The dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she serenaded President John F. Kennedy on his 45th birthday has sold at auction for a record $4.8 million.

The auction was held by Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles and the sheer, flesh-coloured dress was purchased by museum chain Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, with the price tag making it the most expensive dress ever sold at auction.

“We believe this is the most iconic piece of pop culture that there is,” Edward Meyer, vice-president of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not told the Press Association.

“In the 20th century I cannot think of one single item that tells the story of the 1960s as well as this dress. It’s a new world record for a dress.”

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Previously the most expensive dress ever sold at auction had been the white gown Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch, which fetched $4.6m in 2011.

The dress was worn by Monroe on May 19, 1962 when she performed for President Kennedy on his birthday. It features more than 2,500 hand-stitched crystals and Monroe is said to have been sewn into the form-fitting garment.

“This dress, this story, this momentous occasion represents a defining moment in history,” said Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions.

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“This auction will remind the world why Marilyn Monroe remains an icon,” Mr Nolan added.

Ripley’s say the dress will first go on display at their Hollywood museum before moving to different locations around the world.