T H E   R U B Y   S L I P P E R S   O F   O Z

A   T R I B U T E

by Francesca Myman

When I was a little girl, I devoured every Wizard of Oz book by L. Frank Baum, as well as the continuing series by Ruth Plumly Thompson. I checked the paperbacks out of the library so frequently that they finally donated me the ravaged copies. Oz was a kingdom full of wonders -- glass cats with fur of spun crystal, gnomes and word games, silliness and terrible phantasms. There was a certain emotional health and optimism about human nature in the books. They were "cosy." But they were also intelligent, complex stories with inventive characters, from Baum's terrifying and stern First and Foremost Phanfasm, to Plumly Thompson's bizarre and whimsical Curious Cottabus. (I shall never ask a series of questions again without thinking about the Curious Cottabus.)

I watched the movie, of course, and the ruby slippers were hypnotic, glistening and winking, bright red on a field of yellow brick screen. Much more visually appealing than the original silver slippers drawn by W.W. Denslow, with their little-girlish straps and flat bottoms. In the movie, with heels and sparkling sequins, they instantly became the epitome of magic and glamor. For Dorothy, a girl from drab Kansas, donning those sequined slippers was a way of entering a magical realm full of bright color -- and none of us could ever understand why she wanted to go back home.

A few years ago, I was rereading the Oz series, and everywhere I went I saw red shoes. There were sparkly red shoes in Target, of all places, but they were only in little girl's sizes. I sat down on the floor and tried them on while my friends waited with varying degrees of impatience. They watched me quizzically while I contorted into various unlikely positions and considered Cinderella's sisters' option -- lopping off a toe or two, or maybe a heel. The largest pair, a child's size four, was at least one adult size too small for me, even with my small-ish feet. The shoes were cheaply made -- just Mary-Jane flats with a little strap and red glitter pasted on -- but if I had found them when I was a child, and could still fit into them, I doubt I would ever have taken them off.

The MGM movie was playing on Target's movie monitors, and I stopped, spellbound, and watched while my friends continued shopping. "I can't stand that Disney-ish stuff," a friend of mine said, and I was bewildered. I had never thought about it that way. I'd always identified with the Dorothy character, a candid dreamer -- she had a sense of wonder combined with a dash of no-nonsense Kansas farmgirl.

Later that year, my mother and I took a day off from visiting the University of Maryland campus to explore Washington DC. We were forced to take a detour around the city because of Earth Day demonstrations -- and there it was -- a sign on the side of the Library of Congress, advertising the traveling Wizard of Oz exhibition. There were no parking spaces, so I begged my mother to drop me off in front of the library and drive around the library till I re-emerged. "I'll be right back out," I said.

Two hours later I re-emerged, having seen some of the holiest treasures of the Ozian universe. My mother was perturbed, but I assured her I couldn't have helped myself -- I completely lost track of time. It was as if I had been transported to another universe. There was an original Baum manuscript, handwritten, with notes in the margin! And there were the ruby slippers in a glass case. Until that moment, I had no idea whether they'd be there. I stared at them, transfixed, for what must have been over half an hour, taking them in at different angles. They were falling apart. The transparent red sequins were worn and scuffed, but they still had the magic. And they still have that magic, for millions of other people. So, on this page I'll share a few of my "ruby slipper" finds and facts -- and you'll find references to other iconic red shoes here as well. Please enjoy, and don't forget, there's no place like home.


Marilyn Monroe knew an icon when she saw one -- and she never hesitated to exploit the archetypal. Above, view her "ruby slippers" by Salvatore Ferragamo from 1953, made for the movie "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

And the modern remakes, from a Ferragamo advertisement. The ad caption reads: "Ferragamo recreates the stiletto inspired by Salvatore Ferragamo's 1953 design. The original pair was reacquired at the auction of Marilyn Monroe's personal property, Christie's New York, October 1999."

Judy Garland's daughter, Liza Minelli, wore a pair of ruby slippers to her wedding in 1967.

The original slippers by Adrian, scanned from the incredible book Shoes by Linda O'Keeffe.

Another pair of shoes, these designed by Roger Vivier, scanned from Linda O'Keefe's book. They look like they belong in the Emerald City, although they have no relation to the movie.

A still from the film, showing the shoes.

Another still from the film, showing Dorothy and Glinda.

The Arabian test shoes. Hey, I'd wear them! Image modified from one found at The Ruby Slipper Fan Club. Designers brainstormed numerous versions of the ruby slippers before arriving at the final verson.

Sequinned flats by Miu Miu, Prada. Front and side views. These images have been adjusted from an online auction (brazen image thievery from ebay).



The pair of ruby slippers believed to have been worn by the Wicked Witch of the East.


The pair of slippers now owned by David Elkouby.




Be sure to view the original blueprint of the Ruby Slippers from The Ruby Slippers by Rhys Thomas, hosted by The Ruby Slipper Fan Club.














R E D   S H O E S

A Poem by R. H. W. Dillard

Maybe the ones in the Bowie song,
Choreographed moonlight, "Let's Dance,"

Or maybe the deadly ones in the film,
"You must danz ze danz. . ."

Surely not the red ruby slippers,
Three taps and you're home again,

But dancing feet, dancing shoes,
Dancing in the street, 42nd Street

Busby Berkeley knew, dancing in step,
Dancing on mirrors, dancing on air,

Dancing on the walls, the ceiling,
(That's Astaire, of course,

Who sketched his way in chalk
To the top of the stairs: practice, practice),

Dancing as a way of going, dancing
As knowing the way that you're going,

Dance of the hours, the minutes, the days,
Seconds flowing, a waltz around the clock,

The dance of death, Dies Irae, St. Vitus's
Dance, jitterbug, dance of the eager bees,

Turn right, turn left, straight on
To blossoms, pollen, honey, honey,

Dancing on carpet, like dancing on Velcro,
The way we did the night we met,

Most unsatisfactory, those thrills
And chills, but I'll never forget,

Pas de deux (company), pas de trois
(A crowd), hundreds of dancing feet,

Dancing on ice like skidding wildfowl,
Dancing in water (Gene Kelly), dancing

On water, for surely Peter must have
Managed a few light steps before he sank,

Punks in the moshpit, headbangers, skinheads,
Arms, arms, the music goes bang (that's X),

Or dance to "Helter Skelter," the jerk
And jolt of muscle and bone, back spasms,

Will give you nightmares, show you demons,
Dance of the angels, the planets, the stars,

Moondance, not the Van Morrison song
But dance of the moon, orbital do-si-do

To the music of the spheres, spatter
Of cosmic snowballs, atmospheric skiffle,

And here on earth, we're dancing in moonlight,
Serious and swaying, the floor like spun glass,

Art glass, glittering, polished, and smooth,
A whisper of new soles, red shoes, red shoes.

© R. H. W. Dillard, 2001, from Sallies. To read more of his amazing poetry, buy one of his books.

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