It would be difficult to find anyone who has never seen the Wizard of Oz. Most of us have been watching it since we were children, and even though it is 80 years old, it is still a masterpiece that is well worth watching over and over again.

There are many things to remember from the movie, including the yellow brick road, but something else iconic from the movie is the blue-and-white checkered dress worn by Judy Garland. It has often been one of the more valuable pieces of memorabilia from the movie, along with her ruby slippers. It is also a piece of movie history that was lost for a few decades.


The story starts when an actress named Mercedes McCambridge donated the dress to a drama school back in the 1970s. She was working as an artist in residence at Catholic University at the time. Eventually, the dress was thought to be lost although it was rumored that it still existed. Try as they might, they couldn’t find it but that changed recently.

Department of Drama lecturer, Matt Ripa, at the Catholic University of America said in an announcement that they found the outfit in a location they weren’t expecting. In June 2021, items were being cleared out of a drama building on campus so they could renovate it. There was a plastic bag above the facility mailboxes that contained a shoebox, with the checkered dress inside.

Photo: flickr/Newtown Grafitti

In speaking with the Washington Post, Ripa said: “I was shocked, holding a piece of Hollywood history right in my hands.”

He went along with a colleague to examine the dress. They wore gloves to protect the fabric and then contacted the University archives, where curators authenticated the find. It was then a matter of contacting the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian, where the ruby slippers are kept.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Smithsonian experts do not authenticate items outside of their collection, but they do feel that it is likely a dress from the 1939 film set.

There are actually five authentic dresses from that set, which all contain a secret pocket for a handkerchief and, due to the fragile nature of the fabric, are often mended. Now that the dress is officially recognized by the University, it will be displayed proudly in their archival collections.