The ruby slippers are the magic pair of shoes worn by Dorothy Gale as played by the late Judy Garland in the classic 1939 MGM musical movie The Wizard of Oz. Because of their iconic stature, the ruby slippers are now considered among the most treasured and valuable items of film memorabilia. As is customary for important props, a number of pairs were made for the film, though the exact number is unknown. Five pairs are known to have survived; one pair was stolen in August 2005 and has never been recovered.
Powers and abilities
The ruby slippers are the really powerful and magical shoes to the wearer. When Dorothy Gale wears the slippers on the journey to Oz, The Wicked Witch of the West wanted to claim them so badly, especially after her sister's death, but the shoes painfully shock the wicked witch, signifying that the shoes will never come off until the wearer is dead. The slippers also transport Dorothy back home to Kansas, by clicking the heels thrice, repeating "There's no place like home."
The ruby slippers are red heeled pumps with millions of glittering and sparkling matching sequins all over. It has orange soles underneath the slippers and red butterfly-shaped bows on the toes on each shoe, that consists of having three large rectangular red-glass jewels with dark red bugle beads, and outlined with silver stitching.
In the film, an adolescent farm girl named Dorothy (played by Judy Garland), her dog Toto, and their farmhouse are swept away from Kansas by a tornado and taken to the magical Land of Oz. The house falls on and kills the Wicked Witch of the East, freeing the Munchkins from her tyranny. Glinda the Good Witch of the North arrives via magic bubble and shows Dorothy the dead woman's two feet visibly sticking out from under the house wearing the ruby slippers. When the Wicked Witch of the West comes to claim her dead sister's shoes, Glinda magically transfers them to Dorothy's feet. Glinda tells Dorothy to keep tight inside of them and never take them off, as the slippers must be very powerful or the Wicked Witch would not want them so badly. Throughout the rest of the film, the Wicked Witch schemes to obtain the shoes. When she captures Dorothy, she tries to take the slippers, but receives a painful shock. The Wicked Witch then realizes that the slippers will only come off if the wearer is dead, so she decides to kill Dorothy. Before she does, however, Dorothy accidentally splashes her with a bucket of water, causing her to melt away. At the end, it is revealed that Dorothy can return home by simply closing her eyes, clicking the heels of the slippers together thrice and repeating the phrase, "There's no place like home."
Since the sliver slippers didn't show up well during filming, the filmmakers had to change the color of the shoes to ruby-red as a last resort for them to show up in the film.
The slippers were designed by Gilbert Adrian, MGM's chief costume designer. Initially, two pairs were made in different styles. The so-called "Arabian test pair" was "a wildly jeweled, Arabian motif, with curling toes and heels." This pair was used in costume tests, but was rejected as unsuitable for Dorothy's Kansas farmgirl image. The second design was approved, with one modification. The red bugle beads used to simulate rubies proved too heavy, so they were mostly replaced with sequins, about 2,300 for each shoe.
It is believed that at least six or seven pairs of the final design were made. According to producer Mervyn LeRoy, "We must have had five or ten pairs of those shoes". The wardrobe woman who worked on the film claimed "six identical pairs" had been made. Four pairs used in the movie have been accounted for. Rhys Thomas speculates that they were likely made by Joe Napoli of the Western Costume Company, and not all at once, but as the need arose. Garland requested one pair a half-size larger, as her feet would become slightly swollen in the afternoon from the rigors of morning rehearsals and filming. According to Rhys Thomas in his Los Angeles Times article, "all the ruby slippers are between Size 5 and 6, varying between B and D widths."
The four surviving pairs were made from white silk pumps from the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles. At the time, many movie studios used plain white silk shoes because they were inexpensive and easy to dye. It is likely that most of the shoes worn by female characters in The Wizard of Oz were plain Innes shoes with varying heel heights, dyed to match each costume. There is an embossed gold or silver stamp or an embroidered cloth label bearing the name of the company inside each right shoe.
To create the ruby slippers, the shoes were dyed red, then burgundy sequined organza overlays were attached to each shoe's upper and heel. The film's early three-strip Technicolor process required the sequins to be darker than most red sequins found today; bright red sequins would have appeared orange on screen. Two weeks before the start of shooting, Adrian added butterfly-shaped red strap leather bows. Each of the Art Deco-inspired bows had three large, rectangular, red-glass jewels with dark red bugle beads, outlined in red glass rhinestones in silver settings. The stones and beads were sewn to the bows, then to the organza-covered shoe. Three pairs of the surviving slippers had orange felt glued to their soles to deaden the sound of Garland dancing on the Yellow Brick Road. It is theorized that Garland wore one primary pair during shooting. This may be the pair known as "the People's Shoes", on public display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Another pair, the close-up or insert shoes, is in best shape of all, appears to be better made, has no orange felt on the soles and has "#7 Judy Garland" written in the lining. According to the Library of Congress, "it is widely believed that they were used primarily for close-ups and possibly the climactic scene where Dorothy taps her heels together." Circular scuff marks on the soles support the theory that they were the ones Garland had on when she clicked her heels together. The lack of felt indicates these were likely also the shoes taken from the feet of the dead Wicked Witch of the East (since the soles are visible in the film), hence their nickname: the "Witch's Shoes".
The last known pair was, some believe, made for Bobbie Koshay, Garland's stunt double. This is most likely the size 6B pair (owned first by Roberta Bauman, then Anthony Landini, and currently by David Elkouby) whose lining says "Double" instead of "Judy Garland". However, some believe this pair may have been the second pair created, therefore explaining the "Double" in the lining, but still worn by Garland and Koshay. Several pairs of Garland's own shoes are size 6 1⁄2. Also, Garland can be seen wearing this pair in photos taken after the film's primary shooting was finished in 1939.