The missing iconic dress worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz is up for auction after being found. Dorothy’s gingham pinafore dress from the 1939 film was thought lost for nearly four decades before it was rediscovered last year in the collections of the drama department at the Catholic University of America.
Bonhams will auction off the dress in Los Angeles on May 24 as part of their Bonhams Classic Hollywood: Film and Television event. Bonhams estimated the dress’s value at $800,000 to $1.2 million in a press release. Bonhams also referred to the dress as one of only four original costume pieces still in existence and one of only two that include the white blouse. The auction house has identified the dress as the one Garland wore in the scene where Dorothy confronts the Wicked Witch in her castle.
The Catholic University of America received the dress in the 1980s as a gift from Father Gilbert Hartke, the former head of the drama department, who received it from Mercedes McCambridge, a Hollywood actress, and Artist in Residence in 1973. It mysteriously vanished after just one year at the Washington, D.C., campus.
Nearly four decades later, in May 2021, the dress was discovered by chance. According to a story published by the university, lecturer and Operations Coordinator at the Drama Department, Matt Riva, expressed how fortunate the discovery was. “I had looked in our archives, storage closets, etc., to no avail,” Riva said.
“I assumed it was a tall tale (of which many exist for Father Hartke). Our building is in the process of renovations and upgrades, so I was cleaning out my office to prepare. I noticed on top of the faculty mailboxes a trash bag and asked my co-worker to hand it to me. On the trashbag was a note for our former chair stating that he had found ‘this’ in his office and that he must have moved it when he moved out of the chair’s office… I was curious about 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, he continued. “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 archives. Needless to say, I have found many interesting things in the Hartke during my time at CUA, but I think this one takes the cake.”
Bonhams sold the other dress with a blouse in 2015 for over $1.5 Million, a record price for a “Dorothy” dress. Bonhams also sold the Cowardly Lion costume worn by actor Bert Lahr for more than $3 Million in 2014. In addition to the “Dorothy” Dress, Bonhams will display additional memorabilia from classic Hollywood in the sale. More details will be announced soon. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Department of Drama at Catholic University.