Smithsonian Ruby Slippers Depart for London's Victoria and Albert Museum on Loan to New "Hollywood Costume" Exhibition

Last Day on View Is Oct. 8 and Slippers Return for the Holidays Nov. 21
October 4, 2012
NMAH Ruby Slippers

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will loan its pair of the famous Ruby Slippers Judy Garland wore in the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz for six weeks. The slippers will reunite with Dorothy’s blue-and-white gingham pinafore dress in a new exhibition called “Hollywood Costume” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London opening Oct. 20. This is the first time the slippers have travelled to Europe and the first time Garland’s dress and shoes have been reunited since filming completed in 1938.

The slippers are currently on view in the museum’s “American Stories” exhibition through Oct. 8; the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The Wizard of Oz movie is a fantasy tale about Dorothy’s (a Kansas farm girl) journey to a magical land and was based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1856-1919). 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, played a central role in the film. The Ruby Slippers were designed by Gilbert Adrian, MGM Studios’ chief costume designer. Adrian also designed the many costumes in The Wizard of Oz, including Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow costume, which is also in the museum’s collection.

“The Ruby Slippers are beloved by our visitors, and we look forward to sharing them with an international audience,” said curator Dwight Blocker Bowers. “The message of self-sufficiency in Wizard of Oz has endured for more than 70 years, and the slippers illustrate the importance of a journey for what you need, and only after travelling that journey you find that you already had all that you were searching for.”

The movie’s costume designer altered commercially manufactured shoes by dyeing them red, attaching red netting to their tops and heels and covering them with red sequins. The Ruby Slippers were donated to the museum in 1979 and have been on almost continuous display since.

The hat and boots from the Scarecrow costume worn by Bolger in the film will be on view through Oct. 21 on the museum’s third floor in the “1939” exhibition. Visitors can also visit them museum’s website to see video of the slippers and will be able to follow their travel on the museum’s blog beginning Oct. 9.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, visit americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

Note to Editors: The museum will host a departure ceremony for the Ruby Slippers at 9 a.m. Oct. 9. To cover the event, please call the Office of Public Affairs at 202-633-3129.