Shoes are an important part of popular culture. Nearly every culture and ethnic group has a story that is about a special pair of shoes. Just think about all the fairy tales and fables told about magic or special shoes. There is Cinderella and her glass slippers, the little old lady that lived in a shoe, and perhaps the most famous story about shoes ever told, the Wizard of Oz, featuring a magical pair of “ruby slippers.” The importance of shoes in the evolution of humans is clear; without them we would never had been able to disperse to as many climates and destinations as we have. It is because of this that they have become not only a necessity for human life, but also a status symbol and starring character in human mythology and popular fiction.
The Ruby Slippers in the Wizard of Oz
In the original story of the Wizard of Oz, written in the early 1900s by L. Frank Baum, the slippers that Dorothy acquired were actually silver shoes. It was MGM that decided to change the shoe’s color to ruby red in order to demonstrate the capabilities and splendor of the newest entertainment invention, color film. This change in shoe color truly made the movie more provocative, adding another layer of symbolism to the tale of a girl making a journey from ignorance of the evils of the world to a disenchanted, young adult who learns that the Wizard of Oz is not a wizard after all.
Nobody knows for certain exactly how many pairs of the famous ruby slippers were made for the filming of the Wizard of Oz, however, the estimate sits at about seven pairs. The Wicked Witch of the East had a pair, Dorothy had a pair and Dorothy’s stand-ins each had a pair. Since continuity and timeliness is essential during the filming of a movie, back up pairs of the ruby slippers were also most likely made.
Today, you can see one pair of the famous ruby slippers in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, which is located in Washington, D.C. This pair was designed for the dance scenes in the movie. Their uppers are made from a red silk, which is covered with a georgette fabric that was hand-sequined. The inside of the shoes were lined with kidskin leather. The soles, because they were made for dancing, were covered in felt.