While there is no indication as to how she came to own it, the late actress Mercedes McCambridge gifted a gingham dress worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz to Catholic University in 1973.
Then, they lost it. But now, it has found its way home.
McCambridge said she hoped the gift would be "a source of hope, strength and courage to the students" when she gave it to the institution in 1973. Instead, it was folded into a box and misplaced, taken for granted just like the woman who wore it.
Over the years, word around the university was that the dress was still on the grounds somewhere, and drama lecturer Matt Ripa had been digging for it since 2014. In the end, he discovered the box containing the fabled — and fabulously valuable — garment on top of his mail slots. A former employee had found it and placed it there some time ago before retiring ... then never mentioned it!
Nearly lost to antiquity more than once, the garment was authenticated by the Smithsonian, a spokesman for which said five others are known to exist. He confirmed there were telltale aspects of the known garments that made IDing this one pretty easy.
Via press release, Catholic University said of the find, “It’s not in Kansas anymore. It can now be preserved in proper storage in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment” in the school's special collections. If you're eager to take a peek, it is on display in Mullen Library (601 University Dr. NE, D.C., 20064).
How much is it worth? Well, one of the other five dresses — which is reportedly one of only two verified to have been on Judy's back — sold for $1.56M in 2015, in spite of sweat stains. That was a gigantic improvement over a sale of a dress in 2012 for $480,000, and in 2005 for $252,000.