This instantly recognizable costume, first worn by Judy Garland as Esther Smith in the 1944 musical Meet Me In St.Louis, was designed by Irene Sharaff. The gown comprises of a two-piece blue/grey crepe wool tiered dress with tassels and a yellow silk blouse, though they have faded over time.

Sharaff, who was nominated fourteen times for an Academy Award for best costume design (winning five of them), was a wonderful and well known costume designer for many years, and her gowns were often known for their attention to detail and use of bright colours. An interesting item of note for Shariff was that unlike many costume designers at the time, with the exception of a few years at MGM and RKO, she never worked for a specific studio under contract, instead choosing to freelance. This enabled her to work on productions for several studios.

In 1969, Irene designed the costumes for the musical Hello Dolly! While she created many new gowns for the production, she seems to have pulled several of her older creations for use on extras. A costume test photo shows that this dress was used on an extra in the finale scene. The details on the blackboard even tell us that it was June 6th, 1969 on the day that it was worn.

Since over 20 years passed between uses of this costume, it is not impossible to imagine that it was possibly used in several other productions in between.

Debbie Reynolds, who amassed a large Hollywood costume collection, purchased this gown some years ago. On June 18th, 2011, this costume went up for auction, where it sold for $16,000.

Costume Credit: Jeffrey

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