Authentic Slippers


Today, a pair of the ruby slippers will be sold at auction. Not just any pair, but those worn by Judy Garland when Glinda magics them off the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet and proclaims, ‘There they are, and there they’ll stay,’ they are the most pristine, and best made, of the five pairs known to exist from the production, and the only pair to not have felt adhered to the forward foundation. They are in excellent condition but not untouched by time.

As an ardent fan of the film, Judy Garland, and the slippers themselves, I’ve revelled in the release of new photographs of the slippers in the past few months, along with the opportunity, due to the slippers’ short tour to Solange Azagury-Partridge stores in Los Angeles, London, and New York, to see the slippers for myself.

But, while I’m excited by these prospects, and immensely glad to have had the opportunity to stare at them myself for over three hours in London, the idea of the auction still leaves me feeling quite sad indeed. These shoes are iconic, in the truest sense. They have been said to be the single most valuable piece of Hollywood memorabilia in the world, and regarding sheer dollars and cents, that may well be true. But to me, they’re more.

The ruby slippers would be as valuable to me, if they had no monetary value at all, and as a pair of shoes, they very really don’t. After all, after 72 years, no human being could ever wear them again. Placing them on a human foot would very likely destroy them. Their value is in their connection; not in what they are, but in what they mean.

Entering Solange in London a few weeks ago, I was immediately struck dumb by the slippers, resting silently in a glass case, in the middle of the small boutique. Staring at them for only a moment, I had a flash of everything they mean to me, of memories of sitting in front of the television, of endless hours reading about every detail of the production, and even of (yes) running around in a glittery pair of red shoes as a child. But more than that, standing in their presence, knowing what they are, and who wore them, I felt like I was in the presence of some small part of Judy Garland’s legacy, almost as if, in some small way, she was there, and I almost began to cry.

Steve Wilson, the curator for the film collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin, which holds in its collection five of the gowns originally worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind, has said ‘[T]here’s nothing that captures the human aspect of film like a costume,’ and that is exactly what I experienced with the slippers. It was that moment of realization that the stories of the creation of The Wizard of Oz, Production 1060, are not just stories. This seems self-evident, of course, but I wasn’t alive then, so, for me, it only felt like a series of tales, rehashed over the years.

But rooted to that spot, staring at those shoes, I realized the filmmaking really happened, and Judy Garland really wore them. Of course, no one placed any value in the shoes then (they cost perhaps $13 at the time) and after the production they were placed in the loft of a barn on the MGM backlot, where they rested, largely forgotten, for thirty years, until costumer Kent Warner rediscovered them in 1970, and took them home. They were the pride and joy of his collection, as, like me, a fan of Judy Garland, and Classic Hollywood, until he was forced to sale them due to his own failing health.

But the slippers are not just valuable because Judy wore them; after all, her other costume pieces have sold for much less than the slippers will realize. They are valuable because they are the main plot device in perhaps the most beloved film in the world, seen by more people than any other. Their value is about us, about those of us who saw Oz as children, and still hold it close to our hearts. For others, they are nothing but a pair of gaudy shoes; for us, they hold a very real magic.

The shoes are not just, as so many have said, an abstract symbol of home, or fantasy, or family.  They are a very real symbol, of our own attachment to our own memories of Oz, of our own pasts. For me, that’s my childhood, entwined in Oz, as it were; being the Wicked Witch for Halloween, watching the film when I was recovering from heart surgery at the age of five, or receiving an Oz snow globe nearly every Christmas of my life.

The slippers are valuable to me because, in a very real way, they are part of my childhood, they are part of my life, they are part of me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment, because our popular culture becomes a very real part of our lives and our identities, which explains why they are so valuable, in so many ways, to so many people.

So, the idea that they will be sold, to the highest bidder, reduced to monetary value, breaks my heart a little. I realize we live in a capitalist society, and that’s just the way it works, but I’ve genuinely shed tears over the fact I can’t have them, save them, protect them. I want more than anything, to see the slippers in a museum. If whomever wins the slippers today should ever read this, please know, what you possess is not just a relic of Hollywood history; you own a symbol of a very real part of many people’s lives, and they want, if not deserve, to see them.

My greatest fear with the auction is not simply that they will be sold, but that, after today, they will seemingly disappear. Now, it’s not fair to say that they’ve always been on display. Kent Warner never displayed them publicly, and their most recent owner only did so intermittently, but I always knew who owned them, and had some idea where they were.  After today, like Michael Shaw’s stolen pair, they will quite possibly disappear from public consciousness for years, if not forever.

I hope I’m wrong, I hope with all my heart I’m wrong.

