The ruby slippers are taking off, and not by a click of the heel either. A pair of the iconic shoes worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” will leave the Smithsonian for the first time to be displayed in London in an exhibition titled “Hollywood Costume.”
The shoes usually live at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., but will be on loan for four weeks to the Victoria & Albert Museum. There they will be on display alongside Scarlett O’Hara’s green “curtain” dress from “Gone With the Wind” (1939) and the little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961).
The shoes will be away from the Smithsonian collection Oct. 9 to Nov. 20, according to the museum’s website. The exhibition runs longer, Oct. 20 to Jan. 27, but the slippers will be on display for a limited time.
However these aren’t the only ruby slippers in existence.
Four pairs are known to have been used during the filming of the movie, including one pair purchased at an auction in February (for an undisclosed sum) by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The academy plans to display the shoes in a film museum it hopes to build. A third pair is said to be in a private collection, and a fourth pair is missing.
The pair in the Smithsonian collection, which was given to the museum in 1979 by an anonymous donor, has felt on the soles, which muffled the sound created by dance steps along the yellow brick road.
And, the Smithsonian notes, they weren’t always ruby-colored. In the book upon which the movie was based, the slippers were silver, but Hollywood wanted a flashier color that conveyed the shoes’ magical powers.
[For the record, 3 p.m. Oct. 5: An earlier version of this post said that this is the first time the ruby slippers would leave the U.S. It is the first time the Smithsonian’s pair of shoes will go on tour outside the country. Rhys Thomas, author of “The Ruby Slippers of Oz,” wrote to say one of the other pairs of ruby slippers was displayed in London last November.]