What young girl doesn’t want to be in the ‘Pink Ladies’ after seeing Grease (1978)?
They are synonymous by their satin-lined powder pink baseball-style jacket, ‘Pink Ladies’ embroidered in black scrawl on the reverse, their name on the front, worn mostly with the collar up for that rebellious touch. Celebrating impurity, they are one of the most popular and imitated girl gangs on screen. Being ‘pink’ is a sarcastic and perhaps sexual allusion.
Specialist websites suggest for a Pink Lady we need their jacket and a poodle skirt, but what do the girls really wear and why? Rizzo, the Pink Ladies’ leader, is studied HERE, with this article focusing on Frenchy, Marty and Jan. All gum-cracking Pink Ladies (100,000 sticks of bubblegum used during filming!) have own reasons for singling themselves out as a clique. As individuals they differ and hence have their unique way of dressing. This was a notorious time for American teenagers when they began to have their own style rather than their parents’, later influencing British teen fashion.
It is squeaky-voiced Frenchy who is seen first, clad with PL jacket over shoulders, peachy plaid zip-front blouse, peach-yellow below calf-length pencil skirt, apricot chiffon scarf knotted to side of neck (very on-trend now, Western cowboy style), matching cardigan and wide burnt umber leather cinch with circular fastening, and pink pumps. Warm, fruity pastels for Frenchy, echoing her warm heart here, compared to Marty’s cool blues, Rizzo’s black and Jan’s grey. But Frenchy’s form-fitting outfits suggest she is no ingénue; she didn’t get the nickname ‘Frenchy’ being good.
Frenchy’s experimental style, eccentric red hair with array of hair-slides and flamboyant make-up show her fascination with fashion and appearance, thus desiring to be a beautician.
She constantly checks her pancake compact with beautifully manicured and painted nails, and attends to the others’ beauty needs. She isn’t clever, but her constant cheerful demeanour, profound listening skills and unrelenting poise have taken practise (the adorable actress Didi Conn actually taking work experience at a beauty school). It is fitting that she clutches a red folder unlike the other ‘Ladies’ who rarely bother. Frenchy thinks to the future and desperately wants to succeed.
For Frankie Avalon to humiliate Frenchy must be the end of her world. We see Frenchy in her ever-professional yet fitted peach-yellow short-sleeved shirt dress with pencil-style skirt , ‘La Coiffure’ (beauty school) sewn on the pocket. With oft-present white cincher, apricot cardigan over shoulders and white beads for that touch of elegance, as Frenchy wouldn’t be classy enough for pearls. Hunched over, huge red scarf clipped to her head, Frenchy reveals underneath her hot pink tinting class failure, much to the viewing audience’s delight.
‘Beauty School Drop-Out’, a trippy yet hilarious dream sequence, involves the other Pink Ladies and Grease female dancers floating and singing mock-dreamily around Frenchy’s guardian angel, evidently having fled her beauty salon.
Wearing silver Marge Simpson-esque torpedo roller wigs, sparkling caped ‘angelette’ smock dresses and silver stiletto-heeled delicate sandals drying out their long pinky-red nails and immaculate make-up, it is ironic that the Pink Ladies are dressed angelically, adding humour to the scene.
Now blonde, Doody tells Frenchy at the dance-off she looks like “a beautiful blonde pineapple”, ad-libbed by actor Barry Pearl. She looks the sweet and fanciful girl she is in a lemon chiffon (another fruity colour) dress with two sets of thin straps in lemon and lilac covered in ruffles, silvery bits, red and green florals, yellow bow with red bow on top to one side of her hoiked-up cleavage and thin red waistband going out into a wide skirt.
This, paired with lemon feathers and lilac flowers in her hair, white chiffon wrist gloves with red ribbon to the cuff, little silver pouch purse and lemon t-bar high-heels, is fussy, yet romantic and so Frenchy. She would have perused fashion magazines, discovered these were ‘in vogue’ for a prom queen, and worn them all at once.
Sex kitten Marty Maraschino sees herself as the sultry, seductive Pink Lady. Her clothes accentuate her to-die-for body – first she wears PL jacket, girly pale pink cashmere v-neck (her v-neck and scooped neck sweaters are voluptuous rather than revealing, possibly wearing a conical-stitched bra underneath, as “foam domes” were common-place in the 1950s), dark blue cincher and matching pencil skirt, small tight chiffon scarf around neck, leather frame handbag and flats.
Soft-featured Marty wears delicate jewellery, e.g. fine gold love-heart necklace and ring, all chosen perfectly compared to Frenchy’s clutter. Notice how her virgin pin, mentioned at Frenchy’s sleepover, is significantly unworn.
