The Ruby Slippers
"The silver shoes," said the good witch, "have wonderful powers."
The silver shoes?
Yes, in L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy follows the yellow brick road in silver, pointed-toed shoes. The ruby slippers, among the most recognized shoes in history, were an invention of MGM studios for the 1939 film, one of the first to bring color to the screen.
No one knows just how many pairs of ruby slippers were made. Perhaps as many as seven, when you count pairs needed for the evil Miss Gulch, aka the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy (Judy Garland, of course, in size 5-6) and her stand-ins, and the pairs made for extra measure—a common practice with important costumes.
One pair of ruby slippers can be found at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., where they have been on display since an anonymous donor gave them to the museum in 1979. The shoes are made of red silk faille, covered with hand-sequined georgette, and are lined with white kid leather. The soles are covered in felt, which marks them as the shoes used in dance scenes, ensuring that Garland's footsteps sounded light and dainty on the road.
Silver or ruby, Oz's Munchkins said it best: "There is some charm connected with them." Generations have been enchanted by the magic shoes of Oz, shoes whose powers we cannot escape.
—Barbara L. Wyckoff