Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ruby Slippers


Although I'm a fan, I'm not a great collector of the 1939 MGM film version of The Wizard of Oz. But there is something fascinating about the ruby slippers! The last pair offered at auction sold for 2 million dollars (Correction - the shoes did not actually sell at auction, the reserve was not met - check the comments below for further info on this), and they are one of the most readily recognized Hollywood props. Four original pairs are known to exist, but the fate of one pair is unknown, since it was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum several years ago.

This year I've been working on replicating the slippers in order to have a pair in my collection. Creating slipper replicas is a popular hobby among Oz collectors, and people approach the project in a variety of ways. Methods and materials can be hotly debated, as to what is most accurate to the original shoes, but in each case the end result is a shining pair of ruby slippers.


My goal was to try making the shoes along the same lines as the originals. This means creating silk overlays which are hand sequined and then attached to the shoes. I'm no stranger to time consuming projects, but I have to say that I've found this to be one of the harder things I've tried - I just don't seem to be naturally compatible with sequins!

The most important part in my mind is finding an appropriate pair of shoes. It's possible to have a custom pair of shoes made for this purpose, complete with an outer lining of fabric for sewing on sequins, but I wanted the look of an actual vintage shoe. It's surprisingly difficult to come up with the right heel height and style of shoe, but I finally did run across a pair that is almost perfect. The original shoes vary a bit from one to the next, and range from size 5 to size 6. I'm using a pair of size 5 1/2 silk pumps, from the time period of the movie. After removing the shoe clips, they were ready to be colored red and turned into a pair of the most famous shoes in history!
Now I just have to finish the other shoe....

13 comments:

ilex said...

You have the most astounding collection. Thank you for taking the time to share with us. How did you find the right size of vintage shoes in such good condition?

Hungry Tiger Talk said...

Hope you're having fun!

BTW, you mention that the last pair offered at auction sold for two million dollars. In fact, that pair didn't sell as there was not enough interest to hit the reserve. That pair was purchased a couple months later for an unknown sum of money by Leonardo DiCaprio (and Steven Spielberg among others) as a donation to the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Bill Campbell said...

Thanks! As all collectors know, half of the fun is in the chase. It took me about two years of looking to find a shoe that would work for slippers. This wasn't constant searching, but regularly checking around online in case anything turned up. I found this pair on Etsy. Of course, someone else looking might run across an appropriate pair in a week - you just never know!

Bill Campbell said...

Well, I wouldn't call it fun - this definitely has not been one of my more enjoyable projects - but the end is in sight!

And you're quite right, the last pair of slippers didn't actually sell at auction. I seem to remember, on the Hollywood Collector TV show that featured the attempted sale of the shoes, that the seller wasn't willing to part with them for less than 2 million - but I don't know what they actually sold for in the post-auction sale.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see the finished pair! I've made several different versions myself. Thank you for posting your process. I find how people make their slippers really interesting. Can you post more photos of things like attaching the overlays please? Aside from glue and neatness or shoemaking equipment, I'm failing to find out how people attach overlays to an already complete pair of shoes. Thank you :)

Bill Campbell said...

If you check the blog post following this one, you'll see a few more photos as well as the finished shoes. I don't have any photos of the attachment procedure, as my hands were full at the time and I was making it up as I went! I essentially glued the overlays to the shoes using a combination of adhesives - contact cement, heat-set glue and good old Elmer's glue. The bows are sewn on to the attached overlays. On the original shoes, the overlays appear to be sewn on to the shoe, but I couldn't do that as I was unable to sew through the shoe. So, I improvised!

AngelofMusic said...

Could you please shed some light on how to make the bows the way you did? The outcome is flawless, and has strongly matches the originals!

Bill Campbell said...

Thanks - I have to think back a bit to remember!

To make the bows, I used a hoop and stretched the same silk I used for the shoe overlay. I started with the central stone, which I then surrounded with the rhinestone montees. To do the wings, and try and make the bows match, I drew an outline of the finished bow on paper, cut out the bow and used the remaining paper as a guide. I pinned this to the silk, and sewed the outline of rhinestone montees on the bow along the edge of the paper. Then I sewed the central stone on each side, and filled in with bugle beads.
I cut the shape for the bow out of thin leather - actually from part of an old checkbook cover that felt like it had the right weight and pliability. The bows have a little extra edge beyond the rhinestones, so be sure to allow for that.
Finally, I cut the bows from the silk, leaving ample fabric to wrap around the edge of the leather, and attached them to the leather. I used contact cement, and heat set glue which did a nice job of attaching the silk on the back of the bow.

Hope that helps!

AngelofMusic said...

How did you make the overlay and how did you attach it to the shoe? Was it difficult to merge the sequins in the back?

Bill Campbell said...

I more or less made up techniques as I went along - if I were to do it again, I might come up with a different method. For the overlay, I draped a piece of the silk over the shoe and traced the outline all around the shoe - from the back, around the toe and all the way to the back again, giving me a basic horseshoe. I used this as a pattern, and traced it on the silk that I stretched in a quilting hoop. After sewing the sequins to this, I cut it close to size, hemmed all the way around so that the fabric wouldn't unravel on me, and did the attachment. I used a couple glues, both heat sensitive and contact cement. I would have liked to sew the overlay on, but it wasn't possible to work through the shoe. I had left a little open, unsequinned space on the fabric at the back, so once the fabric was attached I was able to work back into it and sew the necessary sequins in place to finish the rear of the shoe. The final step was to sew the top row of sequins around the opening of the shoe, to finish things off nicely.

Anonymous said...

I read that the Stolen Ruby Slippers case went cold years ago, and some known prop collector in Minnesota named Rob Feeny got the case reopened last year.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Campbell,
You may be closer to The Wizard of Oz than you think...
You share the same name with a famous costume designer, Bill Campbell who was the Senior costume designer at Walt Disney World in the late 70's, 80's and early 1990's.

He also designed the costumes for the US tour of "The Wizard of Oz" arena Road show that ran in the US about 20 or more years ago. Bill worked on this project for about 10 years, as it took that much time for the production company to raise the funds to produce the show.

Skip

Bill Campbell said...

That's a fun connection I wasn't aware of - no connection to me, but there are a lot of us Bill Campbell's out there!