The Judy Garland-starring 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz, is one of the most enigmatic modern mythologies, a favourite of many literary masters including Salman Rushdie. But as in all powerful texts, Oz, too, has its ‘meta’ episodes. The film’s heroine, Dorothy, may have been whisked away in a tornado from Kansas to a land that resembles our own hyper-media society dominated by a grand, hidden magician’s smokes and mirrors (read: technology). But it was the mystery of a vanishing costume — Dorothy’s blue-and-white checked dress worn by Garland — that provided an additional layer to Oz’s magical, metaphysical value. That mystery has, decades after the dress’ disappearance, been finally solved. Almost as if by magic — if finding a dress in a trash bag on top of a mailbox at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC can be called magic.
Much scholarship has sprung from readings of the film. More imaginative speculation has had the missing dress finding itself on the other side of a breach in the fabric of space-time — which would do well as an explanation in Emerald City, capital of the Achhe Din land of Oz. But magic can seem banal — be it in the form of Wi-Fi, or a talking scarecrow, or a device named after a flying horse that eavesdrops. Or even the return of a dress in a trash bag after decades.