Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers

The Ruby Slippers were worn by Dorothy Gale, a character played by Judy Garland (1922–1969) in the MGM film, "Wizard of Oz," 1939. This fantasy tale about a journey to a magical land was based on the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum (1856–1919); it had previously been a book, a cartoon, a stage musical, and several silent motion pictures before MGM created its hit film. In addition to its many other merits, the MGM movie ranks as a milestone in the history of Technicolor because of its extensive color sequences set in the Land of Oz.

The magical shoes, changed from the book's silver slippers to those with an iridescent red hue, were created by Gilbert Adrian, MGM Studios’s chief costume designer, and played a central role in the film. Dorothy obtained them from Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, and kept them from the Wicked Witch of the West in order to get home.

Several pairs of slippers were made for the movie, a common practice with important costumes and props; this pair was worn by Garland in dance scenes. The felt on the soles muffled her dancing footsteps on the yellow brick road. The most pervasive and influential form of popular art in the 20th century, American movies reach millions of people around the world and provide passing images that help shape perceptions of and about Americans. Unlike most films, "The Wizard of Oz" has endured and even attained greater popularity as it was introduced to new generations of audiences through television. One explanation for the movie's lasting appeal to Americans is its central message: In pursuing what you need, you find that you already have it—an affirmation of the virtue of self-sufficiency.

The Ruby Slippers were donated anonymously in 1979. The slippers are one of the most asked about artifacts at the Smithsonian. They were displayed in the National Museum of American History, in an exhibition called 1939 (third floor west), through Feb. 22, 2012. They are currently part of American Stories (second floor East).

Video Features 

The Ruby Slippers
Bright red is how we remember them, but Dorothy's famous shoes were originally silver.

The Secret Behind the Sparkle
Take a look behind the scenes to see how the Smithsonian keeps the ruby slippers sparkling in the spotlight.

Help Preserve the Nation's Treasures for Future Generations
Dorothy's ruby slippers, along with other treasures of American history, are in need of your support. You can help.