“The Silver Shoes,” said Glinda, “have many mysterious and wonderful powers held within them. And one of the most astonishing things about them is that they can carry you to any place in the world in three steps, and each step will be made in the wink of an eye. All you have to do is to knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go. ”
―The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
Now that the Kick-starter campaign has been successful in the restoration project, here is the rest of the story of the magical slippers. The slippers represent the power within. That’s the magic! We all have the ability to change our circumstance with the spunk and courage, heart and soul needed.
What do the magical shoes conjure up in you? Hope? Courage?
Scroll through the post to see the funky pointed “arabian test slippers” not used in the film. As expected, there are lots of items resembling the ruby red slippers for purchase on-line. I’ve included but a few of the finds, some fun, some kitschy.
In L. Frank Baum’s original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wore Silver Shoes. The movie’s creators changed them to ruby to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process.
The Ruby Slippers are the sparkling red shoes worn by Dorothy Gale in the magical Land of Oz as played by the late Judy Garland in the famous and iconic classic 1939 MGM musical movie The Wizard of Oz.
Screenwriter Noel Langley changed Dorothy’s shoes from silver to ruby to take advantage of the Technicolor process used for the movie. Like all the costumes in the film, they were designed by Gilbert Adrian, the head of MGM’s costume department.
The Dorothy of 1939 was given these enchanted shoes by Glinda, as they are taken from the dead Wicked Witch of the East who was crushed to death under Dorothy’s fallen farmhouse after it was carried to the magical Land of Oz via Kansas cyclone. Shortly after Dorothy and her pet dog, Toto, unexpectedly arrived in Munchkinland, they were magically teleported onto her feet by Glinda’s wand. This was done to successfully keep them from falling into the hands of the Witch of the East’s sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wanted to use their magic to strengthen her own wickedness. Since she was the sister of their original owner she believed they should rightfully be handed down to her. Throughout the entire story she tries many times to retrieve them from Dorothy who set out on an adventure in hopes to find a way back home again. She meets her demise and is ultimately melted by Dorothy with a bucket of water when she imprisoned her in her castle in the haunted forest. In the end Glinda tells Dorothy that she had the power to return back home all along. After she learned that there is no place like home, she clicked her heels three times and woke up in her bed in Kansas surrounded by her loved ones as if it had all been just a dream.
“Now those Magic Slippers will take you home in two seconds“!
In L. Frank Baum‘s original tale, the first Dorothy Gale wore shoes made out of silver with pointed toes. The pair of charmed footwear were referred to not as slippers in Baum’s book but “Silver Shoes“.
The only thing the Silver Shoes have in common with the Ruby Slippers is that they were both once owned by the Wicked Witch of the East and can teleport it’s wearer to any place in the world when the heels are clicked together three times.
In circa 1937 MGM announced that they would be adapting L. Frank Baums’ classic story into a musical starring a sixteen year old Judy Garland as twelve year old Dorothy Gale. In post production the shoes were officially changed from metallic silver to blood red due to the MGM studio company wanting to take advantage of the new state of the art Technicolor that had been introduced in cinema at the time. They believed glittering red would appear more breathtaking and dazzling to the eye on film and would be a better focal point against any other surroundings. Thus letting the shoes stand out better on the big screen than silver would as they feared silver would get lost in the picture and blend in. So in 1938, silver was replaced with red and the Ruby Slippers would become a household name and the most popular version of footwear worn by the character of Dorothy. And would capture the hearts of millions of people for decades to come, being labeled as the most memorable and beautiful pairs of shoes to ever be seen on screen. Even 70+ years after its original making.
The Ruby Slippers have more powers attributed to them than the silver shoes. In the 1939 film we learn that the pair cannot be taken off unless through death and were even able to send volts of electricity out to shock the Wicked Witch of the West’s fingers before she was even able to touch them. In Baum’s original story, nothing of the sort is ever mentioned in the 1900 book. The Silver Shoes only have the power of teleportation. Once the heels are knocked against each other three solid times and given directions, the pair will take three fast steps so sudden that the wearer will travel in the speed of lightning to their destination in exactly three seconds no matter the distance.
