Chasing The Wicked Witch of the West
Today, I did a podcast with Cameron Cloutier where we reviewed / geeked out on The Wizard of Oz. Cameron, as you may remember, is the writer/director that created The Queen of Hearts that I’ve written about before .
I’ve been seeking opportunities to talk about films and media with others that love them, and am looking forward to having more great conversations with Cameron over at Obnoxious and Anonymous. Today’s discussion about the Wizard of Oz was fun. Check it out:
Given my level of animation, I’m sure that you can pick up on the fact that I’m feeling very inspired by the Wizard of Oz and it’s really hard not to be. It’s an irresistible little movie. And as far as movies go, I think it’s a quintessentially American story and movie (for all of those goods and ills, and there are many). Part of that animation is due to the fact I’ve also been doing a spot of research about the costume the Wicked Witch of the West wore. I want to use that lovely sewing machine of mine to make myself some pieces of it.
In a stroke of great timing, one of my favorite YouTube historians, Kaz Rowe, featured the crazy stories about Wizard of Oz just yesterday! Unfortunately, not featured in that (and many other documentaries I watched about the movie), were super high quality images of her costume.
Strangely, it’s been a challenge to get really good images that would give the full detail of her costume yet the shapes are so familiar and iconic. Generally, Margaret Hamilton’s witch wears a ‘Witch Hat’, gathered shirt waist with a high collar. Dramatic sleeves with strips / cut out detail. A corset-laced swiss waist with tabs, a wee belt pouch, and a bell skirt. All of this is doable. What I really wanted was some more close up imagery just to get a better idea of what the costume looked like.
The Wicked Witch of the West is iconic. Part of that reason is that a lot of her costume is grounded in history. We’ve had images of witches dating back to 1720!
And I don’t know if you know this, but society’s treatment of witches is problematic. That carries over into society’s portrayal of witches. It’s also complicated — as history can be, and as with a lot of things in fashion history, it’s worth studying.
Appearances other than Oz
One some sites, it says it’s not clear where the costume ended up. But then, there are moments like Margaret Hamilton on Mister Rogers Neighborhood in 1975, where it’s claimed she has the original costume, and it’s easy to get a lot of details on how it looks and works!
It was seeing this clip again that made me want to make my own take on the Wicked Wiich of the West. Her appearance on Mister Rogers Neighborhood gives a great view of how the pieces for her costume went together, and I loved seeing it.
It ends up that she wore a Wicked Witch of the West costume again in the very recently recovered episode of Sesame Street:
I thought I’d try and dig up any information in case the costume was reused by using https://recycledmoviecostumes.tumblr.com/search/witch, and I managed to find that it was reused in this stereoscopic movie called “Third Dimensional Murder,” and you can really tell they loved using the 3D tricks.
As I’ve researched what she wore, it’s been a delight to read about who she was as a person. She took on the role of the Wicked Witch of the West when she was a single mother, and seeing how gracious she was … it’s just endeared her to me. Imagine how hard things must have been — and then on top of it, the trials she went through for the filming! Her son has gone on to speak about his mother and live a grand life. They were close — they even bought an island in Maine together! She seems just so lovely, and the more I research what she was wearing, the more I delight in who she was.