They’re not spandex. Not leather. Not disco pants.
I want to end once and for all the belief that Olivia Newton-John’s character ‘Sandy’ in the 1978 summer movie ‘Grease’ was wearing black disco pants at the end of the film. I have repeatedly written here that those pants she wore were undoubtedly the inspiration for what shortly thereafter became the spandex disco pant which began appearing on TV shows and album covers in the fall of the same year. But it’s wrong to call them spandex or disco pants or, for the even less knowledgeable, leather.
Here is an excerpt from ONJ’s book, “Don’t Stop Believin,'” where she discusses those pants in-depth.
So there you have it! That’s the real story of the famed pants directly from the horses’s mouth (or pen)!
These pants actually sold at auction last year for over $162,000! They were purchased ironically enough by the founder of Spanx. Here are some photos from the auction house:
And some info from the auctioneer:
A pair of custom-made stretch satin, figure-hugging, black high-waist pants worn by Olivia Newton-John in the finale of Grease (Paramount, 1978) when she and John Travolta perform “You’re the One That I Want” and “We Go Together” The pants have a gold-tone clasp to fasten the attached belt, a back zipper, and a row of snap closures to the ankles. No labels present. This is the one and only pair of pants prepared for and used in the production, kept by Newton-John for more than 40 years.The pants were vintage even at the time of production in the late 1970s; they were originally made in the same period as that portrayed in the film, the 1950s. Newton-John had to be sewn into them to accomplish Sandy’s shocking “bad girl” transformation.
So ONJ in her book called them sharkskin while the auction house called them stretch satin. Stretch satin sounds more unbelievable considering the pants are from the 1950s.
A few things I was never able to know about these pants until now includes that they have no back pockets. I was never able to tell from the short scenes of ‘Sandy’ wearing them at the end of the film. Many times I can’t even tell actual spandex disco pants have pockets in some film, video and photos. So I never knew. Also, these pants did have a zipper though no button. You could clearly see the belt clasps but not much else in that area. Finally, the description says there were rows of snap buttons at the ankles. No wonder they were so tight at the ankles!
Her book says the zipper was broken so she had to be sewn into the pants. I had heard about her having to be sewn into the pants for some time, but initially I thought it meant they were trying to get the pants to fit so tight on her that they were sewing up the legs. But no, they had to sew to keep the pants up on her due to the broken zipper.
While the pants looked great on her in the film, knowing all this about them I would not have been interested in having a pair. But thank the gods who took inspiration from them to create something not only similar but absolutely better that all of us could wear.
Getting rid of the clasp belt: great move!
Getting rid of the snap buttons at the ankles: awesome!
Adding back pockets: best thing ever!
Making the pants comfortably stretch: better than life!
So hopefully everybody reads this and knows once and for all the truth about Sandy’s not-really-disco-pants. I’m sure every woman who has ever played Sandy in a play or show or movie was eternally grateful for the creation of the disco pant so that she could comfortably play the part and look superb simultaneously. Perhaps someday they can create a reversing-the-roles production of Grease where a ‘good boy’ wants the ‘bad girl’ and at the end of the movie he goes all ‘bad sexy’ by wearing disco pants, a leather jacket and perhaps some Converse sneakers. Wouldn’t that be interesting!