Smithsonian Slippers - Left Bow

Clearly, this blog has not been updated in quite some time. I have been contacted by various individuals asking, rightfully, if it ever would be! Let me put those fears to rest. No, I haven’t lost interest in the project, and no, I have not simply given up. For the past few months, I have been, much like everyone else, waiting. Some months ago, in December, I ordered a run of stones for the bows, custom made to the shape, size, and color, of the originals. With the help of slipper friend John Henson, I thought I had all the specifics the stone cutters would need to accurately replicate the stones. Well, I was half right. I provided the correct specifications, they just don’t seem to have completely listened…

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

The glass stones themselves should have a rectangular table-top cut, with a small hole at either end for threading. The original stones are flat-backed, and gold-foiled. The stones I received, while the right size, were not, unfortunately, quite the right shape.

Bow Stone Diagram

The stones I have, after nearly six months of waiting, had been cut incorrectly. Instead of flat-backed (as shown above), the stones have small facets on the back, making them both inaccurate, and much more difficult to sew down, than the originals, since each side is beveled! Given the errors to the shape of the stones, they are now being recut, and I should have them in yet another month or so. So, more waiting! I must give the company its due though, they are recutting the stones at no charge, and it was a genuine mistake, which they readily admitted, and are doing their best to rectify, so, no harm done.

(Still Unfinished) Replica Slippers, (Beside the Maltese Falcon)

In the meantime, the shoes remain unfinished, and while we wait, I will be practicing sewing the bow design, using the incorrectly cut stones for sizing, (as they are the right size, despite their imperfections), to get the design and technique of them down, before I create the final bows.

So, that explains the wait. But I really am still committed, as ever, to finishing the shoes. I began seriously considering recreating the slippers nearly a year ago now, and they still aren’t finished. If you had told me that a year ago, I would have thought you crazy, but, for now, the work continues…


Replica Slippers

After seven months of near constant work, the replica Innes shoes are now fully sequined. It took much longer than I ever expected, but I have to admit I’m quite pleased with them!

Replica Heels (in progress)

To begin finishing the sequining, as with the toe and lower heel, I worked alternatively from each side of the shoe, working from the top of the upper down the back of the shoe, creating much the same stair-step pattern found elsewhere on the toe of the shoes. Once this was complete, I then sewed a finishing strand at the top of the heel to cover all the knots sewn there from the threads on the lower heel.

Fully Sequined Replica Slippers

Once this process was complete on both shoes, I then ran the finishing thread along the top of the opening of each shoe. In doing so, I made sure the sequins did not stick up past the top edge of the shoe, rather, I sewed them in such a way that about a millimetre of the shoe’s red fabric is visible just above the finishing row of sequins, just as is the case on the original shoes. Ensuring this clean line at the opening required that I sew each finishing strand at least twice, as I found I was dissatisfied with how the sequins were laying initially, but resewing them resolved this.

Dorothy (and the Wicked Witch) as costumed during Richard Thorpe's period as director of Oz.

At present, without their famous bows, the slippers are nearly identical to those used during the first two weeks of shooting of The Wizard of Oz under Richard Thorpe (12 October 1938 – 24 October 1938). Granted, I have yet to add the orange felt to each front foundation, as I will do so at the same time I sew on the bows, but, I certainly feel the shoes are already quite an accomplishment, and I very pleased with them so far!

I will next begin working on the bows, and the work on them has slightly begun, as I have already acquired the required bugle beads and rhinestones. However, I have yet to receive the central stones, as I am having them custom made for the shoes, so completion of the bows, and therefore the shoes, is currently delayed until I receive them. But, thankfully, it should only be a delay of, at most, a month, so the light at the end of the tunnel is, slowly, approaching!

Replica Slippers


Replica Slippers

Following the same method I outlined in the previous post, I have now sequined the heel of both shoes, and I must say they both look markedly authentic, when comparing the design I created with that found in reference images of the Smithsonian shoes.

Replica Heels

Next, I plan to complete both uppers, by joining both sides of the design at the heel, in much the same stair step pattern found on the vamp at the center of the toe. I have intentionally sequined the upper to the front edge of the heel, and then sequined the heel itself, before continuing with the upper. I am hoping to create some level of seemlessness between the upper and heel by now completing the upper in such a way to allow the first sequin of each row on the upper heel to overlay the top of the heel ever so slightly, to cover the threads at the very top of the heel itself. We will see how this will turn out, but I am quite confident in it!

Smithsonian Shoes (Image: Source Unknown)

Once this has been done, I will then run the finishing edge of sequins around the opening of each shoe, before commencing with the construction of the bows!

Replica Heels

Replica Slippers

As can be seen above, the sequining of the replicas is now quite progressed. I’ve continued to work up the sides of the shoes, working on all four sides successively. At this point I have almost reached the top of the back of the upper on both heels, and this being the case, I am now working on completing both lower heels before finishing the uppers above them. In doing so, I’m hoping to cover the top edge of the lower heel with the edge of the sequins from above, giving the sequins the same (largely) seamless transition between the upper and the heel found on the authentic pairs.

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

Thus far, I have sequined the  lower heel of the left shoe, and am currently working on completing the right. To do so, I have followed much the same system I have set up for the rest of sequining, establishing each line of sequining with a thin line of painter’s tape, and sewing the sequins along its edge. For the heels, like on the vamp, I work on each side consecutively.

Replica Slipper

On each heel I established the design with a single line of sequins, basing the design on that found on the left Smithsonian heel. Each heel, on each pair of slippers, from what I can see, varies slightly in the exact angle of this design, and I simply chose that which I found most aesthetically pleasing.

Replica Slipper

From this, I then worked outward, sewing the design on each side of the heel, before attempting the inverted ‘V’ shaped portion of the design. When doing so, as before, I simply sewed a single line on each side, working up the heel (effectively sewing upside down), tucking the last sequin of each row under the preceding perpendicular row. Like the toes, the heel proved slightly tricky, but the result is well worth the effort!

Replica Slippers

Replica Slipper

From here, I will work to finish the right heel, replicating the design I have created on the left. Afterward, I will work to finish the upper of the heels, before completing the sequining with the single finishing strand run around the opening of each shoe! Then, on to the bows!

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.)