If you’re the lucky winner of the slippers, please prove me wrong. Display them for the public. Let them see them; let them love them. At the very least, please email me, if only so I’ll know they’re safe.

UPDATE:

After the slippers failed to meet the $2,000,000 reserve at the December 16th auction, they were privately sold, through Profiles in History, to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for their forthcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Personally, I could not think of a better place for the slippers to reside, back in the hands of the people who crafted them, safely protected for generations to come!

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(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.)

(Image: Source Unknown)

Unlike all other known pairs of ruby slippers, the shoes today known as ‘Dorothy’s Shoes’ where never handled by costumer Kent Warner. Instead, they were “the first pair of ruby slippers to leave [the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer] wardrobe department […] in 1939 when they were sent to New York for publicity purposes” (Thomas, 219). There, the size 6B shoes “probably [helped dress] a life-size Dorothy [d]oll, together with effigies” of her companions, “as part of an MGM exhibition [promoting the studio’s various films]” (219).

Following their promotional use, the slippers were awarded as a second place prize in a National Four Star Club “Name the Ten Best Movies of 1939″ contest. Roberta Jefferies Bauman of Memphis, Tennessee, a 16-year-old high school junior at the time, “placed second in the contest and won the slippers” (219). According to Rhys Thomas, Bauman received the shoes on Tuesday 24 February 1940 (219). Unthinkably, given their value today, “they were sent to Memphis, and presented to Miss Jefferies in a plain shoe box” (219).

Physically, like the other pairs, “the spool French heeled slippers are of red silk faille, covered with the hand-sequined georgette and lined in white kid leather. Inside the right shoe is sewn a cloth label reading Innes Shoe Co., Los Angeles, Hollywood, Pasadena” (Thomas, 219). These are the only ruby slippers to bear a cloth label; the other pairs are embossed, or stamped into the right shoe in either sliver or gold. The shoes also, according to Thomas, bear the manufacturer’s production numbers E58 68 (219).

The bows on this pair of ruby slippers each “is rimmed in 46 rhinestones, surrounding 42 bugle beads and the three larger red [rectangular] jewels centered in a line” (219).  Notably, these bows seem to vary from the others slightly, with rounded edges while all other bows bear a more angular appearance. The bow’s “stones and beads are all imbedded on the bow shaped piece of strap leather, dyed red” (219).

Like the Smithsonian pair already discussed, “the leather soles [on this pair of ruby slippers] are painted red and orange felt has been glued to the front foundation” (Thomas 220). A well-worn black rubber cap is also affixed to each heel (220); they appear to have been previously painted red, like other pairs, but the paint has worn off due to wear. Overall, the shoes are in fair condition, “with sequins missing, indicating substantial use during the making of the film” (Thomas 220).

(Image: Christie's East)

Unlike other pairs, they do not have JUDY GARLAND written in black ink on the white kid leather. Instead “the word Double is handwritten on the white kid lining of each shoe” (220). Thomas believes this means “these shoes were the second or third pair made for use in the production, in case the first pair were damaged or badly rent” (220). It does not, however, “represent ‘stand-in’ according to several MGM costumers familiar with the studio’s practice of labeling wardrobe” (220). However, several people still feel the shoes may have been used primarily by the stand-in, as they are notably larger than the other pairs. However, according to Thomas, several pairs of Garland’s own shoes have been found to be size 6 ½, which suggests she may have worn the shoes. Further, evidence suggests during extended dancing sequences, it’s likely Garland’s feet would have swollen slightly, further supporting her use of the slightly larger shoes. Also, some believe Garland may have worn this pair for photos and publicity appearances after the film’s primary shooting was complete (Thomas, 220).

Bobbie Koshay dressed as Dorothy (Image courtesy of Rhys Thomas)

Whatever the case with ‘Dorothy’s Shoes,’ “there is no question that [Bobbie Koshay] wore ruby slippers for lighting and blocking purposes, but there is no reason to believe any pair of ruby slippers was worn exclusively by any stand-in” (220). Thomas believes the shoes “were probably worn by [Judy] Garland during many of the skipping and dancing scenes, judging from [their] size and, construction, including the addition of orange felt on the soles” (220). They were clearly “worn frequently, but not worn out” (220).

These ruby slippers “remained the property of Roberta Bauman for 48 years, during which time she exhibited them solely for the benefit of children” (Thomas, 220). On June 21st, 1988 she auctioned them at Christie’s East in New York.  The new owner was Mr. Anthony Landini who purchased the shoes for $150,000, along with Christie’s commission of $15,000.00 (220).

