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Michael Siewart, Curator of Judy Garland's Costumes

Michael Siewart

Michael Siewert has become a regular "fixture" of our OZ festival over the years. We are happy (and very fortunate) to have brought him and his world renowned Judy Garland collection to Chesterton.
Michael began collecting "Garlandia" when he was six years old. He fell in love with "Dorothy" and loved to see her perform in The Wizard Of Oz and in her other movies. He thought this Kansas girl was pretty cool. He would direct and produce "concerts" for the family, that would consist of his younger sister lip singing to Judy Garland records! It wasn't until a few years later, upon asking his parents to take him to Kansas to meet Dorothy, that he was told who Judy Garland was. Although he was crushed that he would never be able to meet the deceased Garland, he began buying her memorabilia at flea markets and mail order. At first, he was like every other collector. He collected old magazine covers, dolls, plates, books, records, postcards, sheet music, VHS tapes, CD's, paper dolls, among a variety of other items. He would go to festivals and meet other fans, not knowing what would await him.
A few years ago Michael purchased his first movie costume that Judy Garland wore. 'At the time, there was a lot going through my mind. Of course I was concerned if the costume was authentic. Once I was sure that it was, I couldn't believe that I was going to own one. I assumed that museums bought these sorts of things. I never dreamed it was attainable. One costume led to another, which led to another. Within a few years, I had been at the right place at the right time, buying incredible items. Not only was I purchasing some of Judy's dresses from some of her most popular production numbers, (as opposed to small scene costumes), but I was amassing a concise history of her career. I had things from the early forties, the mid and late forties, early and mid fifties and even Bob Mackie gowns from her early 60's TV show, as well as her 1968 Blackglama mink coat! I remember showing the gowns to a close friend who would come over and watch Judy movies with me. She remarked, 'Mike, I remember when you used to show me your five favorite production numbers of Judy's and now you own the gowns that she wore in those numbers!' It finally hit me what I had. It has been a chore, not only networking but in caring for the garments. Let's face it, they are very old textiles, they are 'challenged.' It has taken me some time to authenticate the items, yet sometimes, you have to work quickly, especially if the seller wants his money fast, or he might change his mind to sell something so important to him! I have become very, very good with authenticating. I am often asked by other collectors to help them authenticate their items. There is one old addage one should remember, 'if it's too good to be true, it IS too good to be true.' I have seen a lot of 'fake' items out there. eBay is full of people that lie and will take advantage of a buyer. Be very careful and ask a lot of questions. If the seller is for real, they will be generous with their answers. Although I will never stop collecting, I am happy where the collection is today and I am looking for
certain pieces now. I do love to help others obtain a Garland costume.' Michael recently helped two well known Oz collectors, Steve and Morgan, locate a great Garland costume from the movie, Easter Parade!

Michael is well known in the Garland circles. He has privately met Liza Minnelli, Lorna, Sid and Joe Luft. He even met with Mickey Deans. He has spoken with June Allyson, Margaret Obrien and Soupy Sales among others. 'My collection has opened some marvelous doors...some good, and some not so good. Nevertheless, all of those experiences have enriched my collecting. Sometimes, when I am not so impressed with what I see behind 'closed doors,' with peers, family or fans of Judy's, I wish I was a 'normal' collector again, not being privy to some of the negativity. That is one reason why I love to work in Chesterton. I have never met such a group of caring, inspired and downright good people. I love to come every year and to share with Garland and Oz fans alike, the collection; Judy Garland, The Dressing Of A Legend. I do many exhibits around the country every year, but Chesterton is my most favorite. I have met so many wonderful Garland fans over the years.' Linda Hershman, a young girl of twelve, comes with her family every year from their farm in Columbia City, Indiana to see Michael and the Judy Garland collection. 'I met Linda and her family many years ago, and I am honored that they come to see me every year. They even brought grandma one year! The Garland fans can range from young people to the elderly alike. Judy Garland and her talents have reached them all.'

You can see Michael at many of the festival events. As the festival goers continue to ask to see more of Michael and his collection, we have added him to more and more of the festivities. One of the events, Munchkinland Market Days, he will be signing autographs along with his friend and endorser, John Fricke. You can even see him in his own Saturday morning parade car! 'When I am not 'working,' you will see me walking around enjoying the festival. There is none other like it and I love to see old friends every year!'

Copyright (C) 2008 Lakeshore Festivals and Events Corp./Indiana Wizard of Oz Festival.