Judy Garland’s lost ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress could fetch $1.2 million at auction

LOS ANGELES — A dress worn by Judy Garland in her role as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” is slated for auction next month, and the proceeds will help establish a film acting program at the university responsible for finding the long-lost piece of Hollywood history.

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The Catholic University of America confirmed Tuesday that London-based Bonhams has estimated the dress’ value at between $800,000 and $1.2 million and that the auction house is including the item in its “Bonhams Classic Hollywood: Film and Television” sale, slated for May 24 in Los Angeles.

The dress, reportedly gifted to the private Washington, D.C.-based university in the 1970s by a former drama department artist-in-residence, had vanished without explanation but was rediscovered in July 2021 while staff prepared for the renovation of the school’s Hartke Theatre.

>> Related: University finds missing Dorothy dress from ‘The Wizard of Oz’

“The dress was a legend, but no one had seen it since the late 1980s,’’ Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, the dean of the university’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art, told The New York Times.

The iconic white-and-blue gingham pinafore dress — one of several that the teenage Garland wore during the 1939 filming of one of the first major movies shot in Technicolor — is one of only four worn during filming still in existence and one of only two dresses retaining the original white blouse, according to Bonhams.

The auction house has also determined that Catholic University’s dress has been matched to the scene in the movie when Dorothy faced the Wicked Witch of the West in the witch’s castle.

“While parting with this dress is bittersweet, the proceeds are going to help support future generations training for professional careers in theater. It might just be that the funding helps to prepare the next Mercedes McCambridge or Judy Garland!,” Leary-Warsaw said in a prepared statement, referencing the Hollywood actress and artist-in-residence who in 1973 gave the dress to Rev. Gilbert Hartke, the storied head of the university’s drama program

According to Catholic University officials, proceeds from the auction 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.

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