Judy Garland’s famous Wizard of Oz dress has been found after 40 years missing

The iconic gingham dressed was originally gifted to Catholic University in the 1970s

Judy Garland, on-set of the Film, "The Wizard of Oz", 1939.
(Image credit: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Dorothy Gale’s blue gingham dress from the Wizard of Oz has become a famous piece of film history. For over four decades though, the iconic dress had been declared missing—until now.

You can’t have the Wizard of Oz without the notable gingham costume worn by Dorothy. While some travel lovers may have dreamed of their next vacation in Oz at some point, one of the best dresses that is still considered a hot clothing trend today has been missing for over 40 years. 

Judy Garland’s blue gingham dress from "The Wizard of Oz" on display during preview of Julien's Auctions Hollywood Icons & Idols 2012 at Julien's Auctions Gallery on November 5, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.

(Image credit: Mark Sullivan/WireImage)

The dress had rumored to have been gifted by actress Mercedes McCambridge (friend of Judy Garland) to Catholic University and the former head of the drama department, Father Gilbert Hartke, back in the 1970s. At the time, McCambridge was an in-artist resident at the university and knew of Hartke's love for clothing and costumes, which had led to an extravagant collection and now included one of Judy Garland’s dresses she wore on set. A year later, it mysteriously went missing on the school’s Washington D.C.–based campus. 

Since then, the dress had become a rumor on campus, which spurred one employee to attempt to officially hunt down the dress. 

“I had looked in our archives, storage closets, etc. to no avail. I assumed it was a tall tale,” Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations coordinator for the Catholic University’s Drama Department said in an article written by the Catholic University.

Last month, Ripa discovered the dress in one of the most elusive spots.

“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,” he explained in the article. “On the trash bag 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 what was inside and opened the trash bag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoe box was the dress!! I couldn’t believe it.”

Dorothy Gale's screen used dress from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" on display at the Profiles in History auction house on August 28, 2019 in Calabasas, California ahead of "The Icons and Legends of Hollywood Auction" on September 25 and 26.

(Image credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

He and his co-worker then quickly retrieved gloves so that they could closely examine it.

“Needless to say, I have found many interesting things in Hartke during my time at Catholic University, but I think this one takes the cake,” Ripa said.

During filming, Garland was said to have worn five different versions of the dress. After discovering this one, the school called the Smithsonian to verify if what they had was authentic.

“They suggested that the dress was consistent with the other objects from the film, and that the evidence around the dress was strong,” the article read.

Now, the dress has found a home in the University’s Special Collections where it can be preserved in proper storage through a temperature and humidity-controlled environment.

Rylee Johnston

Rylee is a U.S. news writer who previously worked for woman&home and My Imperfect Life covering lifestyle, celebrity, and fashion news. Before joining woman&home and My Imperfect Life, Rylee studied journalism at Hofstra University where she explored her interests in world politics and magazine writing. From there, she dabbled in freelance writing covering fashion and beauty e-commerce for outlets such as the TODAY show, American Spa Magazine, First for Women, and Woman’s World.