Judy Garland's Missing 'Wizard of Oz' Dress Unearthed After Disappearing More Than 4 Decades Ago

The dress was gifted to Catholic University and the former head of the drama department, Father Gilbert Hartke, in the 1970s

One of the iconic blue gingham dresses worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz was found last month after disappearing more than four decades ago.

The dress was gifted to Catholic University and the former head of the drama department, Father Gilbert Hartke, in the 1970s. However, it is said to have mysteriously gone missing just a year after its arrival at the Washington, D.C., campus.

That is until June, when a staff member set out to unearth the piece of cinematic history, and found it in an unlikely spot.

"I had looked in our archives, storage closets, etc. to no avail. I assumed it was a tall tale (of which many exist for Father Hartke)," Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations coordinator for the drama department, explained in a story published by the university on June 30.

Judy Garland

"Our building is in the process of renovations and upgrades, so I was cleaning out my office to prepare," Ripa explained. "I noticed on top of the faculty mailboxes a trashbag and asked my co-worker to hand it to me. On the trashbag was a note for our former chair stating that he had found 'this' in his office and that he must have moved it when he moved out of the chair's office… I was curious what was inside and opened the trashbag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoe box was the dress!! I couldn't believe it."

Ripa said he quickly retrieved gloves so he could examine the dress before bringing it to the archival department.

"Needless to say, I have found many interesting things in the Hartke during my time at CUA, but I think this one takes the cake," he concluded.

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Judy Garland
Alastair Grant/AP/Shutterstock

Five other versions of the costume, besides the one discovered at Catholic University, have been found and verified as likely authentic, researchers from the Smithsonian told the school. This one will be housed in the university's special collections department.

The gingham frock isn't the only piece of Dorothy's costume to go missing over the years. In 2005, a thief stole one of the pairs of her ruby slippers from the Judy Garland Museum in the actress' birthplace of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

For more than a decade, the slippers remained lost. Then in 2017, the Grand Rapids Police Department got the FBI involved in the case after a tip came forward that turned into a potential case of extortion. The FBI put its Art Crime team, FBI Laboratory, and Chicago, Miami and Atlanta offices on the case, and eventually got the slippers back from a recovery operation in Minneapolis.

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