Sure Christian Louboutin’s red bottoms are status symbols, sneakerheads are still in a tizzy over Yeezys, and fashion geeks still salivate over memorable runway kicks like Salvatore Ferragamo’s rainbow platforms or Balenciaga’s Lego heel. None of those, however, can claim to be the world’s most famous pair of shoes. Not even close. That title belongs solely to Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, or to be exact, the pair Judy Garland wore in the 1939 movie.
The shoes are so iconic in fact that they’re prominently displayed at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Sadly, they’ve seen better days, and now the publicly-funded museum is seeking $300,000 on Kickstarter in order to better preserve them.
The MGM’s prop department created an unknown number of the shoes specifically for the shoot. Though in the book Dorothy’s slippers are silver, they were changed to a bright ruby red for the movie to highlight the relatively new Technicolor technology. The prop designers didn’t expect the shoes to become pop culture sensations and the pairs were only intended to last for the duration of filming, not for posterity.
In fact, the ruby slippers were all but lost and forgotten for a number of years until five pairs were discovered in the basement of MGM’s wardrobe department back in 1970. The most famous of those pairs were eventually donated to The Smithsonian.
“Now, nearly eighty years later, the pair worn by Judy Garland as she danced up the yellow brick road are showing their age,” reads the museum’s plea on the crowdsourcing site. “They need immediate conservation care and a new, state-of-the-art display case, in order to slow their deterioration and protect them from environmental harm.”
This would be the museum’s second stab at raising funds on Kickstarter. Last year, the museum raised more than $500,000 to help restore and preserve Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit. Though the museum received federal funds for its core operating budget, it still must rely on private donations for certain projects. Besides, it would be a fool’s errand to count on congress to agree to kick in extra funding to save some shoes.
The museum has dubbed the campaign “KeepThemRuby,” and explains the shoes are in desperate need of repair.
“Even to the naked eye the damage is quite obvious: the color has faded and the slippers appear dull and washed-out,” the museum writes. “The coating on the sequins that give the shoes their hallmark ruby color is flaking off its gelatin base. Some threads that hold sequins in place have broken.”
In other words, if you did try to click the heels together three times, they might just disintegrate.
Once restored, the museum hopes that the shoes will become the centerpiece of a planned permanent exhibit celebrating American sports entertainment dubbed “On With The Show.” There they’ll still alongside other iconic artifacts like R2-D2 from Star Wars, Muhammad Ali’s training robe, and the original Muppets.
Luckily, in just a few days the campaign has already reached $173,324 of it’s $300,000 goal and still has 28 days to go. Donors will receive rewards like tote bags and t-shirts with a sketch of the famous shoes. If you’re feeling especially generous, the first four donors to shell out more than $7,000 will also get exact replicas of the slippers.