Dressing Elle in ‘Legally Blonde’

“We’re doing ‘Legally Blonde'” announced the Director.   Oh my heart smiled!  How easy can THAT be?  Contemporary clothes!  Piece of cake!  Elle wears PINK.  Find a few pink outfits and we are GOOD.TO.GO.

Well, in reality,  Elle does wear pink.  Elle actually wears A LOT of pink.  Do you know how many shades of pink there are?  In addition, Elle has A LOT of costume changes, quick ones.  And, Elle needs to show her character development through her clothes.

For my production, I  chose that pink would be Elle’s color . . .as in, it was very selectively used throughout the show.  Brooke has a pink shirt in her exercise video (she is a Delta Nu after all, and connects with Elle).  The three main DN’s have pink dresses for ‘Legally Blonde Remix’, and Emmett changes to a pink shirt and pink striped tie for the closing scene.  There was a bit of pink in the Hair Affair, but, that particular color was largely reserved for Elle.

The beginning:

In the beginning I read the script.  It was noticeable how many scenes basically ended with Elle in one outfit, and start with her in another.  I studiously watched the MTV Broadway youtube videos of the production and estimated the length of time for costume changes as best I could.    Many were in the 60-90 second range.  My first email to the the person playing Elle said “Buy a dance leo/tights or a body leotard, and be prepared to change clothes back stage”.  I also recruited a cast member to be Elle’s personal dresser.

I  searched for a costume plot for Elle and compared that to my assessment of the costumes.  Elle has EIGHT costume changes in the first half of the show.  The second half she has a minimum of 2 with/without some partial changes.  All together, she had 10 complete changes, with additions of a bathrobe, shirt, skirt, trench coat and graduation gown.  In addition we used 6 pairs of shoes, 5 purses, and a dog 🙂  (A rental estimate was around $800).

The Salon Dress/Serious Dress:

When we first meet up with Elle she is dress shopping.  The song lyrics suggest she is trying to find something subtly bridal.  Elle also needs to change clothes, onstage, in about 10 seconds.

We elected to make this happen with a separating zipper in the back of the dress.  The zipper is covered by a flowy sash.  The overdress is a pale pink with just enough beading to make it show up on stage.  Originally this dress was full length, and was too small in the back.  The volunteer shortened the dress (removing the underskirt), added fabric at the center back, and finally added the zipper and sash.  The brown zipper was the result of a miscommunication . . . but the sash takes care of that.

The underdress is a very stretchy hot pink BCBG  max azria brand knit dress.  We added a zipper in the back along an existing seam line.  The top of the dress is unzipped and around Elle’s waist.  When the overdress is unzipped and removed, she puts her arms in the underdress, slips it up over her shoulders,  is zipped up and she is done!

Elle finishes her ensemble with shiny bright pink shoes, and carries a gold purse to the restaurant.

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The pale pink dress was $3.  The hot pink dress was $8 (and probably originally retailed for around $300).  The shoes were $5.  Both zippers were purchased new.

The Shame Spiral/What You Want Part 1:

Elle begins the next part of the show eating Milky Ways and reading trash magazines.  She is bundled in a fluffy bathrobe.  There isn’t much to say about a pink bathrobe, lol.  I did have to make a new sash for it.  I found a pair of pink polka dot PJ pants, and sewed a long tube.  I pinned it to the back of the robe.

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Underneath, she wears a hot pink velour sweatsuit and a pale pink t-shirt.  (This would be a time to preset a top for What You Want Part 2, if needed).   I had been looking for a hot pink jogging suit at thrift/consignment stores for MONTHS without success.  I didn’t want baggy shapeless garments.  I also wanted something that had a bit of an upscale fitted look . . . Elle might be wallowing in her shame spiral, but, she would only go so far.

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This happens to be a Juicy Couture sweatsuit that Kohl’s had this fall.  It was a bit more (even on sale and with a coupon) than I usually like to spend, but . . . .  buying nice velour fabric, the zipper, and the pattern was also going to come with cost, plus the sewing time, so I just grimaced and bought it.   She wears this with hot pink glitter tennis shoes.

Robe:  donated, robe tie:  $2.75, pink t-shirt $2.50, pink sweatsuit:  $40, tennis shoes:  $3

Band Majorette/What You Want Part 2:

I elected to use Royal Blue, Metallic Gold and white as my collegiate colors.  I didn’t want to get into copyright issues with the “Ucla” designation, so I just opted to use a “U”.   Royal blues tend to be easier to match than the ceil blue color anyway.  I also happened to have a line on borrowing some royal blue band uniforms . .so that cinched the color choice.

The majorette outfit is upcycled from a three old dance outfits, a white colorguard leotard I found on clearance, some “gorgeous” patchwork boots, scraps of heat press hologram gold, mardi gras beads, gold glitter “leather” and stretch sequins.  Construction was a combination effort between three different volunteers.

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The skirt came from a dance outfit.  Honestly, in a pinch, that outfit would have sufficed, but, we opted to upgrade. Above the skirt there was a strip of sheer flesh tone fabric and the top was a sleeveless crop tank of the blue fabric.  This was simply cut off from the skirt.   The skirt had silver trim, so gold glitter fabric paint was added to that, and then strips of gold hologram heat press material were ironed on above the existing silver sequins.

The wide stretch sequins at the  waist, the epaulets and the narrow row of gold trim at the neck came from a second outfit.  The epaulets were embellished with the leftover weeded waste from the heat press hologram “sequins” used in the Pom uniform upgrade.

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The bodice is a stretch sequin leotard that I found at a consignment store.  The sleeves came from a white colorguard leotard.  I embellished these with some silver iron on “sequins”.

