Few costumes in movie history are as iconic as the blue and white checkered dress that Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz.” MGM’s classic film was one of the first movies to be filmed in Technicolor, and the initial reveal of Garland’s Dorothy stepping out into the colorful Land of Oz is instantly recognizable both for its narrative significance and the technological breakthrough that it signified.
Many film memorabilia collectors would kill to get their hands on such an important piece, but while Garland wore several versions of the dress while filming, only one has been thought to remain in existence. Until now.
The New York Times reported that a second dress worn by Garland was recently unearthed at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 1973, the dress was given to Father Gilbert Hartke, a priest who was in charge of the school’s drama department. But he soon lost it, and the dress had been missing for several decades. It was discovered in a shoebox that was inside of a bag on top of a faculty mailbox, and the school quickly worked with the Smithsonian to verify its authenticity.
Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, the dean of the school of music, drama and art, was thrilled that the iconic prop was found. “We love the dress, but it has never been displayed or shared broadly over the past 50 years and we hope now it will be,’’ she said. “And, maybe this will inspire others who learn about it to check their own closets and offices for hidden treasures.”
The dress is currently on display at the Bonhams auction house in New York, where cinephiles can look at it until April 29. After that it will be moved to Los Angeles and sold at the at the “Bonhams Classic Hollywood: Film and Television” auction on May 24.
There is plenty of precedent for wealthy movie buffs paying top dollar for costumes from “The Wizard of Oz.” The other known copy of Garland’s blue and white dress was auctioned for $480,000 in 2012, then resold for $1.6 million in 2015, a year after the Cowardly Lion costume worn by Bert Lahr sold for over $3 million. This time, the money will go to a good cause, as the university plans to use the $1.2 million it expects to gain from the sale to fund a new film program.