Martin J Nolan of Julien’s Auctions and William Doyle, from Newbridge Silverware pictured with the iconic Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress back in 2016. It was this dress that reality TV star Kim Kardashian wore to the recent Met Gala. Photo: Robbie Reynolds.

Local link to Kim’s Met Gala moment

Who ever thought Hodson Bay and reality TV star Kim Kardashian would be linked in the one sentence. But as the biggest fashion moment of the year played out recently – when a blonde Kim walked the red carpet of the Met Gala in the iconic 'Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress that Marilyn Monroe wore when she serenaded President Kennedy back in 1962 – little did many know that there was a local link to that seismic fashion event.

Martin J Nolan, who is Executive Director of Julien's Auctions, and a native of Hodson Bay in Kiltoom, was the man who helped to make it happen, having sold the record-breaking dress back at auction back in 2016 for an eye-watering $4.81m. It's actually in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive dress ever sold at auction, and he believes its worth has hugely increased since it was introduced to a whole new generation by the 'Keeping with the Kardashians' star.

“She wore it beautifully and looked incredible and it's the talk of the world,” Martin said of the reaction to Kim's stunning red carpet Marilyn moment and his part in making it become a reality.

It all began back in January, when Martin got a call from Kim Kardashian, who he said is a client and a friend, as is her so-called momager Kris Jenner, who he got to know through fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger back in 2017. Kim was planning what she might wear for the Met Gala, America's biggest fashion event run by Vogue's Anna Wintour, and was hoping Martin could help her with an introduction to Ripley's Believe It or Not, who had bought the iconic Marilyn dress to see if they would allow her to wear it.

Adorned by thousands of hand-sewn crystals, the iconic nude coloured dress was specially made for Marilyn Monroe by French costumier Jean Louis, based on a design by a young Bob Mackie, for the Democratic convention 60 years ago where she famously sang happy birthday to President Kennedy.

“When Kim called us in January, I said that is the smartest, most brilliant idea of hers because fashion in the gilded age was the theme of the gala event and so this dress is gilded glamour with all the crystals.

“When Marilyn walked on-stage that night (in May 1962) and the lights of Madison Square Garden hit the crystals with 15,000 watching on, she took off the fur stole and everyone gasped – because they thought for a minute that she was nude!”

While he admitted they wouldn't always encourage clients in this kind of audacious plan, he simply said on this occasion: “But it's Kim Kardashian and fashion is her thing. She loves Marilyn and has huge respect for her and we knew she would give it the respect it deserves”.

So he made the introduction and the recommendation to Ripleys that set in train “quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing” over many months to meet the strict criteria that the museum set down to permit her to wear the dress.

“The dress is 60 years old already and in incredible condition and we wanted to keep it that way. Kim was obviously respectful of all of that, so what she did was she had Ripleys give her all the exact dimensions of the dress and she had a dress made exactly the same (size).

“That was her goal since January as she began her diet and upped her exercise routine so that she would get into the dress,” he explained, rejecting any of the reports that Kim Kardashian crash dieted to get into the movie icon's gúna by pointing out that she was working on this for months beforehand.

“Then three weeks before the event a representative from Ripleys came to Kim's house in LA with the dress, and because Kim was able to fit into the dress they had made to the exact specifications, she was very confident that she would fit into the dress. But because the fabric of the alternative dress was more stretchy the Marilyn dress with all the crystals did not fit,” Martin explained, saying it was very disappointing for Kim given all her hard work.

“She was almost there, she just needed a little more, so then she had to increase her exercise routine, she wore a sauna suit so she was getting rid of any water in the body, cut out sugars and carbs and had a balanced diet of vegetables and protein. “Her goal was to wear the dress and when Kim sets her mind to something that's what she does," he said.

“On April 22 I was in Kim's house and I brought her another Marilyn dress as a plan B, but the next day she was flying to Orlando where Ripleys is headquartered and where the Marilyn dress was for one final time, this was one week before the Met Gala. So with all our blessings and good wishes, she flew to Orlando, the dress I brought to her fitted absolutely perfectly. That was plan B. When she went to Orlando the Marilyn dress fit her and so that was it, that was the goal.”

Amazingly, she got an agreement from the Met Gala organisers to have a tent downstairs at the side of the red carpet so she changed into the dress there.

“She came out (in the dress) on the red carpet and at the top of steps, there was another tented area where she went and changed into another Marilyn dress to keep going for the night,” pointed out Martin from London, having been home in recent days and enjoyed a night out with friends in family in Sean's Bar and lunch in the Hodson Bay Hotel with his mother Kitty Nolan.

All in all, he estimated that Kim was only in the dress for about 20 minutes but the attention since has been “crazy” and his phone and social media were hopping in Athens, where he was travelling at the time.

“I knew this was going to be major for Kim but I didn't realise the ripples were going to come back down to us at Julien's. Kim was very nice to thank Julien's Auctions for making it happen so that's huge for us when she puts anything on her Instagram or social media platforms. It's been big for for Ripleys too,” insisted Martin, who reckoned that the dress will be an even bigger visitor attraction for the museum chain in the future.

“She hasn't taken anything from Marilyn's dress, she's adding to it and making it relevant and bringing it into today's world. The value has certainly increased, this could be a 10 million dollar dress right now,” he surmised, pointing out that in fact, anything associated with Marilyn Monroe will probably increase in value, just look at the $195 million paid for Andy Warhol's painting of Marilyn only days ago.

Fresh from a quick trip home to display Kurt Cobain's guitar used in the 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' video in the Museum of Style Icons in Newbridge, which incidentally also displayed the famed Marilyn dress back in 2016, the jets-setting Kiltoom man is looking forward to more records being set at the auction where the famed Nirvana frontman's electric guitar will go under the hammer in New York from May 20 to 22.

There is also another Marilyn link to that auction which will also feature a dress worn by Madonna in 'Material Girl' modelled on the pink dress that the movie icon wore as she sang 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend in 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'.

Smells like Teen Spirit! Kurt Cobain’s iconic guitar used in Smells like Teen Spirit video is held here by Martin Nolan from Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills at Newbridge Silverware, in Co Kildare where the guitar was displayed recently. Photo: Mark Stedman. Photo by Mark Stedman