December 2010

Replica Slippers

Finally, this morning, I finished the sequining of the toes. Now, of course, this region of the shoes is far from finished. Once the body of the shoe has been sequined, I will still have to run a finishing strand of sequins around the opening, and, of course, affix the bows to the vamp. (I don’t know why the shoes look pink in photos, they really are blood red in person. I just didn’t have a Technicolor camera, nor the massive keg lights required to get the color right.)

Replica Slippers

To sequin this area, I followed the sequining method I previously outlined, placing down a thin line of painter’s tape to guide each individual line of sequins. Doing so, I worked forward (toward the toe) from just in back of the shoe opening. As I mentioned before, I alternated between sides of the shoe, finally allowing the two sides to meet just in the middle of the vamp. Working down the front of the toe, I continued to alternate sides, creating a stair step pattern where the strands of sequins meet, the final sequin of each strand tucking under (to a greater or lesser extent) the last sequin of the strand coming from the other side. This method, while it may sound slightly confusing, is identical to that found on the original shoes, and becomes apparent when studying photos of the original shoes.

Smithsonian Slippers (Image: The Costumer's Guide to Movie Costumes)

From here, I will work toward the back of each shoe, alternating sides as I work, to allow both sides to reach the back of the shoe at the same time, in the same way I alternated at the toe, which will allow me to replicate the pattern found at the front of the toe on the back of the shoes on the upper just above the heel, just as found on the original slippers.

Replica Slippers



Replica Slippers

As can be seen above, at present there is little to report on the progress of my replica slippers. Some time ago I restarted the left shoe, and I’m now closing in on completing the second toe (finally). Let’s just hope this time, I’m satisfied.

All that being said, I was recently asked by a slipper friend to provide a more detailed guide of my sequining process, so I thought it best to share it here.

On the photo to the left, you’ll notice, for every line of sequins I sew, I place a line of blue painter’s tape, to ensure the lines are perfectly straight. (I usually thin the tape moreso than in the photo to allow it to follow the curves of the shoe more easily.) In laying down the tape, I always make sure the measurement between the center of the last line of sequins, and the edge of the tape (which will effectively become the measurement from the center of one sequin to the middle of that next to it once they are sewn into position) is always, consistently, 4.5 mm. Sometimes it is a hair less, but never more. This provides an ever-so-slight overlap of the sequins, which follows the authentic pattern found on the original shoes, particularly the Smithsonian left shoe, and the Witch’s shoes. It’s most important that this measurement is consistent along the length of the tape, so the resulting line of sequins is always parallel. Anything over 4.5mm, and there will be gaps between sequins, particularly up near the shoe opening.

As I thread each individual sequin, I make sure that its bottom edge rests just along the top edge of the threading hole of the sequin below it.

Once in position, I mark just above the sequin with a Sharpie. (I use red, just in case it might get on the shoe.)

I then pull the threaded sequin away from the shoe, and sew RIGHT next to the marked line. This ensures that the sequin ends up in exactly the right place. I then pull the thread through, making sure the sequin is in the right position, as they have a tendency to want to lay in the opposite direction.

Then repeat this process 4,599 times, or so! While different authentic shoes seem to have different sequining patterns, – the right Smithsonian shoe and Bauman pairs are notably more jumbled than others, with the sequins overlapping much more so, vertically, than on other pairs- this sequining pattern above most closely matches the pattern found on the left Smithsonian shoe, along with large areas of the Witch’s shoes.

The same process, as applied on the toe.

This technique works well up the sides of the shoes. Both the heels and toes, are slightly more difficult. For the toe, the tape must be cut as slender as possible (about 2mm, or smaller), and applied to allow the sequins to follow the authentic design. The same technique can be used on the heels as well. Be careful that the tape does not touch the previously sewn sequins; it will stick to them very firmly, and may pull the strands loose when the tape is removed.

Hopefully others find this guide, short as it is, helpful!

Image: Time Warner / Warner Bros.



(Image: Library of Congress)

This is, possibly, the most prized pair of ruby slippers; they certainly are my personal favorite! They were originally found by Kent Warner, along with several of the other pairs already discussed, in the spring of 1970 (Thomas, 223), but unlike the others they are the pair he prized and “kept in his personal possession for more than a decade” (223). The slippers “are distinguished from other pairs of ruby slippers by their size – smaller than [all] others” (223) at 5B, with an ever so slightly higher heel, and sleeker toe. The shoes also “lack [the] orange felt on the soles of each shoe” (223) found on the front foundation of all other pairs.

