Monroe 'Happy Birthday' dress fetches $4.8 million

Published 18/11/2016

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe

The nude dress Marilyn Monroe wore to serenade President John F. Kennedy has been purchased by Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

The dress Marilyn Monroe wore to serenade President John F. Kennedy has sold for a record price at auction.

The "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" dress was sold at Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles on Thursday night (17Nov16) with the winning bid coming from museum Ripley's Believe it or Not. It fetched $4.8 million (£3.87 million), well exceeding the $3 million (£2.4 million) guide price.

Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions, said: "This dress, this story, this momentous occasion represents a defining moment in history... This auction will remind the world why Marilyn Monroe remains an icon."

While Edward Meyer, vice president of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, told Associated Press that he believes the gown is the "most iconic" piece of pop culture that there is.

"In the 20th century I cannot think of one single item that tells the story of the 1960s as well as this," he said.

He added that it was likely the dress would go on display at Ripley's Believe It Or Not in Hollywood, before moving to different branches around the world.

Monroe wore the provocative figure-hugging, sheer dress when she sang to President Kennedy at a Democratic fundraiser held at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, ten days before Kennedy's 45th birthday. The blonde beauty was found dead less than three months later, aged 36.

Designed and made by Academy Award-winning costume designer Jean Louis, the nude gown features 2,500 hand stitched crystals. It had been previously bought at auction for $1.27 million in 1999 by the late business mogul and collector Martin Zweig.

The sum raised is likely to set a new world record for the most expensive dress sold at auction. Monroe's billowing white dress from the Seven Year Itch sold for $4.6 million (£3.7 million) in 2011.

The sale comes as part of a three-day auction of Monroe’s possessions and keepsakes from her career.

Julien’s Auctions said Monroe’s Some Like it Hot cocktail dress sold for $450,000, and a letter to Monroe from Jean Kennedy Smith sold for $28,000.

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