"Witch's Shoes" (Image: The Wizard of Oz - The 50th Anniversary Pictorial History, pg 230)

They need no explanation. Everyone knows what they are, who wore them, what they need. They are the indelible icon of a uniquely American fairy tale, an enduring symbol of the power of belief. They’re also worth a fortune, which is power in itself. But, even more, they are objects of obsession. The Wicked Witch of the West was certainly obsessed by them, and possessed by the promise of their power. But the charm and magic of Dorothy’s shoes goes far beyond the pages of a book, or scenes of a movie. They have assumed a power of their own that is very real…

– Rhys Thomas (A&E’s “Treasure: The Search for the Ruby Slippers”)

Sitting silently in a museum, Judy Garland’s ruby slippers are so much more than a “frumpy pair of sequined shoes,” encrusted, as they are, with more than sequins, rhinestones, and bugle beads. They are an icon of American popular culture, a true national treasure, and not insignificantly, the single most valuable piece of Hollywood memorabilia in existance.

Bauman Ruby Slippers (Photo: Christie's East)

I first saw them, Roberta Bauman’s size 6B ruby slippers, in person, at seven, in the summer of 1992 at the then Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida. I honestly remember little else from the trip, but I do remember turning the corner in the line, within Disney’s replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and seeing the shoes sitting on a pedestal behind glass, almost at my own eye level. I stared at them, transfixed, as we weaved our way through the line to the “Great Movie Ride.”

I again saw a pair of the slippers at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. five years later. Upon this latter instance I remember pressing my face to the glass trying to take in every detail of the shoes I knew so well, taking enough photos to exhaust my disposable camera. I believe I lost the camera on the trip home and never developed the photos, and yet, I didn’t need them. As I remember it, I was already obsessed with Judy Garland’s ruby slippers. I was twelve, and I wanted them for my own. But construction paper and glitter can only get one so close!

Eleven years later, upon a more recent trip to Washington, D.C., I did much the same again, taking in every detail, pressing my face against the glass, while I’m sure several dozen people looked, perhaps rightfully, at me quite amused. But I, nevertheless, wanted to know everything about those slippers and take in every detail!

The "Witch's Shoes," owned by Phillip Samuels (Photo: Robert Yudysky)

Importantly, while nearly everyone knows what the ruby slippers are, few people know what they actually look like, and I’m sure many people, while enjoying the film, couldn’t care less. I am not, nor have I clearly ever been, one of those people. The purpose of this blog is to examine the various pairs of ruby slippers, given the photographs and information to be found online, in books, and in my own collection, along with the film itself, in an effort to, as closely as is possible, replicate them.

As niche as such a desire may sound, and it may be so, I am, nevertheless, well aware I am far from alone in wanting a pair of ruby slippers of my own. Before we begin, let me explain exactly what my goal is:

I will, as close as is possible, replicate Judy Garland’s ruby slippers, not as they appear in the film, as to do so would result in shoes far from the authentic pairs still in existence, given the alterations required to produce deep rich colors for the Technocolor camera. Rather, I will strive to reproduce the shoes as they appear today, a little worse for wear, but still as magical as the day they were created. Like the originals, it is my intention to hand-sew, rather than glue, each individual sequin to a pair of custom made replica pumps, created to the exact measure of the originals.

While the existant pairs of slippers are each a slightly different size, my shoes will be a size 5B, the same as the slippers known today as the “Witch’s Shoes,” owned by Phillip Samuels, which are widely believed to be the close-up, or insert pair.

Of the other pairs, the Landini / Bauman /  Elkouby pair is larger than the others at 6B, and therefore some believe they may have been worn by Judy Garland’s stand-in. Others believe they may have been worn by Garland during dancing sequences. She did wear 6B shoes in adult life, so both are possibilities. The Smithsonian’s pair is 5C, and 5BC (the two shoes are not a matching set), while Michael Shaw’s stolen pair is similarly (if oppositely) sized. The serial numbers in the shoes do, however, cross match. Evidence suggests they were mismatched in the sequining process.

The "Witch's Shoes," as worn by Judy Garland (Image: Time Warner / Warner Bros.)

Importantly, each pair of authentic shoes differ in various ways, from size, to heel height, to specific bead arrangement and shape of the bows, as will be examined in upcoming posts. Therefore, my resultant ruby slippers will be, more than a direct replica of any single pair of slippers, rather a composite replica taking up aspects of each pair, but it is my hope in replicating them to preserve some spark of what I remember upon first seeing them at seven, and in sharing my own experience of replicating the shoes I hope only that it may serve, in some small way, to assist others with a similar desire.

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