In 1939, Metro Goldwyn Mayer released The Wizard of Oz, a film that later on became a classic. The movie starred Judy Garland as Dorothy, who had sought out the wizard of Oz in the Emerald City. To find the Wizard, Dorothy had to follow the path of the yellow brick roads while wearing her ruby slippers. Little did they know at the time of the huge cultural impact that those ruby slippers would have.
The ruby slippers and shoes that it has inspired are among the most expensive shoes in the world. The ruby slippers featured in the movie is now valued at $666,000, making it the seventh most expensive shoe in the world.
A couple of tribute versions are among the top four. Stuart Weitzman created a ruby slipper made of red satin and cherry red insole with 642 round and oval Burmese rubies weighing 123.33 carats. It is valued at $1.6 million dollars, making it the fourth most expensive shoe in the world. The most expensive pair of shoes in the world is the tribute version to The Wizard of Oz’s ruby slippers that was created by the House of Harry Winston. The pair featured 4,600 pieces of real rubies weighing 1,350 carats, and complemented by diamonds weighing an additional 50 carats. This pair is now worth $3 million.
Silver Slippers, not Ruby
And to think that in the original novel entitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum from which the movie was based upon, the slippers were actually colored silver! The movie world, at that time, was enamored with a new technology, however. It was called Technicolor, and in order to take full advantage of it, the producers decided to do away with the drab silver color of Dorothy’s slippers. Instead, they made use of the color ruby.
The chief costume designer of MGM at that time, Gilbert Adrian, designed the original pair of ruby slippers. One design had an Arabian influence and motif, with heels and curling toes and jewels wildly adorning the slippers. As Dorothy was supposed to be a simple farm girl from the state of Kansas, the Arabian slippers were deemed inappropriate. A second design was approved, though red bugle beads that were supposed to simulate rubies were replaced with 2,300 sequins because of its weight.
Six or seven pairs were created for use in the movie. Sizes range from 5 to 6 with B to D widths, as the lead star of the movie, Judy Garland, used a different pair in the morning and in the afternoon. She would ask for a larger size in the afternoon shoots when her feet would become swollen as a result of the morning sessions.
Creating the Original Ruby Slippers
Joe Napoli of the Western Costume Company was believed to have created all the shoes from silk pumps made by the Innes Shoe Company based in Los Angeles. The practice at that time was to use plain white shoes that were then dyed according to the movie’s need.
For Dorothy, Napoli dyed the shoes red, then attached dark red sequins into the shoe’s upper part and heel. The Technicolor technology at that time prevented him from using bright red sequins, as it would appear orange in the film. He then attached bows that were inspired by Art Deco and shaped like a butterfly into the strap. Stones and beads were then sewn into the bows. An orange felt was then attached to the soles to muffle the sound of the shoes while Garland was dancing on the Yellow Brick Road.
Only four pairs are accounted for today. The first is the pair that was regularly used by Dorothy in the movie. Known as the People’s Shoes, this pair of ruby slippers can be viewed at the Smithsonian Institute. Michael Shaw owns a second pair.
The third pair was the one used by Dorothy when she clicked her heels in the dramatic climax of the movie. It has circular scuffmarks on the sole and does not have the orange felt underneath the heels. During that climactic scene, the sole of the ruby slippers was visible and it did not have an orange felt, thus bolstering the theory that this third pair is indeed the one used for that sequence.
The last pair is owned by David Elkouby and has the word Double in its lining. It probably indicates that it was worn by Bobbie Koshay, the stunt double of Garland for the movie. Others believe it could have been the second pair created.
The Most Expensive Shoes in the World
In 1989, the acclaimed jewelry company called the House of Harry Winston created a pair of ruby slippers in honor of the ones worn by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Ronald Winston designed the shoes as a fiftieth anniversary tribute to the MGM classic.
The company was only seven years old when The Wizard of Oz was released. It soon after gained a reputation as a source of fine diamonds and gems. It started the trend of lending jewelries to actresses gracing the red carpet in Hollywood’s annual Academy Awards. After Jennifer Jones was spotted wearing the company’s signature diamonds in 1944, Winston became even more popular with Hollywood actresses and other elite people.
Even after the founder’s death in 1978, the company blossomed to become not just a luxury jeweler, but also a producer of Swiss timepieces. With its headquarters in New York, the company has since branched out into other parts of the world, with retail locations in Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, London in the United Kingdom, Paris in France, Singapore, Tokyo in Japan and Shanghai in China.
The $3 million-dollar shoes it created for the movie’s fiftieth anniversary was acclaimed not only for the jewelries that adorned it, but also for its unique recreation of the original ruby slippers. Crafted by Javier Barrera, the Harry Winston ruby slippers provided a modern twist to the timeless cultural icon.