Replica Bow Stones

I was contacted a few days ago, that the custom cut stones for the bows are finished, and, more importantly, finally cut to the exact specifications of the originals! Ultimately, it only took them three attempts to cut them authentically, after I initially placed the order last December! But, judging from the stones once I recieved them, I honestly couldn’t be happier. The cut, this time, is exact to the originals. So, now the bows begin, right? Well… not quite.

Original Bow Stone

On the original cut red glass stones used on the ruby slippers, each stone is gold-backed. (Look closely at the lower edge of the stone in the photo above)  Mine, as you can see, are not. Initially, I thought close enough was, well, close enough. But I’m a stickler for detail, and it occured to me that without the gold backing, the stones would not reflect light in the same way as the originals (or MIGHT not, and I don’t like those odds). so, I’ve decided (after consulting with slipper expert John Henson) to add gold leaf to the back of each stone individually. Doing so will be (relatively) simple, so this afternoon I’ve ordered the gold leaf and will be applying it to the back of the stones as soon as it arrives.

So, again, we wait, but not (remotely) as long this time! In the meantime, I’ll be working on a mock-up of the bow, now that I have the stones and can size everything out! I, for one, am quite excited to be approaching the finish!


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!

(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.

Ruby Slippers Diagram (Photo: Tod Machin)

The first step in creating a pair of replica ruby slippers is, of course, the shoes. But, as anyone who’s looked for them knows, it’s much harder than one would expect! Shoes today are nothing like the Innes shoes made into the ruby slippers in 1938, and finding a size 5B, I’m sure, is difficult even when looking for contemporary shoes!

I’ve been told to look to eBay; certainly the place where you can find anything should have a pair of vintage French heeled pumps, right? While some have been lucky in searching eBay, and vintage, or online shops. I never have, and I feel like I’ve been looking, to some degree, since that first trip to the Smithsonian when I was twelve!

Original Innes Shoe, with Michael Shaw's Slippers (Image courtesy A&E Television Networks)

So, in my search for a perfect pair of shoes, I eventually decided to have a pair custom made, and through a slipper friend, Randy, I was able to contact shoemaker, Daphne Board of El Diablo Handmade Shoes who has recently made him a pair, and she was more than willing to create a pair for me! – For those interested, Daphne is willing to make more pairs of shoes for replica ruby slippers, and Randy is happy to answer any replicating questions which others might have.

My Replica Shoes

Tod Machin’s diagram of Roberta Bauman’s right ruby slipper, according to Rhys Thomas, was “originally published in the Los Angeles Times, March 13, 1988, Sunday Calendar, page 7, [and later] Christie’s received permission from the LA Times and Tod Machin to reprint the diagram.” Following this same diagram, also printed in Thomas’s The Ruby Slippers of Oz, Daphne recreated the shoes, scaling down the proportions found in the diagram from a 6B to a 5B, the same size as the “Witch’s Shoes,” and roughly the same size as the Smithsonian, and Michael Shaw pairs.

Unpacking the shoes this morning, I couldn’t be happier with the result! My immediate response when pulling them from the box was something I knew, and yet I never intellectualized, as I’ve never actually held the shoes in my hands (obviously): Wow, Judy Garland had tiny feet! In constructing the shoes, the uppers, like the originals, are lined with off-white kid leather, and a red canvas interlining was used for more structural support. The outside of the uppers are made of red georgette, identical to the fabric used on the original shoes for the overlays.

My Replica Shoes

The shoes were made with the georgette as the outer layer, which has not been fused to the canvas to allow me to sew the (many thousand) sequins directly to the georgette without damaging the underlying canvas, or (heaven forbid) the kid leather.

Inside the right slipper, like the original Bauman pair, Daphne has sewn a vintage copy of the Innes shoe label. While other pairs of ruby slippers have a heat stamped copy of the same label in the right shoe, unlike the Bauman pair, I honestly didn’t know how the stamp is to be replicated, so elected to make this pair with the woven label.

Innes Shoe Co. Label in right shoe.

Original Label in Right Bauman Shoe (Image: Christie's East)

Replica Shoe Sole

My shoes also, like the original pairs, have leather soles. While the soles have been dyed red, I will still need to paint the heel stoppers red, and I am considering painting the whole of the soles over, both to match the stoppers, and the original soles.

All in all, however, I couldn’t be happier with the shoes, and I can’t wait to get started!