Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dorothy's Wardrobe Deluxe

My fellow blogger Bill Campbell over at The Oz Enthusiast is almost as obsessed with the 1903 Wizard of Oz musical as I am. He's a fellow collector of stage-oriented Oz material and he's even built a tremendously fun toy-theatre version of the show.

In researching for the toy theatre, Bill became quite interested in Carolyn Siedle's costume sketches for the 1903 Wizard of Oz. On a recent trip to New York, Bill took photos of most of the surviving costume sketches and assembled them all in a blog post. He later did another blog comparing and contrasting the sketches with the finished costumes as seen in assorted production photos. But at least one of the sketches was rather a stumper for Bill - an unknown Act III dress for Dorothy.

Costume sketch for Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz Act III by Caroline Siedle.

The image shows Dorothy in a sort of "baby-doll" dress. It's short, like a very young girl's would be at the time, all white, with assorted ruffles and bands of applied ribbon, and most oddly, black knee-socks with little white shoes. It's not a look we've associated with Dorothy in that show and doesn't match any of actress Anna Laughlin's Dorothy dresses that we know from the Broadway stage photos.

Bill wondered if it was a preliminary design, perhaps cut from the show. But I had an idea it might be something else. I suspected that a number of the sketches were not from the Broadway version of the show but from the revised version of the show dubbed "Edition de Luxe" prepared in the Spring of 1904. The show got many new songs, many new costumes, and a general freshening. So I started digging through my photo archive trying to prove my theory. Finally I remembered a photo from Act III of the Hurtig and Seamon touring production circa late 1906. And there is Anna Wilkes as Dorothy Gale kneeling during the finale, and I think she is wearing this mystery frock.

Anna Wilkes as Dorothy in the finale of The Wizard of Oz Act III circa 1906.

The hat seems similar enough, but the banding on the hem seems spot on. The Hurtig and Seamon production is also just a bit dowdier than the original Julian Mitchell version. Hence the slightly frumpy look (though she is kneeling and pleading for help from the Witch of the North).  Below you can see Anna Laughlin in the original Act III dress at the same moment from the show.

Anna Laughlin as Dorothy in finale of The Wizard of Oz Act III circa 1903.

 I strongly suspect that Anna Laughlin made the request for a new Act III dress in the "Edition de Luxe." The original dress above looks heavy and hot, while the little white frock looks quite breezy and cool. A good thing when playing in warm theatres, under the lights, with no air-conditioning.

One reason I think the request may have come directly from Anna Laughlin is that the new Act III dress bears a striking resemblance to a dress Anna Laughlin had worn onstage back in August of 1900 in The Casino Boy. She was only sixteen.
Anna Laughlin in The Casino Boy, August 1900.

So the mystery of the ruffled white dress is solved. But did Dorothy wear the little white shoes and black stockings? That remains a mystery!

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.


  1. It’s also fun to note that this costume drawing features a far better facial resemblance to Anna Laughlin than the two other, earlier, designs that are known.