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Monroe’s sleek “Happy Birthday” dress sells for record-breaking $4.8m

Scott Nelson | AFP | Getty Images

The slinky, sequined showstopper of a dress worn by screen goddess Marilyn Monroe when she sang "Happy Birthday" to then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy, has been snapped up at auction for $4.8 million.

The sale thrashed its estimate of $3 million, breaking the world record for the most expensive dress ever sold at auction and reaping its vendor a tidy return on the $1.27 million paid at a Christie's auction in New York in 1999 the last time it changed owners.

Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot
Keystone Features | Getty Images
Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot

This time around, the dress was sold by Julien's Auctions in Los Angeles as part of a three-day auction during which hundreds of the legendary actress's belongings are being put under the hammer. The beaded cocktail dress in which Monroe sang and shimmied her way around the set of 1959 classic film Some Like it Hot was picked up earlier this week for $375,000.

Darren Julien, president & chief executive officer of Julien's Auctions told CNBC via email, "This is the most iconic dress in entertainment history. The mystique of Marilyn Monroe combined with the significance of this dress as it relates to history,politics and entertainment is remarkable and the reason it is so cherished by collectors and fans alike."

Global museum chain, Ripley's Believe it or Not, was the highest bidder with its $4.8 million final offer coming in above the $4.6 million previous world record for a dress,set by the white dress of the same screen legend from the film The Seven Year Itch.

Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in circa 1952.
Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images
Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait in circa 1952.

Monroe wore this dress as she sang to the President and his 15,000 guests at a May 1962 Democratic fundraising event at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Monroe's purred rendition of "Happy Birthday" is renowned for the husky effect of her voice – however, given that the actress reputedly had to be sewn into the garment moments before walking onto stage to deliver the song, a little shortness of breath is surely forgiven.

The sultriness of the entire performance fanned rumors of an affair between the 45-year-old then-President and the 36-year-old actress, who was tragically found dead under still-unresolved circumstances three months later.

The figure-hugging piece was showcased prior to and during the auction on a mannequin specifically created to represent Monroe's exact body dimensions. The skin-colored dress was custom-made by designed Jean Louis and is adorned with more than 2,500 hand-stitched crystals.

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