‘Gilligan’s Island’: The Smithsonian Wanted Actor’s Iconic Shorts From Show, Why They Never Got Them

by Jennifer Shea

Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island,” wore a pair of shorts on the show that got a lot of attention. They certainly got Kevin Renick’s attention, because he asked Wells about them in an undated interview for The Mule.

Wells died in December of last year. She was 82 years old.

In the interview, Renick asked Wells about rumors that her famous shorts from “Gilligan’s Island” were going to be in the Smithsonian. Wells said she wasn’t wild about the idea.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Star Was the First TV Star to Wear Short Shorts

The short shorts were actually a gambit that Wells and the “Gilligan’s Island” wardrobe girl cooked up. Most everyone else on the show was over six feet tall, and Wells wanted something to make her appear taller. So they slanted the sides of the shorts and made them extra short so Wells’ legs would appear longer.

However, historic though the shorts may be, Wells didn’t wanted them in the Smithsonian. Wells explained that because she got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian some years back, she knew what they did with the historic costumes they received. And she didn’t like the thought of her shorts meeting the same fate.

“They’ve asked me,” Wells said of the Smithsonian. “They want them. And I don’t know whether to do that. I have a family foundation and we have funded a children’s museum in Reno… We are tied to the Smithsonian. So I was going to the Smithsonian a couple of years ago and he was pulling out all the costumes from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and they’re all in drawers! I mean, they come out once in a while and display them, but… I don’t know that I want my shorts to be in drawers!”

Wells added, “I think maybe some fan would rather have them. I still have them, so I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Network Rules Required That the Shorts Cover Her Navel

While the network censors allowed Mary Ann to wear the short shorts on “Gilligan’s Island,” they drew the line at showing her navel. So the shorts always had to be pulled up to cover it.

Wells held onto the shirt she wore with those shorts. But she said the outfit wasn’t for sale, and as of 2014, she had no plans to sell the clothes anytime soon, according to Parade.

“I have them and I have the little top that went with them,” Wells told Parade. She said the clothes hold sentimental value for her. “It’s really something that there’s been a show that’s been on the air, this is 50 years. Fifty years of laughter and love where the cast that loves each other.”

“It means a lot, it does,” Wells added.