A Walk In Her Shoes: The Story Of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers are on display at The Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (Photo by dbkng via Wikimedia / CC by 2.0)

They are the most iconic shoes in all of Hollywood. Like Cinderella’s glass slippers, Dorothy’s ruby red slippers stand the test of time when it comes to cinema footwear. The yellow brick road, vibrant green Emerald City and rainbow-infused Munchkinland all contribute to the colorful film, but it is the red sparkle of those shoes that make people think of The Wizard of Oz.

In L. Frank Baum’s original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), on which the film is based, Dorothy actually wears silver shoes. The decision to change the footwear was made to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process used in big-budget Hollywood films of that era.

After Dorothy, her dog Toto and their farmhouse is swept away to the magical Land of Oz by a tornado in Kansas, the house falls on and kills the Wicked Witch of the East, freeing the Munchkins from her tyranny. When her sister, The Wicked Witch of the West comes to claim the shoes, Glinda the Good Witch of the North magically transfers them to Dorothy’s feet. Stressing their importance and the power they possess, Glinda tell Dorothy to never take them off. Throughout the rest of the movie, the Wicked With of the West does her best to obtain the ruby slippers, capturing and then planning to kill Dorothy. However, when the witch is splashed with a bucket of water, she melts away, freeing Dorothy and everyone in the land of Oz. At the end of the film, Dorothy realizes there is no place like home, upon which time it is revealed that she can return home by simply closing her eyes, clicking the heels of the slippers together three times and repeating the phrase, “There’s no place like home.”

Promotional art from The Wizard of Oz (Image by MGM via Movie Stills DB)

Did you know that there were several pairs of slippers created for Judy Garland to wear, all designed by Gilbert Adrian, MGM’s chief costume designer? All of the shoes are sized five and six and vary between B and D widths. One design was a curled-toe bejeweled Arabian inspired design, which was deemed too elaborate for a farm girl.

White silk shoes were dyed red and then covered in a sequin overlay. A few weeks before filming, the last minute decision to add a bow was made, with three large glass jewels for added sparkle.

While there are possibly five or ten pairs of shoes that were created for the film, four pairs used in the movie are certain to be in existence, however their exact whereabouts are unknown.

One pair, known as “The People’s Shoes,” resides in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., where fans can visit the ruby gems along with other Hollywood memorabilia. Another pair was on display at Walt Disney World in MGM’s Great Movie Ride, an attraction that is no longer in the park. Another pair that belonged to memorabilia collector Michael Shaw and were on loan, were stolen in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN, the actress’ birthplace, and were recently recovered in 2018. Another pair known as the “Witch’s Shoes,” are nicknamed so because of their lack of wear and tear, used in close ups and the pair that the Wicked Witch of the East donned in her death scene.

All that history in one pair of shoes.

Wizard of Oz theme issue graphic

Leave a Reply