Because of their iconic stature, the Ruby Slippers are now among the most treasured and valuable of film memorabilia. As was customary for important props, a number of pairs were made for the film. Thus being auctioned for thousands and even millions of dollars. There are several pairs of Ruby Slippers, though the exact number is unknown. Five pairs are known to have survived since 1939.
Crafting The Ruby Slippers
The actual shoes beneath the sparkly sequined fabric overlays were 1930’s style white silk pumps with an approximately one & a half inch heel from “Innes Shoe Company” with locations in Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Pasadena, California. Some of the shoes had a gold or silver stamp with the company logo, while at least one other pair had a cloth logo label sewn to the insole of the right shoe.
The shoes were dyed red by M-G-M costuming staff, and then covered in a reddish orange georgette fabric which served as the base for the stitching. An estimated 4,600 metallic dark red gelatin sequins were used on each pair. Multiple pairs of the ruby slippers were made, but the exact number created for the production is a matter of debate. The bows on each shoe were sewn on reddish orange fabric overlays which were fitted over thinned red leather. The bows are outlined with 46 rose montee rhinestones, three large art deco style center red glass jewels with gold reflective backing, and varying numbers of bugle beads.
Interestingly, the Ruby Slippers used in the film were more burgundy than red. The 3-strip Technicolor process used in 1939 could not reproduce colors with true-to-life fidelity, and various compromises were made out of necessity. Shoes that were actually red would have photographed as orange.
Salman Rushdie wrote a short story titled “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers.” In his book The Ruby Slippers of Oz (1989), Rhys Thomas writes about four extant pairs of them.
On October 31, 1938, Judy Garland tested two different styles of ruby slippers. One shoe was the sequined left shoe of the pair now in the Smithsonian, but without the bow attached for the test photo. On the other foot, Judy wore a wild looking, curly toed shoe covered in sequins, shield shaped glass beads, and rhinestones. These curled toed shoes were not used in any filming – discarded or used. They were deemed too ornate for Judy Garland’s Dorothy and were subsequently put into storage until discovered by costumer Kent Warner in 1970. These shoes have become known as the “Arabian Test Shoes” and were owned by actress Debbie Reynolds until they were auctioned in 2011.
After MGM fired director Richard Thorpe from production of The Wizard of Oz in 1938, costume designer Gilbert Adrian designed a wild pair of ornate shoes as a concept for what might become the Ruby Slippers. Later to be known as The Arabian Test Shoes, these slippers were only used in a couple of wardrobe test shots for Judy Garland on October 31, 1938. The Arabian Test Shoes featured thousands of sequins, rhinestones, round, rectangle & shield shape jewels. Custom made base shoes crafted by Western Costume Co. were used by MGM (given the signature yellow pigskin lining and the “W.C.C.” stamped on the lining. The ruby slippers were put into storage after being scrapped for filming and would later be discovered by Kent Warner in 1970. They went on to be owned by Debbie Reynolds, who sold them at auction in 2011.
As expected, there are lots of items resembling the ruby red slippers for purchase on-line. I’ve included but a few of the finds, some fun, some kitschy.
Harry Winston’s real Ruby Slippers
Ronald Winston of the House of Harry Winston recreated the ruby slippers to celebrate the golden anniversary of the film. But to paraphrase Dorothy, he had a feeling that he was not in 1939 anymore. So instead of sequins, he used real rubies, 1,350 carats of it from 4,600 pieces to be exact. That made the creation a truly ruby slipper. He also added 50 carats of diamonds for good measure. They took two months to finish, and when they were finally done, the result was just over the rainbow.
Marilyn Monroe’s ruby red stiletto’s
And even the dreaded flip flops