Object of Interest from the National Museum of African American History & Culture

Dorothy's Dress

An object that I found of interest at the National Museums of African American History and Culture is Dorothy’s Dress from the Broadway musical The Wiz. The Wiz is an amazing musical and has won countless Tony awards. As NMAAHC writes, “The song lyrics, script, sets, and costumes all reference and champion the struggles and triumphs of African Americans” (NMAAHC webpage “Ease on Down the Road”). This musical is incredibly powerful and the costumes unforgettable.

I personally really love this musical. My high school did a production of The Wiz and I was in it (but I was a very small part). I remember singing the songs every evening after rehearsal and to this day I still catch myself humming “Brand New Day.” Some of my favorite artists were also a part of the creation and production of this musical back in the 1970s such as Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, and Michael Jackson.

Dorothy’s dress is unique because although The Wiz is an adaptation from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, it looks nothing like the dress from the movie production of The Wizard of Oz in 1939.  I think there is a reason for that. While The Wiz may take pieces from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it is its own unique and influential work of art. I am interested in learning more about this piece and the meaning behind it. Why is it white with red ribbons? Why was Dorothy’s original blue dress passed for the creation of a new outfit? Is there a deeper meaning to its colors or its design? Was the designer trying to tell us (or show us) something? I feel that learning more about the dress can help explain many other aspects of the musical, and possibly what was happening in the world at the time of its creation.

Location: Culture/Fourth Floor 4 054