(Image courtesy A&E Television Networks)

Rhys Thomas believes these attributes suggest “they are the pair of close-up or ‘insert’ s[l]ippers worn by Judy Garland when […] Dorothy taps her heels together three times” (223). While “Kent Warner certainly believed this[,]” it is not a sentiment I share. I strongly believe, and screen captures of the scene, along with details of the authentic shoes support, that the “no place like home” shoes are, in fact, not the “Witch’s Shoes.”

Physically, like all other screen-used pairs of ruby slippers, “the red faille uppers and heels [on this pair] are covered with hand-sequined georgette and the shoes are lined in white kid leather” (Thomas, 223). Unlike all other pairs of the slippers, the embossed label in the right shoe is heat stamped into the shoe in gold, rather than silver as found in the Smithsonian and Michael Shaw shoes. The label, like all others, “reads Innes Shoe Co. Los Angeles, Pasadena, Hollywood” (223). Each shoe “is inscribed on the lining [with] #7 Judy Garland, written in block-lettered black ink” (223), in what appears to be the same hand as the other pairs. While the Smithsonian and Michael Shaw pairs are both simply inscribed Judy Garland, the “Witch’s shoes” are the only pair of shoes to bare a number before Garland’s name. Its meaning is unknown. The “manufacturer’s number is written into the right shoe X 6802 5 [C] D 536” (223). The shoes “are in excellent condition”, which Thomas believes “suggest[s] little wear, if any” (223).

(Image: "The Wizard of Oz: The 50th Anniversary Pictorial History," pg 230)

According to Thomas, the shoes were found “by Kent Warner prior to the 1970 MGM auction” (223), in a place he alternatively called “an old soundstage, a barn, a place missing a roof,” “Ladies Character Wardrobe,” and “Mr. Culver’s Barn” (207). Regardless, Warner “spirited [them away] from the studio without the knowledge of the auctioneers” (223).

While “for years, few people knew of their existence” (Thomas, 223) Warner kept them “prominently displayed in [the corner of his] apartment” (94). There,  “[t]hey were on a square pedestal, about [four and a half] feet tall, […] covered in a Lucite box, [on] a little plastic stand to elevate them” (94).

Kent Warner - with Judy Garland (Image courtesy A&E Television Networks)

Thomas has publically wondered, if, while in his possession, Warner didn’t alter “this pair of ruby slippers in any way. Did he find ‘circular suff marks’ on their soles, or put them there; were they really the seventh pair of slippers or did he write #7 Judy Garland in them?” Personally, I find the scuffmarks suspect, as I firmly believe this pair was not used in that sequence. The number is equally suspect, given its dissimilarity to other pairs.

(Image: Source Unknown)

Warner first “publically acknowledged possession of the slippers in 1977” (Thomas, 223), and “first attempt[ed] to sell them […] in December, 1980, when [he] offered [them] at a movie memorabilia auction held at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles” (223-24). Warner expected the shoes to sell for “as much $75,000. But, prudently, he set a $20,000 minimum. They didn’t sell” (“Treasure”). A year later, Warner again “consigned the shoes to public auction at Christie’s East, where they sold for $12,000 on October 21, 1981 to an anonymous buyer in northern California” (Thomas, 224). Eight years later, “[o]n August 9, 1988, the buyer [again] offered the shoes for sale at Christie’s” (224) “shortly after the sale of Roberta Bauman’s pair” (“Treasure”). Christie’s “arranged a private sale” (“Treasure”) which “matched sealed bids[,] and for $165,000 they were purchased by Philip Samuels of St. Louis, Missouri” (224).

(Image: Time Warner / Warner Bros.)

(Image: Michael Shaw)

Prior to the night of August 27th -28th 2005, when this pair of ruby slippers was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, they were owned by Michael Shaw of Los Angeles.

According to Rhys Thomas, “During the 1980s, Shaw displayed his shoes at more than 25 shopping malls around the [United States]. Further, this pair was exhibited in a privately owned movie memorabilia museum in Hollywood, and occasionally dressed the windows of several small stores in the Los Angeles area” (Thomas 222).

