Lost Judy Garland dress from 'The Wizard of Oz' expected to sell for $1.2 million

The dress had been missing for several decades and was rediscovered in a shoebox

One of several of the dresses worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz'. It was thought to be the only surviving version until another was recently found in a university in Washington, DC. AFP
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A blue and white gingham dress worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz is projected to sell for up to $1.2 million at auction.

Several versions of the dress were used in the film. However, it was thought only one had survived. But a second dress was recently discovered in a shoebox at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

The dress had been given to Father Gilbert Hartke, the head of the university’s drama department, in 1973. The garment went missing in the 1980s, however, and was lost for the next few decades. It was rediscovered in a shoebox that was concealed in a bag on top of faculty mailboxes. The university then worked with the Smithsonian to confirm its authenticity.

The label bearing Judy Garland's name on the original dress worn by the actress in 1939 film 'The Wizard of Oz'. AFP

“I opened the bag and inside was an old shoebox and inside of the shoebox, I saw the blue-and-white gingham dress,” Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations manager at the drama school, told The New York Times.

I knew exactly what it was.”

“It was one of those tall tales,” he said. “You heard stories from former students and faculty members about Father Hartke being gifted this dress.

“I had never laid eyes on it.”

Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, dean of the school of music, drama and art, said she hoped the dress will now have its time with the public.

“We love the dress, but it has never been displayed or shared broadly over the past 50 years and we hope now it will be,” Leary-Warsaw told IndieWire. “Maybe this will inspire others who learn about it to check their own closets and offices for hidden treasures.”

The university said it plans to use the proceeds from the sale of the dress proceeds to fund a new film programme.

The dress is being exhibited at New York’s Bonhams auction house until April 29. It will then travel to Los Angeles and go under the hammer as part of the Bonhams Classic Hollywood: Film and Television sale on May 24.

The wardrobe from The Wizard of Oz, one of the first films to be shot in Technicolor, is an auctioneer’s favourite.

The other copy of the chequered dress was sold for $480,000 in 2012. It went up for auction again in 2015 and was resold for $1.6m. A year before that, the costume for the Cowardly Lion, portrayed by Bert Lahr, sold for more than $3m. One of the Tin Man’s oil cans from the classic film also went up for auction last month, selling for $250,000.

Updated: April 24, 2022, 8:56 AM