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The legendary blue and white garment worn by the actress' character Dorothy in the iconic 1939 film vanished just a year after it was gifted to the Catholic University of America (CUA) in 1972 but it was recently found by Matt Ripa, a lecturer at the university.
He shared in a Catholic University press release: “I had looked in our archives, storage closets etc. to no avail. I assumed it was a tall tale.
“I was curious what was inside and opened the trash bag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoebox was the dress. I couldn't believe it.
“Needless to say, I have found my interesting things in the Hartke during my time at CUA, but I think this one takes the cake.”
The university has confirmed that the dress will now be properly preserved.
They added: “It can now be preserved in proper storage in a temperature – and humidity – controlled environment so that hopefully, for many more years, it can be a source of ‘hope, strength and courage' for Catholic University students.”
The university also wrote on Instagram: “In 1973, Catholic University's @cuatower newspaper wrote about a gift to Catholic University meant to be a source of “hope, strength, and courage” to students. The gift was a dress that is believed to have been worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.
“It was given to Rev. Gilbert Hartke, illustrious head of the drama programme, by actress Mercedes McCambridge, who served as artist-in-residence at CatholicU in 1972.
“For many years, it was rumoured that the dress was still located in Hartke, the building named after the priest, but no one knew exactly where. While preparing for some renovations last month, Matt Ripa, M.F.A. 2008, lecturer and operations coordinator for the @cua_drama in @cuamusicdramaart, rediscovered Dorothy's Dress.”
Highlights of a Media Maelstrom
Judy Garland Wizard of Oz Dress
“But, just as Dorothy dared to dream dreams that she wanted to come true, so did Ripa. And he finally got what he wanted on June 7. In the midst of cleaning a building for a renovation, Ripa came across a trash bag in a small space. He took a peek inside and, like magic, the Wizard of Oz dress was in it along with a shoebox. Interestingly, the box also had a message from retired drama professor Thomas Donahue saying “I found this.” Seems like a very casual statement and reaction to such a big find.”
It was given to Rev. Gilbert Hartke by actress Mercedes McCambridge, who served as artist-in-residence at CatholicU in 1972. For years, it was rumored that the dress was still located in Hartke, the building named after the priest, but no one knew exactly where.— The Catholic University of America (@CatholicUniv) July 8, 2021
While preparing for some renovations last month, Matt Ripa, M.F.A. 2008, @cuamusicdramart, rediscovered Dorothy's Dress.— The Catholic University of America (@CatholicUniv) July 8, 2021
Learn more about this amazing item that is now properly preserved in @CUAarchives : https://t.co/lgIoPXCcMg pic.twitter.com/B3etVbIdiM
More bits on the Judy Garland Wizard of Oz Dress
This fantasy film used sepia tones to introduce moviegoers to Dorothy. The film later changed to technicolor as Dorothy's house landed in Munchkin Land and killed the Wicked Witch of the East, causing the ire of her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West.
The color and print of the dress were intentional, so it would pop out against the green and yellow background colors present throughout the film. The same went for Garland's ruby red, sparkling slippers which now reside in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
The dress found in the Hartke building shared those characteristics, the university said, and LIntelman and two colleagues who had viewed it said the “evidence around the dress was strong.”
In 2015, another of Dorothy's dresses sold for $1,565,000 at a New York auction.