From the book by L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz (1939) was one of the first examples of the beauty of Technicolor film technology. In particular, the legendary blue and white plaid dress and sparkling ruby slippers worn by a young Judy Garland would have looked much duller on screens a few years ago. Fortunately, Garland’s costume was designed with Technicolor in mind. Today, slippers, blouse and pinafore dress are among the most precious movie memories. Unfortunately, the dress has been lost for several decades. However, in a shocking announcement, Drama Department lecturer Matt Ripa at the Catholic University of America stumbled upon the legendary outfit in a surprising location.
In the 1970s, an actress named Mercedes McCambridge was Artist in Residence at Catholic University. She reportedly donated a blouse and blue pinafore dress worn by Garland on set at the Drama School, which was then under the direction of Reverend Gilbert Hartke. However, it was believed that Dorothy’s costume was long lost. Rumors of its existence have long been whispered, but speaker and operations coordinator Ripa couldn’t find the iconic clothing anywhere.
In June 2021, Ripa was cleaning items from a dramatic building on campus in preparation for renovations. Inside a plastic bag perched above the teachers’ mailboxes, he discovered a shoebox. Inside the box was the white blouse and plaid dress in the petite size of 16-year-old Garland. Ripa said The Washington Post, “I was shocked, holding a piece of Hollywood history in my hands.” According to a note in the box, the dress had been found some time earlier in the department director’s office.
Ripa and a colleague examined the dress using gloves for the safety of the fabric. They then contacted the university archives and curators set to work to authenticate the find. They discovered and recorded footage of Reverend Hartke receiving the dress. Curator Maria Mazzenga also contacted the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian, where a pair of the famous ruby slippers reside.
According to experts at the Smithsonian, there are five authentic dresses from the 1939 film set. These have revealing secret pockets for a handkerchief and feature repaired tears in the blouse that would have been fragile. All five were tagged by someone with the name of Judy Garland. Although the Smithsonian does not officially authenticate items outside of its collection, experts have indicated that the dress is likely genuine. It will now be officially recognized as such by the university. The delicious find will be exhibited among the archival collections.
A long lost dress worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was rediscovered at the Catholic University.
Garland’s apron and blouse is an iconic movie costume from the early days of the Technicolor films.
The dress was donated to the drama department in the 1970s by an actress, but was later lost.
The rediscovered dress is thought to be authentic and will be kept in the University’s collections.
h / t: [The Smithsonian]
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