Tidbits: Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers

“You always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself,” Glinda the Good Witch

Are there any more iconic shoes in film history than Dorothy’s ruby slippers?

Lovers of The Wizard of Oz (1939) movie surely cannot imagine Dorothy’s slippers being any color other than ruby red, but originally they weren’t. In the book, they are silver. The Silver Shoes are only mentioned in the original The Wizard of Oz (1900) book in the series and all Glinda tells Dorothy of them is “there is some charm connected with them; but what it is we never knew.” Of course, in the end we discover they can transport the wearer anywhere they wish and it is clear why the Wicked Witch of the West is obsessed with securing them for herself.

In keeping with the book, Dorothy’s shoes in the film were silver, but MGM chief Louis B. Mayer thought the Technicolor production would benefit from the slippers being colored. The shoes were re-designed with red sequins and felt-bottomed heels for more practical on-set use. The exception was the pair shown on the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet, which had different souls.

Another element of the shoe design came in the look of the Dorothy’s shoes. Designer Gilbert Adrian originally created a look for the shoes in a jewel-encrusted, curled-toe Arabian slipper style. This design was made to match the Wicked With of the East, but was altered to match Dorothy’s style more closely as the primary wearer in the film.

Despite the redesign, the ruby slippers were apparently not comfortable for Judy Garland’s feet. She reportedly only wore them for shots when they would be on camera.

While the segment is in black and white, we see that Miss Gulch is wearing the slippers during the tornado bike ride scene where Dorothy looks out her bedroom window and sees Miss Gulch transformed into presumably the Wicked Witch of the East. Supposedly, in better quality copies of the film the shoes appear to have a shimmer signaling they are the ruby slippers.

No one knows how many pairs of ruby slippers were actually created for the film as the studio records were long ago destroyed. Four pairs, five if the upturned toe Arabian style test shoes are counted, are known, including one pair on display in the Smithsonian and one pair planned for display in Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences museum. A highly sought after collectible, one pair was stolen in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota with a $1 million reward still outstanding for their return.

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Kami Spangenberg

About Kami Spangenberg

Kami Spangenberg is one-half of Classic Couple. She loves classic movies and shares that passion with others as a film blogger and as lead curriculum developer at Classic Couple Academy. While it's hard to play favorites, films topping her all-time, must-see list are: It Happened One Night, Ball of Fire, His Girl Friday, Libeled Lady, My Sister Eileen, The Philadelphia Story, The Thin Man, The Shop Around the Corner and The Way We Were. Oh, and The Outlaw Josey Wales. She has attended the TCM Classic Film Festival six times in LA as well as the 2020 TCM Festival Special Home Edition from her couch. She is honored to have her writing featured from time to time on TheFilmDetective.com. She also contributes content to IMDb.com to raise awareness of classic movies.

2 thoughts on “Tidbits: Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers

  1. Avatar Lisa Bistreich-Wolfe

    Wow I know lots of tidbits about the movie (and of course read the books) but still learned a few things about the various shoes and soles- i never noticed (now i will look!) – thank!

    • I love pulling the tidbits together as I always learn something new. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading them, Lisa, as you are the ultimate Wizard of Oz fan.

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