THE ORIGINAL RED BOTTOMS
Monday, October 30, 2023
A story I’ve been told countless times is my father’s childhood experience of seeing color television. In the 1960s, this Italian-American family of seven gathered around their television in excitement and put on a film they had never seen before, The Wizard of Oz. When they first switched on the movie, they were initially disappointed that their new appliance seemingly did not work, as the opening scene was in black and white. Continuing to watch regardless, Dorothy suddenly landed in Oz and the film switched to technicolor. It was a magical moment for my dad’s family and over time, many generations alike. The most strategically placed element, emphasizing this dramatic transformation into color, was the vibrant and timeless Ruby Red Slippers, worn by the movie’s main character, Dorothy.
Originally written to be silver in the book by L. Frank Baum, the color was meant to be a comment on the hot political debate over the gold versus silver standard at that time. However, costume designer Gilbert Adrian swapped it to a beautiful, distinct ruby red, which made them stand out against the infamous yellow brick road. These iconic slippers were originally designed to have an “Arabian” look with a curled toe and real jewels in effort of matching the style of the Wicked Witch of the East, to whom the shoes originally belonged to in the story. The slippers were then changed to a more classic American small-heeled style to fit with Dorothy’s early 20th century Kansas aesthetic and her classical blue gingham dress. The slippers thus became sequin low heels with bows on the top, and became a staple symbol of American film history. Changing the color to red refocused the shoes as not only a fashion piece, but an American symbol as well.
To this day, these ruby slippers remain to be the most famous Hollywood memorabilia. They represent magic, virtue, and the comfort of always bringing one back to their roots. During the time of the Wizard of Oz’s release World War II had just begun, and this symbol of hope, home, beauty, and magic became extremely meaningful nationwide. The movie, and its slippers, continues to touchpeople’s hearts and is coupled with the warm nostalgia everyone feels surrounding their childhoods.
One pair of the original shoes worn by Judy Garland in the movie are currently in the Smithsonian Museum of American History for their major impact on American media. Putting these shoes in a history museum shows how beloved these slippers were in America and their significance beyond being a movie prop. The position of these shoes in the Smithsonian is a prime example that these slippers are a historic symbol of the 1940s and the film and entertainment industry in America. Another one of the four surviving pairs from the movie was previously stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota. The theft of these slippers from a museum shows not only their monetary value but also how prized and treasured these shoes are, speaking on the fame and impact that they have in America. When the ruby slippers originally went for auction in 1970 they sold for $15,000. Now, they are valued at $3.5 million. This increase in value is not due to physical worth but rather sentimental, historical value. This high value signifies the fame and relevance of these slippers in American culture.
The fashion impact of the Wizard of Oz styles, particularly the ruby slippers, continues to be significant today. In 2019 Ikon Design Studio released an officially licensed pair of ruby slippers to the public coming in Judy Garland’s size 5B and with her name written inside the slipper. The 250 pairs available sold out instantly. In 2005, Vogue’s December shoot by Annie Lebowitx was inspired by The Wizard of Oz with Kiera Knightly modeling as Dorothy. Major luxury brands such as Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, and Marc Jacobs designed dresses for the shoot, all paired, of course, with sparkly ruby red pumps. More than fifteen years later in November 2022, Kylie Cosmetics released a special Wizard of Oz collection in partnership with Warner Bros that featured a wide variety of inspired products, with costs ranging from $19 to $55 a piece. To top it off, the Ruby Slippers Metallic Lipstick in the collection came with a ruby slippers Christmas tree ornament, drawing back to the experience of watching the film as a family during the holiday seasons.
The fashion impact of the Wizard of Oz styles, particularly the ruby slippers, continues to be significant today. Red footwear continues to be significant and a sign of luxury today through the Christian Louboutin “Red Bottom” heels. These sexy shoes are a status symbol and a household name. All Christian Louboutin shoes have a red bottom, making the color red that pop that gave this brand its rise to fame. These shoes reach prices up to $6,000 today, yet the ruby red slippers continue to be the most famous red shoes.
The impact of the iconic old Hollywood film has proved itself to be timeless, with Dorothy’s ruby red slippers giving rise to the classic ruby red shade worn so popularly today. From the nail shade springing the popular “red nail theory” to the luxurious status symbol Red Bottom shoes by Christian Louboutin worn by women everywhere today, Dorothy’s slippers remain a crucial piece of a movie element’s significance and symbolism.