Bad Girl Rizzo: Combining two dresses

Rizzo is the Bad Girl of “Grease”, who eventually shows a soft heart inside her tough exterior.  The costume plot in the back of the script “Grease:  A New 50’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Musical’, published by Samuel French, Inc., indicates that Rizzo wears “Black prom dress, black heels” (p. 80) for the Big Dance Scene.  Rizzo is described in the Cast of Characters (p. 5) as “tough, sarcastic and outspoken, but vulnerable”.  To give a clue to the style one might costume her in, on p. 41 when Miss Lynch says “Anyone using tasteless or vulgar movements will be disqualified”, Rizzo loudly says to boy-friend Kenickie “That let’s us out!”.

While most 1950’s dresses are have full skirts & defined bodices, there are some from the late 50’s that begin to show the drop waist style:

And then, you always have to take popular media into consideration–here is the image of Rizzo from the 1978 movie “Grease” (I do not own this picture):

I wanted Rizzo to have a darker, more edgy look–especially in comparison to the bride-white that Patty was wearing (see a previous post).

I started with three dresses:11059496_10206685502842715_4649483286386167063_nThe first one is a fitted mermaid style black satin bridesmaid dress.  The dress is TINY  . . . the original purpose I bought it for a couple years ago did NOT happen as it was nowhere close to fitting my daughter . . . it is probably a 0 or 00.  Seriously, really small.  The skirt is ruched and has a bubble-bottom (the front is longer than the lining, and they are attached together with a poofy filling inside).  The middle dress is a black velvet sheath (that also came with a matching long sleeved jacket that I eventually decided to use).  The third dress is a teal taffeta dress with a really nice bow on the side that I did not use in the end.  Even the best-planned upcycle sometimes takes control of its own destiny and doesn’t turn out how you thought in the end 🙂

I wanted to make a drop-waist dress for Rizzo.

The first thing I did was to cut the skirt off of the black satin dress.  This upcycle was complicated a bit in that while the black satin dress was very small, the black velvet dress was a plus size.  There was additional width in the black satin skirt from the natural way that the sheath flared out over the hips–but I would need to “create” more.

In the measurements that I had for the cast member portraying Rizzo, I had the “desired skirt length”.  I also had “nape to waist”.  I added those two measurements together, and had an idea of how long the finished dress needed to be from the shoulder to the bottom of the dress.  I then sewed the front of the skirt to the front of the dress, using a zig-zag stitch.sewing skirt to dressHere are some inside views of how it looks:



Once again, I did not cut off the inside dress, just left it intact inside.

back "v"Since I was combining a smaller dress to a larger dress, I needed to get “space” from somewhere.  I opened the center back seam, creating a “V” shape in the back.

At this point, since I did not have an accurately sized dress form, I had a fitting with the cast member to determine where to sew the skirt down.


The arrow shows the point at which the original “top” of the skirt stops, and where the “V” starts.  Additional fabric was folded down to the inside to make a nice shape to the “V”.


inside viewThis is an inside view showing the open lining of the skirt, on top of the inside of the velvet sheath dress. I did not finish that inside, just reinforced the lining so it would not open further, and left it as is.

Folded down fabric to make the “V”–inside:folded fabric

I wanted the dress to have more poof at the bottom and a little bit of color (Originally the cast member was going to wear hot pink satin shoes for fun, which is why the trim is hot pink.  In the end she wore black shoes, but the pink remains).  I took a black petticoat, cut it open along one side, and zig-zagged the raw edges so they wouldn’t fray.  I took some pink tulle that I had, and squish-ruffled some pink on top of the black.  (This is an inexpensive petticoat, readily available on ebay from various sellers, typical cost between $4-10).


Next, I attached this to the sheath dress, underneath of the satin skirt.  I didn’t cut the elastic off on the top, so it was a little bulky, so I just sewed it as best I could, and left “loops” of elastic free.  The advantage to doing this, is that if I want, I could take the petticoat out and sew it back up.

petticoat sewed to dress

Next I made a bow for the dress.  The bow is actually the bodice that I cut off of the top of the satin dress.  Note the folds from the front detailing, and the plain back.  I finished the edges with a zig zag, and the tension on my machine was off, so the bobbin thread shows.  I did color over it a bit with a black sharpie.  The white didn’t show on stage, so I didn’t worry about it further.





I wanted to make the dress flexible, so I sewed a ribbon to the front of the dress and then a matching one between the petticoat and the front of the dress so that the amount of petticoat that is shown can be flexible.  The bow is pinned to the dress, so it can be removed for washing, or to change position.  It can be pinned from the inside, or, if pinned on the outside, just cover the pins with black electrical tape for the show.


I then trimmed the top of the bodice with pink tulle:


And, hand basted strips of pink tulle into the jacket to show through the cut-work trim.


The cost of this upcyle:  Black satin dress, $3; black velvet sheath & jacket, $12, black petticoat, $6, pink tulle–a little off a roll of 100 yards I already had, black ribbon–some I already had.

Unfortunately, I do not have very good pictures of Rizzo in this costume.

rizzo 2


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