Labor of Love Wizard of Oz Costumes

The characters from MGM’s 1939 film The Wizard of Oz always captivated me, and one of my many childhood dreams–along with being a ballerina–was to be Glinda the Good Witch from Oz. Although I excelled at dance class, it soon became apparent that there were very few successful 5’9” ballerinas, so my next thought was to be either a meteorologist (fascinated with tornadoes) or an artist (loved graphic and fashion design).

When my high school guidance counselor asked, “what do you want to do for a career?”, I decided to go to college to be a graphic designer, which ultimately led to the creation of a Glinda costume for Halloween and playing the role in local theater productions. Those productions, in turn, led to participation in the OzFest Parade in Chittenango, NY, an annual festival honoring Oz author L. Frank Baum.

Walking the parade route in a huge, puffy, pink dress that rivaled any elegant, modern-day quinceanera gown was incredibly fun (and addictive!) and I was invited to participate in future parades and festivals in the area. Every year, new Oz book or film costumes were constructed until the final number of my characters totaled over twenty, each with its own set of design challenges. The costumes required a tremendous amount of maintenance and were constantly repaired or overhauled due to usage. Performers playing the characters were not professional actors but instead friends and coworkers who were teachers, special-needs workers, bus drivers, college administrators, nurses, childcare professionals, and artists…all with and affinity for Oz and the ability to interact with the public to be a celebrity for a day!

My designed characters included, Glinda, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the West Witch, the East Witch, the Winkie Guard, the Flying Monkey, Aunt Em, Miss Gulch, the Lollypop Munchkin, the Lullabye League Munchkin, the Wizard, a Wash and Brush Up Man, a Wash and Brush Up Clip-Clip Girl, Princess Ozma (book character), Polychrome (book character), and a miscellaneous Emerald City people and Munchkins. Needless to say, I will never run out of Halloween costumes, LOL!

Below are costume-design descriptions of the most well-known characters in the group:

GLINDA: This costume underwent many metamorphoses but started very simply with a large bridal slip covered with pink tulle, a long-sleeved pink bodysuit with separate tulle shoulder puffs, a hand-sequined butterfly for the shoulder, a handmade plastic crown, and a wooden silver-spray-painted wand. The final version included a pink-satin undergown with acres of pink tulle attached to the bodice, sleeves, and skirt. The large, fairy-wing shoulder “poofs” were also designed and attached.

The skirt was decorated with silver snowflakes (beads, sequins, and glitter glue), sequined trim at the waist, and a large brooch at the neckline. A pannier–for more bulk under the skirt–was made with plastic Hoola Hoops cut to three separate sizes, wrapped in pink duct tape and pink lace, and held together with wide, pink grosgrain ribbon with a tie at the waist.

DOROTHY: A local seamstress assisted with Dorothy’s dress. I purchased the necessary washable, cotton fabric and notions and sketched the costume including details such as the blue ric rac for the blouse and the bias-cut, gingham cross-panel near the hem of the skirt. Matching blue socks and a basket were purchased at a local store and I hand-dyed and sequined a pair of pumps for the Ruby Slippers. The shoes were a simple pair of modest-heeled, dyeable satin shoes that were painted with red fabric dye and then stitched with strips of red sequins. Sequined/beaded bows were also made and attached.

SCARECROW: This was the easiest costume to design because it required a dark-green cotton shirt and brown cotton pants…all available from a local thrift store. Craft-store raffia was used for straw and scrap patches were frayed and sewn on the pants and shirt. Rope was used for a belt and to tie the wrists and ankles. The collar was made of burlap (stitched to a piece of rope) and the hat was made of black felt with a green band. The boots were brown distressed farm boots. The face makeup was water-based and chosen to match the color of the burlap neckpiece.

TIN MAN: Since there was no pattern available to make a Tin Man costume, my ex-husband and I designed one–a piece at a time. The material used was a heavy-gauge plastic held together with bolts, large snaps, and wide elastic. A detachable codpiece was designed to allow for actor bath rooming. The hat was a funnel from a local auto shop and the shoes were purchased from a local farm supply store and spray-painted silver. The ax was hand-carved from wood and also spray-painted silver. A rubber headpiece and nose were purchased from a local costume shop along with silver, water-based makeup

COWARDLY LION: This costume was made from a generic lion pattern with a medium-pile, washable, faux fur. The curly mane was a store-bought wig but different faux-fur ears were made and attached to match the Lion‘s body. The chin piece was made from two wig-shop falls sewn to a brown-dyed circle of elastic. The longer shoulder fur–also bought from a wig shop–was stitched to a detachable strip of Velcro so it could be removed for laundering. Matching brown, water-based makeup was used for the face.

WINKIE GUARD: This was an amalgamation of a store-bought costume and my own designs. The body, faux-leather vest, and gloves were pre-made, but more layers of felt and fabric were added to the skirt to give it volume. Black cotton pants were purchased at a thrift store and red and gray chevrons were stitched to the bottom of each leg. Red, faux-leather spats were designed to cover plain black shoes. The hat was made from long-pile, gray faux fur with a black feather pinned to the side. Matching red-felt side panels were also made and attached to the hat with green inner panels in case the green face makeup rubbed off.

The necklace was made with wide wooden dowels that were sliced, drilled, sanded, painted white, and strung on a durable plastic lanyard. The tassels were handmade with red yarn and the spear was also handmade from a long dowel, cardboard, styrofoam, and silver and red spray paints. A latex, costume-shop, witch’s nose was adhered using spirit gum. The nose and face were covered with layers of green, water-based makeup.

FLYING MONKEY: A generic monkey-costume pattern was purchased along with gray, medium-pile, washable faux fur. The tail was made of wired faux fur and held in place with a wide belt under the costume (a small hole in the seat of the outfit allowed the tail to look more like a natural extension of the body.) The latex hands, feet, and face were purchased from a costume shop and painted with blue acrylic. The mask hair was spray-painted to match to gray faux fur and the mask was slit up the back with snaps added to tighten it to the actor‘s face so his/her eyes would show. The cap, vest, and criss-cross panels were made with blue, red, and white felt. The black, costume-shop wings–originally were spray-painted to match the faux fur and attached with gray elastic shoulder bands that were hidden under the vest.

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