Physically, the shoes were known to be “in very good condition, ” (222) with a slightly darker shade sequin, a rich burgundy, covering the shoes when compared with the other authentic pairs (222). Rhys Thomas believes this darker sequin suggests the shoes “might have been used for static and close-up shots” (222). However, the orange felt which covered the leather soles “elimat[es] the possibility that they were worn by Judy Garland during extra-close-up shots” (222).

Like the other pairs of slippers, “the red silk faille uppers and heels [were] covered with hand-sequined georgette, the leather soles [were] painted red, with orange felt adhered to the front foundation of each shoe” (from the toes to just past the ball of the foot) (Thomas, 222). At the writing of the Thomas book, in 1989, the bows were “perfect, missing no rhinestones, bugle beads or center jewels” (222) Like other pairs, the bow itself is crafted from strap leather dyed red.

(Image courtesy A&E Television Networks)

The bows themselves appear to exactly cross match the  shoes held by the Smithsonian. While the right Smithsonian bow is notably more angular, the left bow on this pair is similarly shaped. The left Smithsonian, and  right Shaw bows also seem to match, which is particularly interesting given the dissimilarity of the sequins between the two pairs.

As Thomas previously established in the appendix to his book, the shoes themselves also cross-match with the Smithsonian pair. The right shoe, size 5C, bears the production number 5C 11859 D536, while the left shoe, size 5BC, has production number 5BC 15250 (225). Like that pair, “[i]nside the right shoe is the label, embossed in silver, reading Innes Shoe Co. Los Angeles, Pasadena, Hollywood” (222). Also identical to the Smithsonian shoes, “inscribed on the white kid [leather] lining [of each shoe, on the inner right side (when looking at the toes)], is the name Judy Garland, written neatly with black ink in block letters” (222). “The rubber cap on each heel [was also] painted red” (222) like all other pairs (except “Dorothy’s Shoes”).

(Image courtesy A&E Television Networks)

These shoes were “privately purchased [by Michael Shaw] from Kent Warner” in 1970, “reportedly [for] $2,500” (Thomas, 222-223).

These slippers initially travelled to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the birthplace of Judy Garland, in 1989 for both the 50th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, and to celebrate what would have been Garland’s 67th birthday (Thomas, 223). Until 2005, Michael Shaw continued to offer them for public display around the country, exhibited on several occasions at the Judy Garland Museum.

As stated previously, it was there in August 2005 that the ruby slippers disappeared in the middle of the night. Meant to be on loan until September 5th, it seems that someone gained entry by breaking through an emergency exit door window at the back of the museum. The glass case that held the slippers was then smashed and the slippers removed. The building was at the time only two years old, equipped with the best security system available, able to warn a security firm when doors or windows were opened, or motion detected. The firm received no signal. The system seems to have been left unactivated.

(Image: Michael Shaw)

All other items in the museum, including other costume pieces from The Wizard of Oz, were left untouched.

They are the most famous, and valuable, shoes in all Hollywood history, and today, they could be anywhere. Although, I honestly doubt, given they have now been out of trained hands for over five years, that they exist today. At the very least, they are likely badly damaged today, possibly a far cry from their state in 2005.

In the hope that they may still exist, I would like to follow the Ruby Slipper Fan Club in issuing an open letter to the person, or persons, who may have the shoes today:

If you have the pair of Judy Garland’s ruby slippers described above, please be aware that these shoes were made in the autumn of 1938 and are today approximately 71 years old. They were not made to long endure past the six months of Oz’s shooting schedule, so it is quite amazing that the shoes actually still exist in the first place.  These shoes were fragile when they were newly created (as I can attest by my own efforts to replicate them), and  this is in part why so many copies of the shoes were made.

Due to their age and condition, the shoes should not be handled by bare hands.  Your skin’s natural oils can easily stress the threads, or damage the sequins, possibly removing the dye used to redden them. If one were to attempt to wear them at this point, the shoes would rip themselves apart.  They were crafted from a basic satin pump with the sequined georgette overlay. That overlay has many strands of sequins attached by a simple, single, thread – 71 year old thread, which is, understandably, extremely fragile.  If a single thread were to break, an entire row of sequins could easily work its way off the shoe.  The tissue paper inside the shoes should not be removed, as it is required to maintain the shape of the shoe.  Something as simple as taking the paper out could potentially cause the shoes to fall apart.

