By Prudence Wade, PA
Olivia Newton-John has died “peacefully” at the age of 73, and fans are remembering some of the most groundbreaking roles she played throughout her career.
Few cinematic moments can beat the final scene of Grease, when Sandy (played by Newton-John) ditches her good girl pastel outfits and wins back Danny Zuko (John Travolta) wearing something completely different – a rock ‘n’ roll all-black ensemble with skintight trousers, a sexy Bardot top, leather jacket and bright red heels.
The couple sing You’re The One That I Want, marking their place in movie history – and we’ve been obsessed with Sandy’s greaser girl outfit ever since.
In his tribute to Newton-John, Travolta wrote on Instagram: “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever!
“Your Danny, your John!”
You’re The One That I Want ranks as one of the bestselling singles of all time, and Newton-John’s ‘Bad Sandy’ look has gone down in fashion history. The pants were vintage when she wore them for the 1978 movie, dating back to the Fifties – and they weren’t the easiest thing for Newton-John to dance in.
In her autobiography, Don’t Stop Believin’, she wrote: “When I tried on those pants for the first time, the zipper was broken and Albert [Wolsky, the costume designer] didn’t want to rip them trying to put in a new one or remove the old one. Instead, I’d be sewn into them every morning!
“My first thought after hearing this complex fashion fix: What if I need to pee? What am I going to do?”
The trousers and leather jacket were sold at auction in 2019 for more than £300,000, with the proceeds going to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre.
“The black leather jacket, the off-the-shoulder top and tight, high-waisted spandex leggings are so memorable, because it represents a complete switch from who she’s been through the entire film – the good, wholesome girl in pale cardigans and crinoline skirts,” says Caroline Young, fashion writer and author of The Colour Of Fashion (Welbeck, £14.99).
“Suddenly, she arrives dressed as a bad girl in black, and mirroring the look of the T-Birds, she wears a tight leather jacket with red lining (a warning sign), and it’s a total transformation into a seductress.”
Shakaila Forbes-Bell, fashion psychologist and author of upcoming book Big Dress Energy (Piatkus, £16.99, Sep 15) suggests it became so popular because it’s relatable for many women. “It’s the perfect transformational piece,” she says. “A lot of women go through that period when they want to step into a different headspace. They want to shed off their girlhood and step into womanhood, and it was the perfect visual representation of that.”
For Forbes-Bell, many experience a similarly pivotal moment “when they really find ownership over their body, their sexuality and their identity. The way she stepped out – a lot of women can recognise that. We all have that dress or that outfit that makes us feel like the one – and I think that was that for her.”
Plus, of course, “She looked bloody hot”, says Forbes-Bell.
Young accepts the messaging of the transformation might seem “slightly off” from a modern gaze, “that she has changed who she is for Danny”, but she adds: “This is countered by Danny’s own attempt at transformation with a jock cardigan. Olivia also played it with humour – looking for guidance from the Pink Ladies on how to act the part. We know she’ll probably go back to dressing like Sandy afterwards, but for now, she’s having fun as a femme fatale.”