With her impeccable style and big, glamourous hair, Marty seems to model herself on film stars of the day. Although confident in her looks, she has her own insecurities as demonstrated with those jewel-encrusted, fashionable cat-eyed sunglasses, asking “don’t you think they make me look smarter”? At face value, Marty may be classy but once she speaks there is little there.
The superb Dinah Manoff’s standout scene is the dance-off, wearing a bottle green strapless ruched cocktail dress with diamante circular cluster between the bosom. Tight-fitting apart from a slight flare at the bottom, it goes just past the knee, but Vince Fontaine is drawn exactly where Marty wants as she jiggles about hornily yet awkwardly, cigarette holder between ripe “Maraschino, like the cherry” lips.
Her hair in a sophisticated ‘up-do’ with ruffled dress-matching ornament, drop pearl earrings, gold bracelet and clutch bag with matching high heels, Marty has seemed sexually repressed until now, spraying perfume innocently onto ‘penpal’s’ letters, faced here with the real prospect of a ‘romp’ with her dream older man. She looks grown-up, but the adolescent is revealed in her giggling shyness. For all of you blooper spotters out there, you’d be forgiven for thinking non-dancer Dinah Manoff had a few too many – she can barely stand up in her heels and sports knee pads!
Jan undergoes almost as much of an image change as Sandy throughout, albeit more gradual. Always eating, supposedly “fat”, shown through loose clothing, silly hairstyles and ridiculous posture and facial expressions, rather than reveal magical Donnelly’s slim figure.
We meet Jan in her signature look – baggy grey sweatshirt, little orange shirt collar poking through, huge orange-red, black and cream tartan skirt, white bobbysox and black Cuban-heeled leather shoes. An outfit her mother might have picked; Jan appears to hold no regard for fashion here with this hideous array, coupled with daft pigtails (dyed dark brown, her parting being coloured in with marker pen as her hair grew, as the actress was prematurely grey) in cream elastics. Her saving grace is her PL jacket, slightly too small, cuffs rolled up, and her trendy tortoiseshell sunglasses inlaid with diamante butterflies.
Jan needs the Pink Ladies the most, as it gives her a sense of identity and popularity she may not otherwise have, not being a particularly pretty or clever girl. Surely no coincidence that she wears her PL jacket the most. But Jan brings her qualities to the group, making them look good and keeping the Ladies amused.
Jan’s big moment, impersonating Bucky Beaver in the Ipana toothpaste commercial at Frenchy’s sleepover, was the actress’ idea. Clad in same grey jumper, blue and white plaid shirt underneath, white and blue pyjama bottoms, pink fluffy slippers and pigtails, she contrasts with Marty and Frenchy who have obviously given thought to their nightwear, in their girly shorty babydolls and hairnets (Marty has a scarlet red robe from a boyfriend in Korea, much to the others’ envy), though they all happily don wigs to mock Sandy.
Her turning point comes in a touching scene, where would-be suitor Putzie asks her to the dance-off and wins her confidence saying “there’s more to you than just fat”. Here she looks girly for the first time, although Grandma may have had the sewing machine out.
In an apricot chiffon collared dress with short puffed sleeves and floral embroidery, pinched in at waistband and puffing out in a circle, cream net petticoat underneath, flashing her big white pants, Jan is in joyous spirits. She wears white flats, a fashion step up from sensible black shoes; her hair is out of bunches and half-up under a sparkly tiara, corsage on wrist. She looks, and obviously feels like, a princess.
Jan’s confidence (and diet) is evident by the carnival, wearing a tight pastel green strappy dress with white buttons down and provocative neckline, and high white sandals. Along with her delicate necklace and flowers in her beautifully-curled hair, she is ready to leave Rydell a strong, self-assured woman in love, thanks to Putzie and the Pink Ladies.
Frenchy graduates happily in a significantly cute cotton white dress with huge purple polka-dots, short puffed sleeves and white cincher, garish all the way. However, the comb stuck in her belt shows she will never lose interest in preening. Her hair here was originally supposed to be green, but thankfully this was seen as a step too far.
Marty decides to stick with her own age, plumping for Sonny. In her canary yellow halter neck top, matching flower in her hair, spray-on white pedal pushers (trousers were worn only as very casual wear in the 50s’) and high white mules, she sings, dances and orders candy floss. She will always be sexy, but like all the Pink Ladies has dropped the act of ‘too cool for school’. The pink jackets are gradually discarded throughout, as they develop as individuals ready to go out into the world.
© 2009 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.