Fantasy in fashion: The Wizard of Oz costumes (1939)

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Dorothy and Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz movie - 1939

Dorothy and Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz movie - 1939 - Wizard of Oz costumes

Fantasy in fashion: The Wizard of Oz costumes

Wizard of Oz costumes & their influence on clothing styles

by Gwenn Walters

The influences that sway the world of fashion have been many, ranging from the brilliant colors of a Van Gogh masterpiece through the surrealism of Salvador Dali, the discoveries of archaeologists in ruined temples, cataclysmic world events, famous books, the primitive attire of hula dancers!

In 1939, some of the major fashion influences have been derived from the supermodern New York World’s Fair, and the more intimate Golden Gate International Exposition — Treasure Island, with its scintillating colors, marine murals and sculpture.

Now comes a motion picture that seems fated to have its fantasy in costume duplicated, not as a whole, but in subtle, exquisite and whimsical details, in fall fashions. The production is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “The Wizard of Oz,” produced in Technicolor, and Photoplay takes pride in presenting on these pages reproductions of Adrian’s original sketches of the fairylike, frolicsome and sprightly costumes that will be an outstanding feature of this fantasy.

So come with me to The Land of Oz — tread on its imaginative ground and greet its quaint and noble little people. You will love the freedom and abandon of their fanciful and colorful clothes; and readily see how Dame Fashion will adopt many of their silhouettes and details to dramatize the clothes you will wear.

ALSO SEE: Behind the scenes of The Wizard of Oz movie (1939)

Wizard of Oz - Munchkin costumes

The Wizard of Oz costumes: 9 sketches

1. “The Braggart Townsman” struts in garb of Stuyvesant mood to suggest new design for coats, collars and accessories. His circular box jacket has new dash as it swings from a stiffly-starched collar — the chain that runs from pocket to pocket is easily adaptable as an amusing ornament for coat, frock or suit. The hat of generous proportions has a high, forward peaked crown with startling side wings instead of a regulation brim — exotic and wild, of course, but definitely a change for the better from the bird’s nests, pancake and saucepan models of the past season.

2. In the little land of the Munchkins “The First Townsman” is a personage of distinction, and likewise, his attire is commanding. Of particular note are the shining buckles that glorify the side fastening of his coat. His stovepipe hat has a narrow, elongated brim. Notice the brushes that are used as gayly colored trim. Look for his shining buckles this fall on shoes, bags, coats, frocks, hats, belts and gloves.

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3. This robust and jovial character is by name “The Second Townsman.” The dramatic collar of his coat, his high hat with ribbon running through the crown, his huge timepiece hung on a heavy chain (which is surely a far cry from our popular miniature lapel watches) are fantastic points of interest that will be modified and exploited into trends.

WATCH IT AGAIN: See “The Wizard of Oz” on streaming video, or on disc

4. The Munchkin peasant costumes stress the close-fitting, odd-shaped hat, with a tiny frilled edge that is repeated in a stand-up collar. Flower and tassel motifs are notes of particular interest and Adrian feels flowers — jeweled, embroidered and appliqued — should find a definite vogue from head to toe. The docile Munchkin peasants also wear heavy, wide necklaces of wooden beads, with little flowerpot hats, around the crown of which wooden beads matching those of the necklaces are used — in the crowns themselves nestle little clusters of flowers.

For modern adaptation of this headgear, Adrian suggests hats of velvet and flowers of feathers in rich contrast to wooden beads. The laced bodices, the aprons and the insert bandings of their costumes are likewise inspiration for design.

Wizard of Oz costumes: Fantasy in fashion from 1939

Fantasy in fashion - Costumes from The Wizard of Oz (1939) - Sketches

5. On “One of the Five Fiddlers,” those makers of merriment, Adrian adds an amusing conception of a hat in a skull cap with contrasting silk tassels held upright on a stalk for these Wizard of Oz costumes. Here he emphasizes the use of tassels as decoration. Tassels are a favored medium with Adrian for detail trim and he also uses them in place of buttons. Again, Adrian stresses collar interest.

6. Fantasy reigns supreme in the costume of the austere “Commander of the Navy.” The abbreviated double bolero jacket is of felt. Notice the huge polka dots. You will see them frequently on various characters throughout the picture. Utterly charming is Adrian’s conception of the use of flowers on shoulders and on gloves, an idea that should have wide popularity, and the flower on the hat is due to be adopted in modified form.

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7. “The Minister” stands sedate and profound to let you view his magnificent, appliqued, three-tiered cape with a semi-oriental flavor. The curved, stand-up collar is fastened with a cord and huge buttons. The long gauntlet gloves have a panel of embroidery; the hammered silver bracelet holds a shaded brush in place of a jewel. Stiff embroidered bands that are shaped in the same mold as the bracelet and rise to extreme height enhance the inverted bowl hat. The silhouette of the cape and the detail of the bracelet, gloves and hat will create high style interest.

8. “The Man Who Leads the Triumphal Procession” with military precision also wears Adrian’s unusual coif hat — a trend that will be so flattering to women’s faces. This is an instance where a costume should definitely be built around the hat. Easily adaptable is the note of Oriental-looking applique on the gloves and shoes. Notice particularly the panel on the back of the coat.

9. “The Trumpeter” wears a stiff white coat of felt, with amusing sleeves of silk crepe, felt applique flowers, and garland of daisies around the neck. The hat with a coif treatment is new and exciting, and likewise is the placement of a flower cluster in the back.

And so, on and on, fashion inspiration continues to flow from Adrian, whose recognition by Lord and Taylor, famous New York department store, with a $1,000 prize, as the American designer who has wielded the most influence on the world of fashion, is in keeping with the wealth of ideas and versatility he has displayed and continues to display in his designing capacity with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

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