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Wednesday 18 January 2017

Monroe's 'happy birthday' dress fetches €4.5m

David Mercer

Published 19/11/2016 | 02:30

The dress on display at Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images
The dress on display at Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images

The famous dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she sang "happy birthday Mr President" to John F Kennedy has sold for a world-record price at auction, fetching $4.8m (€4.5m).

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The sheer, flesh-coloured design, which has more than 2,500 hand-stitched crystals, had a pre-sale estimate of $3m (€2.8m) before it was auctioned at Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe

It was bought by museum chain Ripley's Believe It Or Not - surpassing the previous most expensive dress sold at auction, Monroe's white costume from The Seven Year Itch which went for $4.6m (€4.3m) in 2011.

"We believe this is the most iconic piece of pop culture that there is," Edward Meyer, vice president of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, said.

"In the 20th century I cannot think of one single item that tells the story of the 1960s as well as this dress. It's a new world record for a dress."

Mr Meyer said 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.

The custom-made gown was so tight fitting that Monroe was said to have been sewn into it before performing for president Kennedy on May 19, 1962, ahead of his 40th birthday.

The Hollywood star was found dead less than three months later, aged 36.

Monroe sang happy birthday in her trademark sultry tones in front of 15,000 guests at a Democratic fundraiser at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Actor Peter Lawford had introduced the star as the "late Marilyn Monroe", referring to her reputation for tardiness.

Under a bright spotlight, Monroe walked on stage and peeled away her white ermine fur coat to reveal her dress in one of her last public appearances before her death from a drug overdose.

The performance sparked rumours of an affair between Monroe and Mr Kennedy, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien's Auctions, said: "This dress, this story, this momentous occasion represents a defining moment in history.

"That rendition has lived on for decades as one of the most remarkable events in her career and certainly one of the most storied tales in popular culture history," said Darren Julien, president of Julien's Auctions.

Hundreds of Monroe's items are going up for auction over three days.

Irish Independent

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