While it is clear that you do not respect Michael Shaw’s ownership, please understand you have something that millions of people love, and believe to be of inestimable cultural value. As such, please handle them with care.  As much as I do understand the desire to possess the shoes (as evidenced by my own efforts to replicate them), I still truly believe they are best placed in capable hands, able to preserve and share them with the public.

Please care for them, as they are worth more than you could ever imagine to millions of people.

(Image: Time Warner / Warner Bros.)

Replica Slippers

As I’ve said before, with practice, I’ve greatly improved the sequining on the shoes, and the result of some of that can be seen above on the toe of the right replica shoe, the sequining of which is a near exact replication of that found on both the left Smithsonian shoe and aspects of the “Witch’s Shoes.” In doing so, both the angle of the lines of sequining, and the spacing between them are of equal importance. To ensure the lines are perfectly straight, I have taken to placing a thin strip of painter’s tape to guide each, and every, line of sequins, the results of which can be seen above. Initially, (as noted previously) it was my practice to place tape for the initial line of sequins, and free-hand each subsequent line parallel to this, but this resulted in inconsistant, (and inauthentic) lines of sequins, which were far from acceptable, so I have changed tactics, and use a thin strip of tape for each line of sequins.

Replica Slippers

Also, to space the lines of sequins properly, I have found they should be spaced approximately 4.5mm from the center of one sequin, to the outer edge of the sequin in the row next to it. As the sequins are each 5mm in diameter, this allows a slight overlap of 0.5 mm. While spacing them at 5mm, would seem to allow each row to rest just next to those aside it, I have found, rather, as the shoe is not perfectly flat, this produces gaps in the sequining, through which the georgette is plainly visable, so 4.5mm seems to produce the most authentic result. Placing them closer together than this produces too much overlap, which looks jumbled and far from authentic.

I, of course, didn’t figure out many of these specifics until I was well underway with the left shoe, and just beginning the right (after a false start on it which caused me to strip all the work and start over) so, some time ago, I stripped the left shoe (again), to ensure the shoes are mirror images of each other, and proceeded from there.

In the photo above you will see from the blue painter’s tape that I am currently working on reconstructing the sequining of the toe, which is easily the most difficult aspect of sequining the shoes thus far. In doing so, I am working from the left and right sides alternatively, working forward (toward the toe) to ultimately lend the design the proper overlap stair-step pattern seen of the authentic pairs. Clearly, despite being at work on these shoes for months now, they are still some time off, but the results I am yielding have greatly improved over time, so it’s all quite worth it in the end.

Replica Slippers

I would like to make it clear many of the elements composing this blog are not my own; I do not own any of the images posted on this blog, beyond those noted as being of my replica ruby slippers. All other images, characters, trademarks (etc) are owned and copyright of their respective owner(s). Also, I did not create this blog with the intent to breach any copyright, nor do I imply that I own anything beyond my own opinions included within it. When known, I have done my best to provide proper attribution when possible. This blog is solely meant to amuse, interest, and assist, other fans of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s The Wizard of Oz who may have a particular interest in Judy Garland’s ruby slippers, and as such is protected under laws concerning fair use.

MGM’s classic The Wizard of Oz is currently both copyrighted and trademarked by Time Warner, distributed by Warner Bros, and remains, entirely, their property.

Importantly, large portions of this blog rely on research and quotes from The Ruby Slippers of Oz by Rhys Thomas. They are reprinted here with the express permission of the author.

This site exists as nothing but a fan-made creation, in tribute to The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland, and her fellow cast and crew. I do not, in any way, profit from the creation of this blog, and have done so only to educate and amuse others.

Further, I must say, this site would not be what it is, nor would my efforts have a chance of reaching the level of authenticity I seek, without a great deal of help from several people, both in, and outside, the Oz community. Among them (in no particular order) are Rhys Thomas, John Henson, Randy Struthers, Jeff Legace, and Chris Rocha,  among others. I truly must thank every one of you, and your assistance is most assuredly appreciated!