I’ve always had a thing for ruby red slippers. . . . I mean, doesn’t every woman who’s seen The Wizard of Oz at least once? It’s pretty much the ultimate pair of shoes to own.
Last year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences put on a Hollywood Costume exhibit at LACMA in the months leading up to the 2015 Oscars. It was a greatly curated interactive collection that ended with “the shoes,” acquired by the Academy with the help of a group of “angel donors” headed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg. Actually four pairs were known to have existed, one of which mysteriously disappeared from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN; another pair went to the Smithsonian, and another to a group of collectors who keep it in a bank vault. The missing pair may never turn up, and if you’re curious about the full history, read The Ruby Red Slippers of Oz. As my mother likes to say, it’s never just about the shoes, though seeing these in person does have a certain magic. Someone may have put a two-million-dollar price tag on them, but they really are priceless.
The overriding symbol of these shoes in film and literature seems to be power: in The Wizard of Oz, they represent Dorothy’s power over the Wicked Witch and her key to getting home, and in the book, Wicked, they stand for Elphaba’s obsession, after her sister was killed by Dorothy’s house, to retrieve the token of her father’s love for her sister (his favored daughter).
Are they “power heels,” their sexiness and shininess giving us a sense of power over our lives in a society still a little too patriarchal? Is it the red or the sparkles or the combination of them that embodies fun/cute/sexy? Sure, I had my little costume ruby red slippers growing up, I convinced my parents to get a bright red car, and I did have a pair of sequined shoes for my senior prom. I may have outgrown the sequins, but in my adult life I seem to keep searching for the perfect Dorothy shoe.
Dorothy was herself just a girl. Maybe what we really relate to is that feeling of wanting to be an adult. But not really. Adulting is hard and scary and filled with bills and stuff. So we need that sparkle to remind us we’re still young.
Which is why when I saw a pair of SJP pumps recently at Nordstrom, I really thought these were ‘the ones.’ But I’m very particular about the fit, which wasn’t quite right. So one day, when Dorothy and Cinderella join forces to bring me the pretty red shoes with the perfect fit, I’ll be ready, and maybe even lucky enough to have Leo and Spielberg as benefactors.