(Image: Christie's East)

Soon after, on April 29, 1989, Landini put the shoes on long-term exhibition at the then Disney-MGM Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida in the queue area of their replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (Thomas, 220-21).

Later, Landini auctioned the slippers, again at Christie’s East in New York City, on May 24, 2000, selling for $600,000, and an additional buyer’s premium of $66,000. They were purchased by David Elkouby and his partners, who own memorabilia shops in Hollywood. At the time he expressed intentions of founding a memorabilia museum in which to display the shoes. Elkouby and Co. have yet to display the shoes.

(Image: Source Unknown)

The pair of ruby slippers on perpetual display in the Popular Culture wing of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, sometimes referred to as ‘The People’s Shoes’, bear a plaque that reads simply:

Sixteen-year-old Judy Garland wore these sequined shoes as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz. In the original book by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy’s magic slippers are silver. For the Technicolor movie, they were changed to ruby red to show up more vividly against the yellow-brick road. One of several pairs used during filming, these size-five shoes have felt soles, suggesting they were used for dance sequences.

However, this omits a great many fascinating details of this particular pair of slippers. These ruby slippers, like the Arabian pair, were found by costumer Kent Warner, who, according to Rhys Thomas, “presented them to the MGM auction officials saying, ‘Look what I found! The ruby slippers!’ Nothing more. He let the auctioneer, and everyone else, assume they were the one, and only pair” (“Treasure”).

As displayed at the MGM auction (Image: Courtesy of Rhys Thomas)

The shoes are in poor condition, relative to other known pairs, clearly, Thomas believes, well worn by Judy Garland during the production (A&E’s “Treasure”). They are widely believed to be the first, and principal, pair worn during the making of the film and, therefore, were in all likelihood, worn more than any other pair known to exist.

These shoes are, according to Thomas, size 5C, and 5BC, and are, therefore, obviously, not a matching set. “On the white kid [leather] lining of the right shoe, the manufacturer’s number has been stamped 5C 15250; on the lining of the left [shoe] the number is 5C 11869 D536” (221). Importantly, according to Thomas, “the numbers in the right shoe of the pair owned by [Michael] Shaw […] [match] the numbers in the left shoe owned by the Smithsonian Institution,” further, “Shaw’s left shoe […] match[es] the Smithsonian’s right shoe” (225). Thomas’s findings, “clearly suggest[…] the shoes themselves were mixed and matched before the sequined overlays were attached” (225).

Kent Warner, holding the ruby slippers, at the MGM auction (Image: Time Warner / Warner Bros.)

This is particularly apparent given the overlays themselves do not match; while “the Smithsonian overlays are rough and worn[,] Shaw’s overlays [were (as of 2005)] in perfect condition” (225). While “the shoes are basically the same size, they are nevertheless subtly different” (225), with the left possessing an overall sleeker appearance, with a slightly higher heel, and longer toe than the right. They are also noticeably sequined differently, with the left shoe sequined very nicely, while the right is more haphazard, with notable gaps in the stitching exposing a great deal of the underlying georgette.

This ultimately means “that Judy Garland wore a wider shoe on her left foot than on her right for [much of] the production of the movie” (225). This also supports the belief “that the basic ruby slipper – the French heeled pump – was purchased in quantity by either Western Costume or MGM, depending on who [one wants to] believe made the shoes” (225) and after dying the white silk shoes red, the overlays were attached without much regard for properly matching the pairs (225). Such disregard, however, seems to support Aljean Harmetz’s claim that the shoes were made by the costumers at MGM.

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

Harmetz wrote simply, in The Making of the Wizard of Oz, “It was in Mrs. Cluette’s Beading Department that Judy Garland’s ruby slippers were made” (239). Marian Parker, who worked in the Wardrobe Department at MGM in 1938, is quoted as telling Harmetz, “The sequins were on a very fine chiffon” [It is, in reality, silk georgette], “and the beaders were working frantically with their little needles pushing those red sequins onto the shoes. They had hoped to get by with just spraying a leather shoe red, but that didn’t work” (239). Vera Mordaunt, who also worked in the Wardrobe Department, told Harmetz, “The first thing, they painted some shoes with a kind of shiny patent-leather paint. They must have tried five or six ways to make the shoes. I think the final shoes were satin. They were definitely some kind of cloth. The chiffon with the sequins was formed in the shape of a shoe and then sew[n] onto the cloth shoe” (qtd in Harmetz, 239)

The Smithsonian Shoes, as worn by Judy Garland (Image: Time Warner / Warner Bros.)

