The skin-tight, crystal-covered gown Marilyn Monroe wore during her sultry 1962 performance of “Happy Birthday Mr. President” for John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday picked up $4.8 million at auction Thursday night.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum bought the dress at Julien’s Auctions for more than its $3 million asking price because it was “the most iconic piece of pop culture that there is,” the company’s vice president Edward Meyer said at a press conference.
“In the 20th century I cannot think of one single item that tells the story of the 1960s as well as this dress,” Meyer said.
If the sales price holds, it would set a new record for dresses sold at auction. Monroe’s white cocktail dress best known in the photo of her standing above a New York City subway grate held the previous record. It sold in 2011 for $4.6 million, according to the BBC.
Monroe, who died at 36 of a drug overdose three months after the birthday performance, had to be sewn into the Jean Louis gown, according to the auction house. The mannequin at the auction house perfectly matches Monroe’s measurements, The Guardian reported.
The dress is a part of the largest collection of Monroe’s possessions ever brought to auction. It consists of about 1,000 lots that Julien’s auction house offered over three days. The items, which could garner $5 million and were largely donated by Monroe’s acting coach Lee Strasberg, include Monroe’s famous gowns, hand-written recipes, poetry, personal home furnishings and even pots and pans.
The 2,500 crystal-encrusted dress was previously purchased by Martin Zweig in 1999 for $1.3 million. It will be displayed at Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Hollywood before touring other locations.