How many pairs of Ruby Slippers were made for "The Wizard of Oz?"
My research indicates that five pairs of sequined shoes were created, or at least that is the number that still existed when the pairs were located in 1970. There is a story that Toto ate one of the pairs during production, but that can't be substantiated. A costume test "Arabian" style pair was also found, as well as a possible "bugle beaded" pair. Kent Warner located 6 total pairs of slippers on the MGM lot in 1970, including the pairs not seen in the final film. A 7th pair was owned by Roberta Bauman of Memphis, TN.
As of May of 1970, the following pairs were known to exist:
Size 5C, no felt, taller heel, leather(?) heel cap, #7 Judy Garland inscription, X 6802, 5C D 536 manufacturer's numbers. This pair can be seen on the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East and on Dorothy's feet when she first receives them. They are not visible in any other scene or publicity photos. Current location: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum.
Size 5BC, orange felt, thicker heel, rubber(?) heel cap, #1 Judy Garland inscription, 5BC 15250 manufacturer's numbers. This pair, while not the first made for production, were initially Judy Garland's primary pair for non-dance scenes. Early on during production this pair was intermixed with a 5C pair, and the one mismatched set became Judy Garland's primary pair. This pair can be seen in the climactic "There's no place like home" tapping scene, as well as in publicity stills taken early during production. The proper right shoe of this pair can be seen when sparks fly out of the shoes in the Wicked Witch's castle. Current location: Smithsonian National Museum of American History (proper right shoe) / FBI Evidence (proper left shoe).
Size 5C, orange felt, thinner heel, leather(?) heel cap, #6 Judy Garland inscription, 5C 11869 D536 manufacturer's numbers. This was the first pair created and tested for production, and can be seen in costume test photos taken on 10/31/1938 before bows were added. Initially this pair was a backup pair, but early on during production this pair was intermixed with the 5BC pair, and one shoe of the set became part of Judy Garland's primary pair. This pair can be seen when Dorothy shows her shoes to the Emerald City doorman. The proper left shoe of this pair can be seen when sparks fly out of the shoes in the Wicked Witch's castle. Current location: Smithsonian National Museum of American History (proper left shoe) / FBI Evidence (proper right shoe).
Size 6B, orange felt, thinner heel, rubber(?) heel cap, Double inscription, E58 68 manufacturer's numbers. This pair was created as a pair for Judy Garland to wear during dance numbers and during long rehearsals. It is possible that Judy's stand in/stunt double Bobbie Koshay may have also worn this pair. This pair can be seen when Dorothy takes her first steps on the Yellow Brick Road to leave Munchkinland. The pair can also be seen in publicity photos taken towards the end of filming, and also in some of the Scarecrow's dance scenes that were re-filmed later during production. Current location: privately owned.
Size 6, yellow felt, unknown heel, unknown heel cap, unknown inscription, unknown manufacturer's numbers. This pair was a pair created for Judy Garland to wear during dance scenes, and may have served mostly as a backup pair and/or a pair for Bobbie Koshay to wear. This pair can be seen in the long shot when Dorothy is skipping towards the camera out of Munchkinland. Current location: unknown. Last seen in Venice, CA in 1975.
Arabian test pair, unknown size, no felt, low heel, WCC inscription, custom made base shoe with no manufacturer's numbers visible in any photographs. The base shoes for this pair were made by Western Costume company and beaded by MGM costuming staff, and the creation of this base shoe was Western Costume's only contribution to any of the Ruby Slippers, despite what they have gone on to claim. The glass jewels used on this pair (rose montees, honeycomb dome buttons, shield shaped montees, and rectangular stones) all appear to be Light Siam instead of the Siam coloring of the sequins. This may have been an intentional design feature from Adrian that would allow the rhinestone pattern to be move visible, as the reflections of these stones would be more orange than the deep red of the sequins. This pair is visible in costume test photos taken on 10/31/1938, and are not visible in the final film. Current location: unknown. Purchased at auction in 2011.
Bugle beaded: A pair of slippers are alleged to have also been found in 1970, although the only person who has ever claimed to have seen them is Michael Shaw. According to Shaw, this pair was worn by Judy Garland during filming under the direction of Richard Thorpe but were changed to sequins when production shut down because the shoes were too heavy to dance in. Michael Shaw claims to know who received the pair Kent found, but he hasn't offered that name publicly. Aurora Duenas, an MGM beading woman, claimed she beaded three styles of slippers for the film: sequined pumps, an Arabian style pair with sequins and beads, and a bugle beaded pair.
