Amazingly enough individuals are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to own something a celebrity once owned or wore during filming. Costumes are an important part of movies, especially in elaborate historical productions such as Cleopatra, which featured Elizabeth Taylor in an array of 65 costumes that cost no less than $194,800, the equivalent of $1.4 million today. Many times it’s the make-up and special effects including prosthetic devices that make up the largest portion of a movie’s costume budget such as in the movie, Avatar.
For now though, let’s take a look at the prices of movie costumes once worn and later auctioned off to the public. You might be surprised at the extreme increase in their value. Interestingly enough there are some studies that show we place value on celebrity items depending on whether the actors have worn them as the character of a villain or a hero. People are also willing to spend more on well-liked individuals as opposed to those that are universally disliked.
Experts tell us that people’s desires to possess celebrity memorabilia comes from their belief in the idea that a person’s essence can be transferred through an object they have worn or touched; the concept is called contagion. It may very well be true as the price for celebrity items worn does decrease if the item has been washed or sterilized. It’s no longer as interesting or valuable to many fans. What are fans willing to pay for some of the costumes or pieces of costumes worn by those celebrities they admire in movies they’ve enjoyed? The answer may surprise you.
10 Bruce Lee’s Costume Coat: $77,000
9 John Wayne’s True Grit Costume: $167,300
8 John Wayne’s Costume Hat from The Green Berets: $179,250
7 Marilyn Monroe’s Pink Costume from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: $310,000
6 Judy Garland’s Costume Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz: $612,000
These ruby shoes were worn as part of Judy Garland’s costume in The Wizard of Oz. There are only four surviving pairs from the film, a few in mint condition. They are among the most well-known shoes in the world. The slippers were created by Gilbert Adrian, MGM’s chief costume designer. A few pairs were made to test including an early version of the slipper which was done in an Arabian style with curling toes. That design was rejected and replaced with the simpler version we see today.
There were a few modifications as the original bugle beads made to look like rubies were too heavy so they were then replaced with sequins, each shoe was covered in approximately 2,300 of them. The shoes had to be dyed red first then the sequins added, actually a color of burgundy sequin was attached to the shoe’s upper piece and heel. It was the three-strip Technicolor process used for the film that required the sequins to be darker so that in the film they would appear a true red. If bright red sequins had been used they would have looked orange on film. Also, felt was glued to the bottom of the shoes to quiet the sound made when Garland danced down the “yellow brick road”.
5 Judy Garland’s Dorothy Costume from Wizard of Oz: $910,000
4 Steve McQueen’s Racing Costume from Le Mans: $984,000
3 Michael Jackson’s Thriller Costume: $1.8 Million
2 Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot Costume: $3.7 Million
1 Marilyn Monroe’s Costume from the Seven Year Itch: $4.6 Million
This white dress was worn by Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch directed by Billy Wilder and released by 20th Century Fox. William Travilla, costume designer created this dress that has become an icon in film history. The famous scene in the movie where Monroe is standing over a subway grate and the air from a moving train beneath her blows the dress upward is an image that is instantly recognizable. In the film, the dress is worn in the scene in which Marilyn Monroe and co-star Tom Ewell are walking along Lexington Avenue in Manhattan after seeing a movie together and when they hear a train coming, Marilyn steps onto the grate and asks Ewell if he can feel the breeze from the train. The scene had been scheduled to be shot on the street outside of the Trans-Lux on September 15th, 1954 but hundreds of curious fans impeded the shot so Billy Wilder had to recreate the scene on a 20th Century Fox set.
The dress is an ivory colored cocktail dress with a plunging neckline and a halter bodice. It fastens with a zipper in the back and ties around the torso. Age has caused the dress to now appear to be a darker cream color as opposed to the original ivory. Interestingly enough, Monroe’s husband at the time of filming, Joe DiMaggio, hated the dress. It last sold at auction for $4.6 million making it the most expensive costume sold at auction on our list.
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