“Dorothy” Costumes through the Years

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“Dorothy” Costumes through the Years
by Maribeth Curley
The Judy Room's 2011 Year in Review

The outfit that Dorothy Gale wears in the classic story of The Wizard of Oz is one of the most iconic and enduring in all of cinematic and literature histories. While Judy Garland and MGM were the ones who brought the costume to the forefront of pop culture, there have been many different incarnations and interpretations of it throughout the years. But no matter if the slippers were silver or ruby, they always got Dorothy back home. and I would love to show you through the fashion of Dorothy.

The Slippers

In the original story by L. Frank Baum, as well as in early production for the film, Dorothy’s infamous ruby slippers were actually silver. However, wanting to capitalize on the newly minted Technicolor process, MGM head Louis B. Mayer decided the film would benefit from having the slippers an exciting color. This decision resulted in their legendary ruby hue.

Multiple styles of the slippers were tested by MGM. The most notable variation was the “Arabian Slippers.”  These had a curled up toe and were created by famed costume designer Gilbert Adrian; they now belong to actress Debbie Reynolds.

Another style is referred to as the “Bugle Bead” shoes.  They are very similar to the slippers we all know and love, but don’t have a bow. These shoes have yet to surface.In 1989 Rhys Thomas published a book about the legendary shoes called “The Ruby Slippers of Oz.”

Thomas speculated that there are seven pairs of slippers from the film and the whereabouts of only five are known. The pair housed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., is mismatched.

Each pair has an estimated value of [approximately] $1.5 million, making them the most expensive item of movie memorabilia ever.

Mickey Rooney with the very blond "Thorpe Era" Dorothy
"Thorpe Era" Dorothy costume as displayed May 23, 2010
Red Dorothy Dress
Original red test dress

The Dress

The dress was designed by legendary MGM costume designer Gilbert Adrian, who also designed the ruby slippers.

There were many different versions and variations of Dorothy’s famous dress and blouse.  Early ideas included a red dress, as well as an all blue dress.  Also, an early version of her blouse included blue bows on the sleeves and collar.

The photo above is an early version of the dress that Judy wore as Dorothy during director Irving Thorpe’s two weeks on the job.  For these two weeks, Judy Garland also sported a blonde wig.

While the famous dress is often thought to be blue and white gingham, the garment is actually blue and light pink.

Variations Over The Years

L-R: 1910 Oz film; Diana Ross in "The Wiz" (1978) and Fairuza Balk in "Return to Oz" (1985)

Silent Films

In early, silent versions made of the story – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910), The New Wizard of Oz (1914), and The Wizard of Oz (1925) – Dorothy’s dress is suited for the time period for which these films were made.  However, this makes her look much older than the age she is supposed to be.  No mention of the silver slippers is made in the films.

The Wiz

In the 1978 film The Wiz Dorothy wears a white skirt, blouse, and shoes.  There is no mention of the famed ruby slippers at all.

Return to Oz

In the 1985 film Return to Oz, Dorothy sports a very different costume: a simple white and pink striped dress, a red belt, and plain black shoes.  (Dorothy, of course, does eventually get her hands on the ruby slippers.)

Me and My Shadows

In the 2001 made for TV movie Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows the Wizard of Oz segment presents a pretty spot on replication of the famous outfit except for a few things.  The fit of the outfit itself was a bit ill and (maybe most importantly) the famous gingham dress was indeed blue and white instead of pink and white.

Me and My Shadows featured detailed recreations of the various test, “Technicolor” and “off camera” Dorothy dresses:
"Me And My Shadows" Oz "Test" Dress   "Me And My Shadows" Oz "Test" Dress   "Me And My Shadows" Oz "Test" Dress
For details on these and other costumes used in the miniseries CLICK HERE
"Me And My Shadows" Oz Dress: Non-Technicolor scenes   "Me And My Shadows" Oz Dress: Technicolor scenes 

Stage Productions

The Wizard of Oz on stage

Most stage productions produced after the legendary film came out have stayed true to the costume that Adrian, Louis B. Mayer and Judy Garland made famous, but productions put on before the film, most famously the legendary 1902 Broadway musical [right], have Dorothy wearing a whimsical black and white pant outfit with the original silver slippers when she heads off to Oz.

This article was written by Maribeth Curley who, much to her delight, writes for WizardofOzCostumes.com, which has everything from Yellow Brick Road costumes to the perfect Dorothy costume.

©  2012 WizardofOzCostumes.com & Judy Garland News And Events

Thank you Maribeth for contributing!  For more information about the making of the 1939 masterpiece, go to The Judy Room’s “Spotlight on The Wizard of Oz” Section.


  1. neat but i do not like the wiz cause the are making front of the wizard of oz. and neat dresses

  2. And we all know the Garland dress was actually ecru and violet to photog as blue and white checked, right?

  3. I love Oz. I’ve always loved Judy and can’t imagine the film without her but something I love about the 1985 movie “Return to Oz” is that Dorothy was played by a child which is how it’s supposed to be. I see it all the time with “Alice in Wonderland movies too. Alice and Dorothy are supposed to be little girls about seven years old. I’d love to see more of that. As far as costuming goes it says specifically in L. Frank Baum’s book that Dorothy wore a blue and white gingham dress so I’m happy to see that, that’s what was chosen for the famous movie but as the books were written in an earlier time period I wish the costumers would have kept the 1900 costume ideas instead of going with a 1939 style but I guess they knew what to do to make things classic.

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