Using large format images from the Academy of Motion Pictures, I can state that the pair of slippers worn early on during production do indeed appear to be made with small (possibly 2mm long) glass bugle beads, with additional larger glass beads forming a pattern around the shoe. My guess is that the bugle bead slippers had the same pattern of swirling lines of rose montees, round honeycomb dome buttons, and shield shaped rose montees visible on the Arabian test pair. The question remains: why would only one pair of bugle beaded shoes have been found? The studio always had multiple copies of important costumes made when production started ... so why didn't Kent Warner find more than one pair?
Why do the slippers look so dark in person?
While the slippers were made with deep red metallic sequins, they were never "maroon" or "burgundy" colored. When the slippers were newly created, the coloring of the sequins was a deep red that would appear brighter under the exceedingly bright studio lights needed to film in Technicolor. The Kodachrome publicity still shown below gives a more accurate idea of the original coloring.
Like sequins, glass jewels came in differing shades of red in the 1930's. Of course, these colors would vary slightly from manufacturer and the cut of the glass, as more faceted cuts let more light in and make the stone appear brighter. Most likely the slipper rhinestones were made in Germany or Czechoslovakia. The three main shades of red I have come across during my research are:
Light Siam: red with visible hints of orange
Siam: deep red without visible hints of orange
Dark Siam: dark red/garnet coloring.
For the slippers seen in the final film, the studio utilized sequins, rectangular glass jewels, and bugle beads that would fall under the "Siam" coloring. This deep red coloring would prevent the sequins and bows from looking too orange on film. The glass rose montee rhinestones lining each bow fall under the "Light Siam" coloring, and I suspect this was done on purpose to help define the edges of the bows on film. No part of the slippers were "Dark Siam" (or garnet, maroon, burgundy, etc.) colored.
The reason the slippers look so dark when viewed in present day is how the sequins have oxidized over time. The core of the sequin is a layer of gelatin. The gelatin core is an organic material that turns brown with age, and the silver electroplated to the front side of the sequin blackens over time. The red finish of the sequins has flaked off over the years, leaving more of the darkened gelatin and silver core visible, and making the sequins appear translucent instead of solid metallic. Buy a sequined purse from the 1920's or 1930's and you can see exactly how the process works, or view the example of a gelatin sequin purse below - you can see that the sequins that were covered by the purse flap still look bright and metallic, whereas the sequins exposed to the air have darkened and aged considerably.
How were the original slippers made?
The slippers were created by "Spanish" beading women working at MGM Studios, as described by surviving costume staff in the 1970's. At least one of the "Spanish" women was actually from Mexico. The shoes used for the slippers were used shoes that the studio already had on hand, and all of them were white silk faille wedding style shoes made by Innes Shoe Company. A costume staff member spray dyed the shoes red while the beading women hand sequined overlays of silk georgette and chiffon. These overlays were made using a flat pattern transferred onto the silk that was stretched in a frame - the sequins were not sewn directly to the shoe as one replica slipper maker claims. These sequined overlays were then formed into the shape of the shoe and attached by at least one woman (the varying appearance of the threads inside the shoes may indicate different people worked on attaching them). The overlays were sewn to the shoe around the opening, through the canvas toe, around the base of the entire shoe, and to the heel silk and also through the leather covering the heel. The soles were painted red, and felt was added to some pairs to muffle Judy Garland's foot steps. The bows were created by hand sewing glass beads to a silk overlay which was then wrapped around a stiff fabric (leather was not used, despite claims made in the 1980's). The first pair of bows made and tested for production were created with thicker bugle beads than would be used on subsequent pairs, and the silk was both sewn and glued to the fabric. Subsequent bows would be made by only sewing the silk to the stiff fabric. Interestingly, the adhesive used on the first set of bows helped to preserve the coloring, and that's why these two bows appear more red around the edges today than the bows made after them.
The photo below is an excerpt from interview notes provided by Aljean Harmetz. Marian Parker worked on "The Wizard of Oz" in the costuming department and shared her recollections about how the shoes were made. Additional information provided during Aljean's interviews corroborate this statement, as does all of my other research, including my discussions with staff at the Smithsonian.
The process that the studio used (and I use!) allows a row of sequins to be sewn in 30 - 60 seconds depending on the length of the row. Sewing sequins directly to a shoe by hand will take you substantially longer. This process also allows the sequins to be flipped over much more easily. The studio was in the business of making costumes quickly and cheaply - they would not spend the time and money paying staff to work on shoes for days when a shoe could be fully sequined in a matter of a few hours.