The loss of life of Olivia Newton-John this week was adopted by an avalanche of tributes from celebrities and followers on social media. And the picture accompanying a lot of the posts of was Newton-John as Sandy Olsson within the final scene of her signature 1978 movie, Grease. Sporting tight black trousers, an off-the-shoulder black prime, purple mules and biker jacket, together with her hair teased and a cigarette in hand, she gazes into the eyes of co-star John Travolta as Danny Zuko.
Launched almost 45 years in the past and set within the Nineteen Fifties, Grease stays a part of the zeitgeist – with Newton-John’s now-infamous makeover and remaining outfit central to that. Followers paid tribute on Twitter, with one writing that the outfit “has formed my vogue type since I used to be about three” and one other saying “the world modified” after seeing it. The get-up is so recognisable that it’s a standard selection for costume events. Celebrities together with Gigi Hadid, Jessica Simpson and Hailey Bieber have been Sandy for Halloween in recent times.
The continued impression is partly due to the outfit’s place within the movie. Within the remaining scene, Sandy – beforehand painted as a sq. within the cutesy poodle skirts and pastel colors of the Nineteen Fifties – is reworked right into a “unhealthy woman” in figure-hugging black and leathers. “It appears to have a approach of representing [the] goals of everybody,” says Oliver Gruner, who edited the 2019 guide Grease is the Phrase. “[Sandy] transforms from a shrinking violet … [It’s an example of] simply completely turning into a distinct character, remaking your self.”
“It was very clear from the start that she must change,” says Grease’s costume designer, Albert Wolsky. “The thought was simple as a result of she had been so girlish, so that you needed to go the opposite approach – completely tight and complex.” Whereas Wolsky made Newton-John’s outfits for a lot of the film, the notorious prime and trousers have been purchased classic. As Newton-John relays in her 2019 autobiography, the zip was damaged and he or she was sewn into the trousers every morning. “They have been so outdated, and there was only one pair, so there was no room for error,” she wrote. “One rip and catastrophe.”
However there was feminist critique of Sandy’s transformation, as a result of it’s she, not Travolta’s Danny, who adjustments – he does flip up in a geeky cardigan to indicate his love, however it’s quickly ditched when he sees the all-new Sandy. Colin Richmond, costume designer for the London stage present Grease the Musical, is uncomfortable with this ingredient. “It feels mistaken to me that somebody ought to change themselves for one more particular person to achieve their affection,” he says. However, he says, it additionally supplies dramatic impact. “Maybe there’s one thing so at odds and so polar reverse about Sandy’s remaining look that offers us a jolt. Perhaps that’s all a part of its greatness.”
Gruner says humour is all-important. “You could possibly learn that remaining scene as her transferring from one stereotype to [another],” he says. “[But] Newton-John performs that function with a tongue wedged firmly in her cheek … [The way] she appears to be like to her associates for instructions on how you can drop the cigarette, for instance.”
Kate Bailey, a senior curator on the V&A in London, who works on costume, believes the outfit was, on the time, a glimpse into the longer term. “It throws us into the daring, empowered dressing of [the 1980s],” she says. “[The 70s] was a time when girls have been sporting pinafores and flares. [This outfit] is marking a second within the story of Grease, nevertheless it’s additionally a vogue assertion. It actually goes forward of its time.”
The simplicity of the outfit – black trousers, black prime, purple lipstick – has assisted its endurance, says Bailey. “It’s so daring and traditional and easy and horny that many individuals can put on it,” she says. “It’s so glossy and [anyone] can afford to [replicate] it.” Wolsky says it was essential that the transformation was whole. “She needed to have sure hair, make-up,” he says. “It’s all a bit. If she’d had the identical hair [as the rest of the film] and that costume, it wouldn’t work.”
After her loss of life, different type moments from Newton-John’s profession are prone to be rediscovered. The scarf and leotard worn for her 1981 hit tune Bodily will little question attraction to a era raised on athleisure, whereas the spacey disco look of the 1980 movie Xanadu already has a cult following. However, says Bailey, “I don’t suppose it can ever eclipse Grease. It’s the character of Sandy. That costume, that breakout second, that response by Danny.”
Wolsky, a dressing up veteran whose profession spans six a long time, says it stays a part of his popularity. “That might be on my tombstone, that’s for certain,” he says. “I’ve executed Sophie’s Selection, I gained an Academy Award for All That Jazz, however that is the one which I’m that I’m recognized for.”
Newton-John bought the jacket and trousers for $405,700 (about £335,000) at public sale at Julien’s in 2019 to boost cash for her most cancers centre. The trousers have been purchased by Sara Blakely, the founding father of Spanx, and they’re framed and displayed on the wall on the firm’s workplaces. An nameless fan purchased the jacket after which given again to Newton-John as a present. “She known as the jacket her ‘child’ and stored all of it her profession,” says Martin Nolan, govt director of Julien’s. He organised the shock of giving the jacket again. “She thought she was getting a pet [and] opened a giant pink field,” he says. “I’ve by no means heard such shrieks of pleasure.”