Wednesday, June 18, 2014



Ah, that classic Judy Garland look in The Wizard of Oz!!

Only, it wasn't so classic...

Richard Thorpe was the first director on The Wizard of Oz, and he hired MGM's top costumer, the mono-named "Adrian" (aka Adrian Gilbert) to design the costumes for Garland. That's right costumes. Garland was supposed to change dresses several times during the picture!

Adrian's initial dresses had Garland decked out in several ultra-frilly "party dresses". As far as I can tell, there are no photographs of these dresses, and none of them still exist. Thorpe soon had a change of heart, and decided that Garland should wear just a single dress throughout the picture. For this dress, Adrian designed a blue pinafore with binding hems at the top (below the bust) and bottom of the dress.  The material for the shoulder straps had a a moire-pattern, and the dress was pleated at the waist.  Plain darker-blue banding was sewn as a decorative feature onto the dress at about knee-length.  (Recreations often miss this feature.)  Large pearl buttons attached the shoulder straps to the waistband. The dress was designed to be worn with a gauzy (almost see-through) white blouse. The blouse had puff sleeves with heavy white plain banding at the hem.  The blouse also featured three pleats on either side of the placket, white buttons, and very broad, rounded collar with plain white banding.  A blue string bowtie with white polka-dots was tied at the neck. The collar tended to ride up with wear and hide Garland's neck. (Not cool.) We have photographs of this dress, and a faded original (or, perhaps, it is one of many copies made for her use in the film; no one is sure which) still exists. In these photographs, Garland is wearing her natural hair color and style. (Garland's hair would actually be darkened from its natural medium auburn. Under the brights movie studio lights, it would appear much lighter.) Thorpe also wanted Dorothy to have lots of curls, and be heavily made up. (Images of these make-up tests have not survived.) His goal was to depict Dorothy as a sort of kewpie doll -- a child's fantasy of what a child might be.









An all-blue version of this test dress was also created. The dress appeared to be the same, but the shoulder strps, hems, decorative band, waistband, and bowtie were apparently grey.  The blouse, too, was the same in design but now dyed the same blue color as the dress.  This dress was apparently rejected as too uniform in color.





Thorpe had spent several months in pre-production on The Wizard of Oz, and filming began on October 12, 1938. But he was fired two weeks later, after MGM executives felt he didn't have the sensibility to direct a fantasy children's movie. He was replaced by George Cukor.

Now, in those days, directors were under contract to the studios. They worked on whatever they were assigned. If someone fell ill or had an accident, it was not uncommon for another director to fill in on the project while the primary person recuperated. There wasn't any down-time, either. This was an era in which MGM released a whopping 42 A-list feature films during the year, another 10 B-list pictures, and more than 100 short subjects. If a director finished a picture and his next feature film wasn't due to start for two weeks, he didn't get a break. He (they were invariably male) filled in doing pre-production, B-unit, or reshoots on someone else's film. It wasn't unusual for someone even of Cukor's caliber to do pre-production on a film and then hand it off. Motion picture studios back then were assembly lines, not vanity projects like they are today.

George Cukor was appalled at the work Thorpe had done. He threw out almost all the footage as unuseable. Cumor removed all the make-up from Garland's face, and restored her naturally wavy hair. Cukor was also dissatisfied with the dress, and had Adrian design a simpler ensemble.

The new dress had raised white polka-dots all over it. We don't have color photos or a sample of this dress, unfortunately. ABC-TV recreated the dress (in pink, oddly) for a documentary, however, and you can see that one below. This dress is called the "two-strap dress". Instead of a single strap over each shoulder, the broad strap becomes two. The straps were also sewn to the dress, rather than buttoned to it. The hem of the straps and the upper (bustline) hem were trimmed in white lace loops, while the decorative band was eliminated and banded lower hem replaced with a simple hem.The band covering the wasitband pleating was also removed, to allow the pleating to be seen.

Adrian's first blouse for this two-strap dress was originally ornate. He retained the white color, gauzy fabric, and puff sleeves. But he reduced the collar in size by half, and then trimmed it with pleated, hemmed fabric similar to the blouse. The five-button placket was replaced with a simple placket of the same blouse material, rounded at the bottom. On either side of the placket he used the same pleated, hemmed treatment he used for the collar.

Cukor didn't like that blouse on damned bit. A much simpler design was then created. A heavier (but still barely translucent) white material was now used for the blouse. The placket in front was gone, replaced with buttons down the back. The collar was gone, replaced by a heavy band about a half-inch in height around the throat. The dress was pleated around the throat, and the lower edge of the band trimmed in light blue rickrack. The puff sleeves were retained but lengthed (now extending down to the elbow), and the upper edge of the banded hem trimmed in blue rickrack as well.

Adrian experimented with an apron over the dress. The thought was that, as a working girl on a farm, Dorothy would wear an apron to cover her dress. This apron could later be removed to allow for a "change of costume" later in the picture. The apron was of a heavy grey and white gingham. Its broad shoulder-straps covered the dress straps, and it had a band covering the pleats around the waistline. Portions of the shoulder straps and bustier were trimmed in blue rickrack, and there two large pockets sewn on either side of the front (also trimmed in rickrack). The lower hem was banded in the same material as the apron. The apron was about three inches shorter than the dress.

The apron was quickly abandoned, however, as it seemed to cover up Dorothy with too many layers of clothing.













Cukor left The Wizard of Oz after just a week, to work on pre-production on Gone With the Wind. Victor Fleming took over. Based on conversations with Cukor, Fleming ordered one final change to the dress.

The final form of Dorothy's dress was a bright blue (rather than sky blue) pinafore with white checks. The straps went back to a single narrow one over each shoulder, were hemmed but not trimmed, and were fastened to the waistband with large pearl buttons. The upper hem of the dress (along the bustline) had an inch-and-a-half band hem in the same fabric as the dress, and a two-inch-wide band covered the pleating at the waistline. A decorative band was added at knee-level, although the fabric here ran diagonally to the fabric of the dress. The lower hem was a simple turned hem. The blouse was kept nearly the same as in Cukor's final version, although the sleeves were shortened slightly.

That is what you see on film.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent research with the exception that Richard Thorpe did not "hire" Adrian. He was the lead designer at the studio and as such, would have been assigned to the film as such. The only other regular designer was Dolly Tree.

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