Oscar winning actress Mercedes McCambridge had been an artist-in-residence at the Catholic University of America ‘s Drama Department in 1973 when she donated a ‘Dorothy dress,’ one of the iconic blue and white gingham costumes worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.
According to the Washington Post, McCambridge had been a close friend of Garland’s and said that Garland wished she had gone to college, thinking “it all could have been different,” if she had. She hoped that the dress would be “a source of hope, strength and courage to the students.”
Ryan Lintelman, entertainment curator at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, had stated that he knew of five authenticated Dorothy dresses from the film that were still in existence. This dress found at Catholic University now makes six.
According to Broadway World, the dress was lost for decades and found by Matt Ripa, a lecturer in the Drama Department. “As soon as I popped the top off the box, I knew what it was,” he revealed. “I saw that blue gingham and I just started laughing and laughing. I mean, I’m still laughing. Because I was shocked, holding a piece of Hollywood history right in my hands.”
Ripa said he had been intrigued by the “legend” of the missing dress since 2014, when he began teaching at Catholic. He liked to poke around the building in his spare time, hoping he’d come upon it.
When it was found, there was no doubt. Among other telltale characteristics, he said, a hidden pocket for Dorothy’s handkerchief was sewn into the right side of each dress, and the star’s name and a wardrobe number were discreetly penned on each outfit by what appears to have been the same hand. After examining the dress, Lintelman and two of his colleagues gave it a thumbs-up.
“It’s not in Kansas anymore,” the university declared in a news release, adding, “It can now be preserved in proper storage in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment” as part of the school’s “special collections.”
As for Lintelman, he couldn’t help feeling a bit of envy. The Smithsonian has a pair of Dorothy-worn ruby slippers, a film-used Scarecrow costume, a Technicolor camera from the “Oz” set and an original script — but no dress.
“We’d certainly be open to a transfer,” he said wistfully, “if that’s ever in the cards.”