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Dorothy’s ‘Oz’ Dress Is Up for Sale After Decades of Being Lost

The blue-and-white checked gingham dress worn by a young Judy Garland as Dorothy in the famous 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” is one of the most recognizable outfits in American film history.

One of the versions of the dress Garland wore in the film was thought to be lost for decades at Catholic University of America, where it was given to someone in the theater department in the early 1970s. However, last year’s office clean-up resulted in the discovery of the dress in an old shoebox, and it’s now on its way to the auction block.

According to Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, dean of Catholic University’s School of Music, Drama, and Art in Washington, D.C. when she first was it “all I could think about was watching the movie when I was a child and growing up with.”

In a way it was like I was looking at my past childhood.

When the costume goes up for auction at Bonhams “Classic Hollywood: Film and Television,” she and others are hoping that the nostalgia element will come into play.” It will be auctioned in Los Angeles on May 24th, with a presale estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million. The dress is on exhibit at Bonhams’ New York store this week before being shipped to California for public viewing and auction.

Helen Hall, Bonhams’ director of popular culture, noted that the market for memorabilia, particularly film costumes, is strong, and that “The Wizard of Oz” is a good example and that “is a cultural landmark.People 

People “very much remember the first time they saw the film, the effect it had on their lives,” she stated.  The film is known for its music, dialogue, and graphics, especially when Dorothy travels from a drab, sepia-colored Kansas to a vibrantly multicolored Oz.

While filming, more than one costume was created for Garland. Only four are known to exist, according to Hall, and only two of them, including the one discovered at Catholic University, are with the blouse she wore underneath.

In 2015, Bonhams auctioned the other one with the blouse for more than $1.5 million.

(There are some surviving pairs of Garland’s ruby slippers, one of which is in the Smithsonian’s collection.)

According to Leary-Warsaw, actress Mercedes McCambridge gave the rediscovered clothing to Father Gilbert Hartke, who was then the head of the university’s drama department, in 1973. It’s unclear how McCambridge came to have it.

The department lost track of the costume over the years, until it became “something that many had thought was just a myth,” she added.

A bag containing the shoebox was opened last year during renovation preparations, and there it was — though how it got to where it ended up remains a mystery, according to Leary-Warsaw.

Aside from a section that had been cut away, the dress was in good condition, but the blouse was more fragile.

Garland wore the dress in the movie in the scene where she is approached in a castle by a frightening Wicked Witch of the West, according to research.

Instead of keeping it, the school chose to auction it off, with the revenues going toward establishing a full-fledged film program in the drama department.

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