Thomas believes, and photographs support, that the shoes now in the Smithsonian are, the same slippers auctioned by the David Weisz Co, at MGM, on the same soundstage were Judy Garland once began her trip down the yellow-brick road in Munchkinland, on Sunday, May 17, 1970 (221). While “nobody really expected much action from the frumpy pair of sequined shoes” (“Treasure”) they sold for $15,000 (and the bidder was authorized to pay up to $22,000) (Thomas 26; 40). They instantly became the most valuable piece of Hollywood memorabilia in existence (“Treasure”). The anonymous buyer of the slippers is considered by Smithsonian officials “to be the only link between the museum and MGM” (221). The shoes were donated to the Smithsonian in December, 1979, potentially for tax reasons, according to the museum’s technician in charge of the donation, Susan Schreiber (43), and have since been on near-continuous exhibition at the museum.

Physically, undoubtedly following Adrian’s revised designs for the slippers, “the uppers and heels of the Smithsonian pair are covered with red silk faille and overlaid with the hand-sequined georgette. The leather soles are painted red, with orange felt adhered to the front foundation” (Thomas 221). The felt was added “to deaden the noise made during the dance numbers, as MGM’s yellow-brick road was actually made of plywood” (“Treasure”). Further, “[a] black rubber cap, [painted red,] is on the heel of the right shoe, but missing on the left. The bow on the right shoe has 43 rhinestones surrounding bugle beads, and three large red [rectangular] stones in the center; the left bow has 41 rhinestones surrounding the bugle beads and three large stones. Rhinestones are missing on both bows” (Thomas 221).

Concerning the Innes label, it is found “[i]nside the right slipper[, …] embossed […] reading Innes Shoe Co. Los Angeles, Pasadena, Hollywood. The color has been [almost entirely] worn from the label” (221). Despite Schreiber’s assertion that “I am positive there [are] no marks on the shoes. Judy Garland’s name [is] not on them, no numbers, just the manufacturer’s label,” (qtd in Thomas, 43) along the right side of each shoe is, in fact, written JUDY GARLAND in block letters. While the color has greatly worn away, Garland’s name is still present on the shoes.

While the buyer of the ruby slippers at MGM in 1970 and the donor of the slippers to the Smithsonian Institution are unknown, it can be reasonably assumed, according to Thomas, they are one and the same, lending the shoes a, “somewhat clear providence” (222).

For those interested, I would like to begin reviewing the histories of the various pairs of authentic ruby slippers known to exist today. There are five pairs that have publicly surfaced which are known to have been used in the production of the film, the first of which I will review here. As noted elsewhere, large tracts of the following is indebted to Rhys Thomas, and his book The Ruby Slippers of Oz.

Arabian test pair (Image: Life Magazine)

Arabian test pair on Garland's right foot. (Image: Warner Brothers / Time Warner)

The first of the authentic pairs of ruby slippers are those known today as the “Arabian test pair.” Designed by Gilbert Adrian, like the other pairs of slippers, after designing the shoes that would ultimately become the ruby slippers, they appear “only in test shots” on the feet of Judy Garland, “photographed in October 1938,” but were not used in the film (Thomas, 224). Photos of the shoes suggest that they, like the other pairs, are covered with sequins, along with an elaborate design of round and heart shaped beads.

They, like several other pairs, according to Thomas, were found by costumer Kent Warner in February or March 1970 while setting up for the massive auction of MGM’s costumes and props. Today the shoes “are owned by Debbie Reynolds, who purchased them from […] Warner [in 1970] for, reportedly $300” (Thomas, 224).

For a time in the 1990′s these shoes appeared at Reynolds’s Hollywood memorabilia museum in Las Vegas. As recently as 2010, there were intentions of including the shoes in another Hollywood museum, to be founded near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Reynolds herself has claimed Judy Garland was partial to the Arabian pair, saying, in the A&E special on the shoes, “I know Judy wore them, and I know she liked them best of all. She [Garland] said, ‘I want the pair with the pointy toe.” Ultimately, the shoes were deemed too ornate, clashing with Dorothy’s farm girl image, so the simpler French heeled schoolgirl Innes pumps were used instead (“Treasure”).

The shoes as they appeared in the Profiles in History catalogue.

Reynolds ultimately sold the shoes, along with many pieces from her vast memorabilia collection (including the dress worn by Judy Garland in wardrobe test photo above), through auction house Profiles in History, in an effort to pay back debts, on 19 June 2011 in Beverly Hills. The shoes ultimately sold for a high bid of $510,000.00, with a buyer’s premium, and taxes, of $117,300.00, for an ultimate price of $627,300.00.

"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.