Marilyn Monroe dress sells for $498,000— eight times its estimate

Fashion

A long-sleeved pink gown with crystal tassel detailing once worn by Marilyn Monroe sold at auction this week for $325,000 (AUD$498,000), eight times what it was estimated to be worth and the latest in a long line of memorabilia worn by the late star that has fetched top dollar on the open market.
Actress Marilyn Monroe Holding Dog

Marilyn Monroe pictured wearing a Emilio Pucci gown that sold at auction for $325,000 on March 28, 2024.

Bettmann Archive

Key Takeaways
  • The dress, which she reportedly wore for a Vogue photoshoot with photographer Bert Stern, was sold Thursday evening by Julien’s Auctions as part of a set of iconic Playboy items (the first issue of “Playboy” magazine featured Monroe on the cover).
  • Made for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York by Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci, the dress was expected to sell for between $40,000 and $60,000.
  • Other Monroe items up for sale through Saturday include a first edition of the magazine, a film-worn black evening gown worn from the “The Seven Year Itch,” a swimsuit from the movie “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” an umbrella she used in a 1949 photoshoot and a black bra, framed with a photo of Monroe wearing it.
  • Items that belonged to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner were also on the auction block—his iconic burgundy smoking jacket, silk pajamas and slippers sold for $35,750 (more than 10 times their estimated value) and dozens of pieces of furniture and decor from the iconic Playboy mansion in Los Angeles are for sale.
Hollywood. Playboy’s Most Iconic Art Auction Held by Juliens Auctions

Hugh Heffner’s smoking jacket and an Emilio Pucci dress once owned by Marilyn Monroe were sold by Julien’s Auctions.

Ted Soqui/Sipa USA

Big Number

$4.8 million. That’s how much the most expensive piece of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia has ever sold for. The dress, which she wore to sing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy in 1962, was sold by Julian’s in 2016.

Surprising Fact

Six years after it was sold, the “Happy Birthday” dress was taken out of the archives and worn to the Met Gala by Kim Kardashian. The dress was loaned to Kardashian by Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and the decision was immediately met with backlash from outraged fans who claimed Kardashian damaged the garment by pulling and wearing down seams. Months later, Ripley’s said the dress was returned “in the same condition it started in.”

The 2022 Met Gala In America: An Anthology of Fashion Red Carpet  Arrivals

Pete Davidson wears Dior and Kim Kardashian wears Marilyn Monroe’s Jean Louis-designed gown at the 2022 Met Gala.

Penske Media via Getty Images

Key Background

Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, rose to fame for her roles popular films like “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Something’s Got to Give.” She was one of the most popular actresses of the 1950s and early 60s and her personal life was often the fodder of gossip magazines. She was married three times, including a short and highly publicized union to New York Yankees star Joe DiMaggio. Monroe died in 1962 from a probable suicide. She was 36.

Monroe’s acting and modeling legacy endures today and can be seen in stunts like Kardashian’s at the Met Gala, constant recreations of her recognizable “subway grate scene” from “The Seven Year Itch” and the popularity of items from her estate, which are frequently up for auction. Particularly notable items, like the “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress, have fetched millions of dollars at auction. The dress from the subway grate scene sold for $4.6 million at auction in 2011 and two gowns—from the films “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business“—each sold for $1.2 million.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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