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Sewing with Threads Podcast

Susan Khalje and Kenneth D. King on the Ethics of Wearing Vintage Couture | Episode 54

Video: Threads magazine

Should you wear a vintage couture garment? The answer is a resounding NO when it comes to a one-of-a-kind, historic piece, according to Threads Contributing Editors Susan Khalje and Kenneth D. King. Tune in to the Sewing With Threads Episode 54 podcast below to hear the two sewing experts weigh in on the ethics of wearing vintage couture. Their discussion stems from the controversy over celebrity Kim Kardashian wearing an iconic Marilyn Monroe dress at the 2022 Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (Met) Costume Institute gala in New York.


Marilyn Monroe’s unforgettable gown worn again

Kardashian donned the unique, body-hugging, rhinestone-encrusted gown that Marilyn Monroe had worn in 1962 when she sang “Happy Birthday” to U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Marilyn Monroe wearing the naked dress, with President Joh F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy in 1962
Actress Marilyn Monroe, wearing the unique “Happy Birthday” gown, speaks with U. S. President John F. Kennedy (his back to the camera) at his 45th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan in 1962. U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy (far left), and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (far right), were also present. Photo: Cecil W. Stoughton, official White House photographer, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Some reports say Kardashian tore or otherwise ruined the gown. She has denied these reports. Find out more about the reaction to Kardashian wearing the unique gown here.

Susan and Kenneth discuss the creations they would wear to a red carpet event—or to a Met luncheon.

Treating vintage couture and antique textiles with respect

Kenneth also shares a fascinating story about how he worked with antique lace that had originally been a skirt. The handmade Belgian lace, bought in the 1880s and now worth thousands of dollars, was brought to him by a client.  

“I said to her, I will not cut into this—I will not do anything that cannot be undone,” he recalls. Then he successfully created a detachable wedding veil from the stunning textile.

Susan also tells of several instances in which she worked with antique wedding gowns or vintage lace pieces that clients wanted to be used on their wedding day.

What do you do with vintage lace or fabric fragments? Designer Mimi Prober, featured in Threads #166, April/May 2013, may provide inspiration. Her designs incorporate antique lace pieces into garments for today’s fashion.

Threads 166 Front Cover featuring Mimi Prober designs that have a vintage couture bent


Susan and Kenneth also talk about caring for, storing, and even documenting the creation of precious garments, giving examples from their professional experiences.

The two couture sewing experts also touch on the larger issue of wearing garments, whether by a celebrity or an average person.

A lot of people think fashion is very superficial,” Kenneth says.

“But it is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves,” Susan adds. “It is a huge part of who we are.”

Listen in for more wisdom from these two experts, find out about the secret touches they put inside their couture garment creations, and get a taste of how they joined forces to help one woman realize her haute couture garment dream.

Original Sewing and Quilt Expo logo

Hey Threads fans. We know you love sewing just like we love sewing. And we know you’ll love joining us in person at an Original Sewing and Quilt Expo near you. There’s shopping, garment exhibits, demonstrations and hands-on classes taught by experts who can help elevate your sewing skills. Plus, check out the exclusive Threads magazine fashion exhibit. It’s all live and in person at Original Sewing and Quilt Expo. See what cities we are coming to next. Visit SewingExpo.com.

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  1. user-6936696 | | #1

    How thrilling to hear from such experienced icons of the industry, who show such respect and appreciation for the value of beautifully fashioned garments. I feel like I’ve just audited one of Mr. King’s FIT classes and learned so much! I agree that the Marilyn Monroe dress, being created and tinted especially for her, should NEVER have been loaned out. Let's hope we've learned our lesson about respecting and valuing truly UNIQUE works of art.

  2. fashionmavin | | #2

    I agree with the previous seamstress on her opinion regarding Kardasian's wearing of the late Marilyn Monroe's dress....I was disgusted to see that on the Kardasian gal because she never could come up to what Marilyn Monroe was as a human being.

  3. mernab | | #3

    I loved this pod cast, when I was in my teens I used to buy all types of vintage clothes, not high end but very everyday clothes. My mother’s “bat wing” sweaters, old beaver fur coats from the 40’s. I still have a collection of hats from the early 50’s and 60’s. I one time had a bright green Channel type suit hand-made in Hong Kong with pink China silk lining! When I was pregnant in the late 70’s I wore 1950’s maternity outfits. Everyone thought me odd, crazy or just plain eccentric.
    After years in high rise construction where I dressed like a man, steel toed boots, flannel shirts I’m craving outlandish but elegant clothes. Think the Duchess of Devonshire feeding chickens with a full ball gown. At 66 I’m looking at how to get a wardrobe that looks great on me, and meets my needs and is that plain eccentric. Really good fabric is the challenge, I’m outside of Ottawa ca so perhaps I should take a trip to NYC.

  4. cgincolorado | | #4

    I love any time Kenneth King and/or Susan Khalje are on the podcast. They contribute so much to our sewing knowledge. I also agree that the Marilyn Monroe dress should never have been loaned out. I just read that both the "museum" and Ms Kardashian are stating that the dress in fine and wasn't damaged. Right. I put museum in quotes as no respectable one would ever lend out such an important piece for some celebrity to wear, especially as she was way to big for it.

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