Catholic University to auction Wizard of Oz 'Dorothy' dress 

Fr. Gilbert Hatke holds a dress gifted to him that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Fr. Gilbert Hartke holds a dress gifted to him that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. | Courtesy of The Catholic University of America.

The Catholic University of America will auction a million-dollar dress that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.” The university says that the proceeds will go toward educating drama students.

“Even though we love the dress, it has never been displayed or shared broadly over the past 50 years,” Jackie Leary-Warsaw, dean of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art, said in a statement shared with CNA. “It was given to inspire and support the arts at Catholic University — and we hope others can enjoy the dress while this gift also supports the next generations of highly talented actors, like Judy Garland or Mercedes McCambridge.”

Leary-Warsaw is the wife of Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network.

McCambridge, an Oscar-winning actress and artist-in-residence at Catholic University in 1973, gifted the dress now valued at an estimated $800,000—$1.2 million, to Father Gilbert Hartke, the founder and head of Catholic University’s drama school. 

Then, in the late 1980s, the dress went missing and the costume became the subject of rumor.

More than 30 years had passed when Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations coordinator for the drama department, happened upon a bag atop faculty mailboxes in 2021, according to Catholic University.

“I was curious what was inside and opened the bag. Inside was a shoebox, and inside the shoebox was the dress! I couldn’t believe it,” Ripa said at the time. 

The Dorothy dress being auctioned May 24. Bonhams
The Dorothy dress being auctioned May 24. Bonhams

The dress will be auctioned May 24 in Los Angeles, with the proceeds going toward a new film acting program at The Catholic University of America’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art. Bonhams, an international auctioneer, will feature the dress in its “Bonhams Classic Hollywood: Film and Television” sale.

The dress, according to Bonhams, is unique: The blue and white gingham garment is one of two existing dresses retaining the original white blouse, and one of four blue and white pinafore Dorothy dresses in existence. 

This particular dress appears in the “Wizard of Oz” scene, according to Bonhams, in which Dorothy faces the Wicked Witch of the West in the witch’s castle.

“Important costumes from this iconic movie rarely appear on the auction market and to be able to pinpoint the scene in which this was worn by Judy Garland is thrilling,” Helen Hall, director of popular culture at Bonhams in Los Angeles said in Catholic University’s press release.

Leary-Warsaw added, “Discovering this historic dress was a memorable moment for The Catholic University of America and we are proud to present it for auction, so that the next collector can own a piece of history. While parting with this dress is bittersweet, the proceeds are going to help support future generations training for professional careers in theater.”

According to Catholic University, documentation indicates that the dress was gifted to Hartke with the intention it be used to support the drama department. The auction proceeds will endow a faculty chair, a position that will support the current bachelor of fine arts degree in acting for theater, film, and television, as well as the development of a new formal film acting program.

Bonhams sold the one other “Dorothy” dress with its blouse in 2015 for more than $1.5 million.

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