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White silk base shoes (used, already studio property) were spray dyed red by mgm costume staff member Vera Mordaunt.
The soles of each pair were painted red with a glossy paint. Touch ups to the paint were done during production, resulting in some sequins along the bottom of the upper having paint on them.
Patterns were made for at least one of the shoes - its possible that the same overlay was used for all of the size 5 pairs, as there are gaps around the bottom in some areas. It is also possible that an individual pattern was made for each pair and that the overlays shrank when taken out of the frame, causing the overlay to not cover some parts fully.
Webmaster's note: There is a slipper maker who continues to assert that the original pairs of Ruby Slippers were made by sewing the sequins directly to the shoe. This woman intentionally mislead several slipper makers to believe that she was looking for information on how to craft her own pair, which several of us happily provided. At that time, I believed that the original slippers were made by sewing sequins directly to the shoe - I was wrong. I provided her answers to literally hundreds of questions, only for her to turn around and immediately start selling slippers to the public, and presenting herself as some sort of slipper expert. While I eventually learned the correct method, she continues to state that the sequins were sewn to the shoes instead of to an overlay, and describes the correct method as a "shortcut." While she means this in a derogatory fashion used in an attempt to try and elevate her own work, she is actually right. The beading method used by the studio was a shortcut, and that shortcut allowed them to create many pairs of slippers in a very short amount of time. A professional beader at the studio could easily complete overlays for a pair of slippers in a single work day. The method used also allows for the sequins to move more, which is why you will frequently see sequins on the original slippers flipped over. That is much harder to do when sequins are sewn directly to the shoe, as the threads are pulled tighter during that process.
This person continues to perpetuate lies in an attempt to make her construction method seem more authentic. Please be an informed consumer - if you want a pair of slippers made exactly the way the studio made them, be sure to ask what method your slipper maker is using, and ask for progress photos to make sure it's the truth.
Need more proof of the construction method?
Marian Parker, former MGM costume staff member: "I just remember Mrs. Cluett who was head of the Mexican - Spanish - I guess it was Spanish, beaders working on these. This was on very fine chiffon in the frames and the beaders working frantically with their little needles pushing those red sequins..." as told to Aljean Harmetz.
Vera Mordaunt, former MGM costume staff member: "Then they settled on shoes that were of red sequins. This was done in Mrs. Cluett's beading department. These were red sequins. They first marked out the shape of the shoe, then these were put on, and the girls sewed them onto shoes. Aljean: "Each sequin sewed on individually?" Vera: "First material was sequinned in the shape that would cover the shoe." as told to Aljean Harmetz.
"3. A template of the shoe’s upper was cut out of a red fine-mesh netting, to which red sequins was sewn.
4. The sequined netting was then sewn to the faille of the shoe including the upper and heel."
This information comes directly from the team that worked on the conservation of the Smithsonian's pair of Ruby Slippers. Read the full report here.
The PROPER method of sewing the sequins results in a chain stitch on the back side of the fabric. Included is a photo of the chain stitching visible on the reverse side of the fabric on the Arabian test pair, as well as on the back of the sequin bra that Joan Crawford wore in "The Women," made by the same staff that made the Ruby Slippers. The Joan Crawford costume photo was provided by John David Thomas of the Gene London Cinema Collection.
Also included below is a photo of the Double pair from production as photographed in 2000. The thread holding the sequin overlay on at the toe has broken and the overlay has pulled away from the sole.
Orange/red silk georgette or chiffon was stretched in a rectangular shaped frame. The overlay pattern shape was transferred onto the fabric, most likely with a chalk pen that could be erased when completed. The overlays were hand sequined in the shape of the pattern by the women at MGM beading room using the tambour beading method. One of these women was Aurora Duenas, who told her friend she had made three styles of slippers for the production: sequined pumps, bugle beaded, and the curled toe style. Western Costume Company had no part in the production of the ruby slippers seen in the final film. Their only contribution was making the base shoes for the Arabian style pair.
Another MGM costume staff member cut out the overlays, then formed and attached the them to the dyed silk shoes. The overlays were sewn to the shoe in a number of places, and may have also been glued in addition to sewn on some pairs. This staff member may have been Elizabeth Dingler. Elizabeth also may have gotten athlete's foot on her hands from working on one of the pairs of size 6 slippers.
After an initial costume test, 4 additional pairs were made. The decision was made to add art deco glass jeweled bows to the vamp of each shoe.
The bows were created by hand stitching glass jewels, micro thin hex beads (or standard width bugle beads on the first set made), and rose montee rhinestones onto a silk overlay, which was then secured to a cotton buckram base. The bows were then sewn to the vamp of the shoe.
Three pairs of size 5 slippers were made, and 2 pairs of size 6. One pair of size 5 shoes was left without felt, and the other 2 had orange felt adhered to the soles. One size 6 pair received orange felt, and the other yellow felt. This was done to muffle the sound of footsteps against the Yellow Brick Road.
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