In 2021, a staff member in The Catholic University of America’s drama department came across a shoebox that someone had wrapped in a trash bag and stuck on top of the mailboxes. Inside was a blue gingham dress and a white blouse that had yellowed over time. It looked like a replica of Dorothy Gale’s attire from The Wizard of Oz (1939), but it wasn't—rather, it was one that Judy Garland actually wore in the film.
It wasn’t a complete surprise. Matt Ripa, who discovered it, had searched all over the department for that very frock, which was gifted to the school in 1973 by actress Mercedes McCambridge. But it definitely was a cause for celebration: Nobody had seen the dress in decades, so there was no guarantee that it survived the last 40-odd years at all, let alone that it was still stored somewhere in the drama department.
Though it’s not clear exactly how many of Dorothy’s dresses were sewn in total, only five remain today (that we know of). The one that Ripa rescued from its shoebox is just one of two that still have the blouse. Experts even think they know when Garland wore it: It was during the scene when the Wicked Witch of the West locks Dorothy up in her castle with a sinister hourglass counting down to her death.
In short, this particular costume is a rarity even among rarities—which helps explain why it’s expected to fetch somewhere between $800,000 and $1.2 million at an upcoming auction. As People reports, the dress will be sold as part of Bonhams’ Classic Hollywood Film and Television auction in Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 24. The price is steep, but it’s for a good cause: The school is donating the dress in order to raise money for its drama department.
“While parting with this dress is bittersweet, the proceeds are going to help support future generations training for professional careers in theatre. It might just be that the funding helps to prepare the next Mercedes McCambridge or Judy Garland!” Jacqueline J. Leary-Warsaw, dean of Catholic University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art, said in a press release.