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Catholic University to auction off Dorothy’s dress from ‘Wizard of Oz’

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Dress: Bonhams | Historical photo: The Catholic University of America

J-P Mauro - published on 04/21/22

The iconic dress, discovered in 2021, will help fund a new film acting program in the university.

The Catholic University is preparing to auction off the dress worn by Judy Garland in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. The iconic blue-and-white gingham dress could draw as much as $1.2 million. The funds raised by the sale will go towards establishing a new film acting program in the university. 

The missing dress

CUA’s “Dorothy dress” is one of a handful of surviving costumes from the 1939 production. It was presented as a gift to Rev. Gilbert Hartke, the drama school’s founder, in 1972, but was soon misplaced.Faculty and staff searched for nearly 50 years, but it wasn’t until renovations began on the Hartke Theater that the dress came to light. 

In a 2021 report from CUA, Matt Ripa, operations coordinator for the Department of Drama, recounted his discovery:

“I was curious what was inside and opened the bag. Inside was a shoebox, and inside the shoebox was the dress! I couldn’t believe it,” Ripa says. “My co-worker and I quickly grabbed some gloves and looked at the dress and took some pictures before putting it back in the box and heading over to the (University) Archives. Needless to say, I have found many interesting things in Hartke during my time at Catholic University, but I think this one takes the cake!”

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Identified on screen

The dress is an extremely rare piece of Hollywood memorabilia, with only one other dress known to have the original white blouse. Even without the blouse, there are only four other surviving blue-and-white pinafore dresses worn by Garland. CUA’s dress has been identified as the one Garland wore in the scene where Dorothy confronts the Wicked Witch in her castle. 

It is because of its rarity and historical value that CUA expects it to garner a high price at auction. In their announcement, the university noted that the only other dress with a white blouse sold for $1.5 million in 2015. CUA hopes the dress will raise between $800,000 and $1.2 million at auction. 

Proceeds from the sale will go towards endowing a new faculty chair that will support the current bachelor’s degree in acting. The University’s press also noted that they have their sights set on a new program that will focus on film acting. 

Of the sale, Jacqueline J. Leary-Warsaw, dean of the Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art, said: 

“While parting with this dress is bittersweet, the proceeds are going to help support future generations training for professional careers in theater. It might just be that the funding helps to prepare the next Mercedes McCambridge or Judy Garland!”

CUA’s “Dorothy dress” will be auctioned through Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers, which will display it at their New York location from April 23 – 29. The dress will then be sent to their Los Angeles outlet, where it will be displayed again prior to the auction on May 24. 

Read more at CUA.

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