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

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

Judy Garland appears on TV once a year, at least, playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. A dress she wore in the movie is up for sale. And it was lost for a long, long time. The dress is a blue-and-white checked gingham dress she would put on in a scene. Research indicates that she wore it in a scene where Dorothy gets confronted by the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Margaret Hamilton.

The 1939 movie made Garland, who had some iconic moments as one of the great singers and entertainers of all time, a household name. It had been assumed that this dress was lost at the Catholic University of America. Not so though. Clearing out space led to discovering that the dress was put in an old shoebox. Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, dean of the school of music, drama, and art at the university in Washington, D.C., comments about finding it.

Dress From ‘Wizard of Oz’ Has Presale Estimate between $800K-$1.2 Million

“All I could think about was watching the movie when I was a child and growing up with” it, she said. “In a way, it was like I was looking at my past childhood.” The dress is now going to auction in a sale at Bonhams “Classic Hollywood: Film and Television” event on May 24 in Los Angeles. A presale estimate of between $800,000 to $1.2 million is established. Bonhams put the dress on display at the auction house’s New York location. It’ll be sent to California for public view and then on to the auction.

Helen Hall, who is the director of popular culture for Bonhams, said that there is a hunger for film costumes. She also said that The Wizard of Oz is a cultural phenomenon. People “very much remember the first time they saw the film, the effect it had on their lives,” Hall said.

Actress Mercedes McCambridge Gave Dress To Former Drama Department Head

This costume actually is one of four made for Judy Garland while filming the movie based on the L. Frank Baum book. Hall says four exist and just two, including the one discovered, have the blouse she wore underneath. Bonhams did sell the other dress with blouse in 2015 for more than $1.5 million.

The fabled dress was given to the school’s former drama department by actress Mercedes McCambridge in 1973. Father Gilbert Hartke received it and it’s not known how McCambridge got a hold of it. The department would lose track of it until it became “something that people had thought was just a myth,” Leary-Warsaw said. In 2021, while getting ready for renovation, a bag containing the shoebox was opened, and there it was.