Marilyn Monroe's 'Happy Birthday to JFK' gown to be auctioned

NEW YORK — The skin-tight, barely-there beaded gown Marilyn Monroe wore during her breathless rendition of Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 is going on the auction block again..

Julien's Auctions is offering the sequined stunner at a sale in Los Angeles on Nov. 17.

The auction house believes the gown could fetch $2 million to $3 million.

Monroe wore the flesh-colored dress at Kennedy's 45th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962. Made of silk gauze and covered in thousands of rhinestone beads and sequins, the Jean Louis dress was so form-fitting that Monroe had to be sewn into it.

She died less than three months later of an overdose of sleeping pills at age 36. Kennedy was assassinated the following year.

The custom-made, one-of-a-kind dress is "not only Hollywood, but political and historical," said Julien's president Darren Julien.

The dress was first purchased 17 years ago at Christie's auction by the late financierMartin Zweig, who kept it in a climate-controlled display case at his Pierre Hotel penthouse in New York. It is being sold by his estate.

"She called it skin and beads," said Julien of the gown. And because the dress was sewn on Monroe's volumptuous form, Zweig had it professionally mounted on a mannequin. "It's never been off it, and is immaculately preserved," Julien said.

The dress was last sold at auction in 1999 for $1.26 million, the highest auction price for a Monroe dress to date.

The dress is among some 1,300 Monroe artifacts being offered by Julien's over three days. They include items from the estate of Monroe's acting coach Lee Strasbergand from David Gainsborough-Roberts, a British collector believed to have the largest private collection of Monroe costumes.

Prior to the sale, the dress will be showcased at MANA Contemporary in Jersey City, N.J., as part of an exhibition focusing on Monroe as an artist, from Sept. 25 through Oct. 22. It will include some of her watercolors and handwritten poems, which will be sold by Julien's.

The dress also will travel outside of the United States for the first time for an exhibition at the Museum of Style Icons in Newbridge, Ireland, from Oct. 29 through Nov. 6.


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