Why do the Kardashians always dress like other celebrities?
It seemed like a good idea at first. But maybe that’s the case when Kim Kardashian asks her army of assistants to do something about it. This time, however, it was a particularly difficult order. The 41-year-old reality star needed something to wear for this year’s Met Gala. His first choice? The sheer, beaded Jean Louis dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in 1962, when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in Madison Square Garden. Yes, this dress.
The dress itself belongs to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, who lent it to Kardashian through Julien’s Auctions, the company that handled its sale in 2016 – the dress cost $4.8 million ($3.8 million). pounds sterling). Initially, the Skims founder was offered a replica of the dress — she declined. After much deliberation, Ripley agreed to allow Kardashian to wear the dress to walk the red carpet. Then it would turn into a replica.
Everything was quite simple. And yet, the moment Kardashian arrived at the Met, hand-in-hand with boyfriend Pete Davidson, the internet went wild. It didn’t necessarily have anything to do with how Kardashian looked in the dress (beautiful), or the diet she followed to fit into it (absurd), although it did ruffle some feathers. No. The online furor was mostly because Kardashian had secured the rights to wear one of the most beloved pieces of clothing of all time.
Earlier this month, Monroe dress designer Bob Mackie, who designed the original sketch of the dress for Jean Louis, said it was a “big mistake” that Kardashian was allowed to wear it. “[Marilyn] was a goddess. A crazy goddess, but a goddess,” the 82-year-old said. Weekly entertainment. “She was just fabulous. Nobody shoots like that. And it was made for her. It was made for her. No one else should be seen in that dress,” Mackie added.
Meanwhile, fashion historians also slammed Kardashian for wearing the dress. Justine De Young, associate professor of fashion history at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, said People that it was “irresponsible and unnecessary…An iconic piece of American history should not be exposed to damage for an ego boost and a photo op”.
But there is a context in which Kardashian wears Monroe’s dress. See, the Kardashian family is in shape when it comes to paying homage to celebrity style icons. Kardashian herself has dressed up as Cher and Madonna before, for example, always going the extra mile with her costumes to keep the resemblance as close as possible because, well, she can afford it.
And her sisters too. In previous years, we’ve seen myriad members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan pay homage to style icons of the past. In 2016, Kylie Jenner dressed up as Christina Aguilera, donning the singer’s famous crotchless pants and striped bikini top from her “Dirtty” music video. “It was probably one of my first looks that I really customized and I was so excited [to wear]she said of the look in a 2020 YouTube video. “I’m still getting Tweets about it and my friends are still talking about it.”
Meanwhile, it was Kylie’s older sister, Kendall, who decided to dress up as Pamela Anderson for Halloween in 2020, when she channeled the actress’ outfit from the 1996 cult film, Barbed wire, complete with a blonde wig, black leather thong bodysuit, and even a motorcycle — the Kardashians don’t dress halfway. Kim also dressed up as Anderson, sporting her famous fluffy pink hat and white corseted one-year-old look for Halloween.
More recently, we saw Kendall airing Monica Bellucci’s famous 1997 Cannes look, in which the actress wore a beige Dolce & Gabbana two-piece. The 26-year-old model opted for an ensemble from the same collection when she attended an event in Portofino, Italy, to celebrate her sister Kourtney Kardashian’s wedding to Travis Barker.
This all begs a question: why are the Kardashians so obsessed with channeling fashion icons of the past? And what does that say about how they want to be perceived? “I think it’s a combination of reasons,” says Rebecca Arnold, lecturer in fashion history at The Courtauld. “It’s a validation of their own status and stardom by association with other stars, which of course is only multiplied when it comes to someone as mythologized as Marilyn Monroe.”
Of course, by aligning themselves with Monroe, Anderson, and Bellucci, the Kardashians reinforce their own cultural relevance. “It reinforces their status as stars and beauty icons, and suggests that they are multi-faceted, that they may be more than one person or type,” says Arnold.
But also a way to up the ante on the red carpet, she adds, referring to Kim’s full bodysuit from last year’s Met Gala. “After Kim’s Balenciaga outfit was literally blackout this year, she wore a dress that literally and metaphorically reflected light as she put on Marilyn’s dress and therefore her spotlight.”
There’s also the appeal of just playing dress up. “It can provide an escape,” says Arnold. “The urge to dress up is quite universal, costume balls and fancy dress have been popular for centuries, from extravagant masquerade balls to costume parades at church feasts.
“Dressing as an icon is a tribute – showing that you are a fan, or that you love or admire this person, but also having the fleeting experience of being them and inhabiting their style and beauty, if not- what for an evening.”