The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Hollywood Costume exhibition will this year play host to an original pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in her signature role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. The shoes, which are one of four surviving pairs made for use in the film, are on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and will remain on show at the V&A for four weeks.
The ruby slippers (which, you may be surprised to hear, were not included in the original novel, and were written as silver in the first draft of the screenplay) have become a truly iconic cinematic object. You can buy versions of Dorothy’s ruby slippers in pretty much any shape and size in any country in the world; such is the power of the magical shoes.
In fact, the shoes are so powerful that the Americans simply can’t do without them for more than a month at a time. This will be the first time the shoes have ever left the United States and they have to be back at the Smithsonian in Washington by Thanksgiving, when The Wizard of Oz is always shown on American television.
The Smithsonian museum’s performing arts curator, Dwight Blocker Bowers, has said:
“The ruby slippers are beloved by our visitors and we look forward to sharing them with an international audience. The message of self-sufficiency in Wizard of Oz has endured for more than 70 years and the slippers illustrate the importance of a journey for what you need, and only after travelling that journey, you find that you already had all that you were searching for.”
The shoes were made by master shoemaker Joe Napoli in Los Angeles for the 1939 film. They were made from red satin shoes with a heel height of one and half inches, hand stitched with red sequins. If you choose to go along to the V&A to see the magic shoes, which will be on show from October 20th alongside Dorothy’s blue gingham dress (reunited with the shoes for the first time since the film was made), you’ll discover that they are in fact more of a deep garnet colour; this was so that they would show up bright scarlet on Technicolor film.
If you want to make sure that you catch a glimpse of the real deal, you’d better get down to the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the V&A lickety-split once it opens on October 20th, as the real shoes will be shipped back to the states and replaced with a replica pair after four weeks. Still, even if you miss the real shoes, you’ll still have the rest of the exhibition to explore. Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow costume, anybody?