The front design is made from the gold glitter “leather” you can buy in 8.5 x 11″ sheets at craft stores (like Hobby Lobby) for about $1.50.  It is great stuff.  You can cut it, glue it, and sew it.  I looked at various military styled band uniforms online, and came up with the design.  The beads are pieces of a cheap mardi gras plastic necklace.  I sewed the basic form together, and then hot glued the beads on (adding an extra strip over the top of the final bead link to ensure it did not come loose).  I then pinned this on when it was being worn to account for the stretch in the bodice.  This embellishment can also come off for washing.

The hat is a borrowed band hat in blue, white and silver.  I traced the top and the top sides and made a pattern and sewed the cover. I added a row of stretch sequins around the edge (OK, it didn’t really fit the first time .. the fabric didn’t stretch the way I thought it would . . and that extra trim “saved” it),  I then hand sewed it to the band hat so that it can be removed before we return it.  The gold around the bottom is just a loop of stretch sequins.  I replaced the buckle neck strap with elastic for the quick change needed.

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The boots are covered in my favorite flashy sequins and match the hat cover.  I love these things.  They are easy to sew and look AWESOME on stage.  The boot covers were sewn and then glued to the boots.  A tassel was made out of some gold fringe rolled in a tube, glued, and then sewn to the boot top.

 

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It looked great on stage!

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Cost:  Blue dance dress:  donated, blue sequin leotard: $5, military style dance outfit: $3, boots:  donated, necklace: $1, Gold trim:  $1.50, fringe, gold stretch sequins & gold hologram materials–donated, gold sequin fabric:  $5

The First Harvard Outfit (“Harvard Variations”)

Elle arrives at Harvard ready to seize the day, and ready to “Wow” Warner.  Vivienne asks her “Is all that pink you’re wearing even legal?”  Elle definitely wants to be noticed, especially by Warner, and she is still defining herself by how “hot” she is.  For this outfit I selected a sequin halter top, a pair of shiny stretch jeans, a pink jacket, and pink boots.  Her accessories include a metallic pink purse, a pad of paper with a glitter backing and a glitter pink pen with feather top.

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The jacket was a fairly plain pale pink jacket.  This would not have been my first choice, but, I was not able to find a better jacket that blended with the other pinks.  I added some iron on hologram “sequins”, some hot fix jewels and then replaced the buttons with large shiny pink ones.

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The boots were done out of desperation  . . . ideally we’d have had some taller boots, but, couldn’t find anything that was suitable.  The sequins are OK, but in this instance, perhaps a bit too flashy.  A plain metallic pink stretch fabric might have been a better choice in retrospect.  She possibly could have put the pink shoes back on from the first act.

These were a pair of 50 cent ankle boots from a local thrift store.  They had a side zipper.  I made pink sequin covers for them.  I still am not sure if this was the right look . . a matte pink might have been preferable.  This cover was done a little differently than the gold boots.  I used a tube sock as a rough pattern and first shaped the toe.  I then left a gap for the ball of the foot, and sewed the part that fits in front of the heel.  I also sewed the back seam.  This took a bit of messing around.  I then cut the fabric along the zipper line and sewed this down by hand.  I also stretch and hand sewed the fabric to the top edge of the boots.  Altogether it took about an hour to cover them.  The sequins extend to the bottom of the shoe, and I thought that might cause problems with slipping, but it didn’t.

Cost:  pink jacket $3, pink sequin top $4, pink pants $1, pink purse $1.50, boots:  donated, pink sequin fabric $1 (about $14/yd, but I used just small amount), pink button $3, other trim on jacket donated

The Bunny Suit

The Bunny suit provides a bit of a conundrum . . especially if you are doing a high school production.  By definition, the outfit is supposed to be sexy . . Warner even makes reference to the biggest mistake in his life having been not asking Elle to wear such an outfit when they were dating.  The costume is also unavoidable as it is referenced in three different instances, by Elle herself, by Vivienne and by Emmett.  The outfit is also important because Elle has been set up by ‘mean girls’, and even though they had hoped to humiliate and embarrass her, she holds her head high and pretends it doesn’t matter.

An online search of images and ideas for costuming depicted everything from very modest pink dresses to push-up, high cut, and/or skin tight outfits.  My director did not want a skirt, so that decision was made.   It then becomes a balancing act to create the bunny “image” in a reasonably tasteful way.  Part of the problem is that just by identifying something as a “bunny suit” it already comes burdened with preconceived impressions, regardless of what it actually IS.

We opted to go with upcycling a hot pink bridesmaid dress.  Basically, the dress was cut off below the waist where the zipper ended.  This actually made a little peplum at the bottom of the bodice.  This particular dress had a tighter inner bodice that supported the top and held it up.  The outer layer was looser.  The bodice top was cut straight across, and was actually quite modest.  A pair of briefs were made using a pattern for a Wonder Woman costume.  They had a zipper in the back, and elastic around the leg opening.  The fabric came from the cut off skirt.

That same leftover pink fabric was added to some fur ears, and used to make a collar and cuff set.  A poofy tail was made out of tulle.

The tail was attached with velcro so that it could be removed.  She could put her next costume on over the top of this one for the quick change needed in her bedroom.  This outfit was worn over dance tights and a dance leotard with clear straps.

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Complete outfit.

In the show:

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Channeling Gloria Steinem.

Cost:  dress $6, tulle:  donated, ears:  donated

I was happy with this outfit.  I will say, in honesty, that we did have some complaints about inappropriate costuming in the show.  Again, I think this goes back to the preconceived image of a “bunny suit”.  What is most important to me, is that the cast member was comfortable with the outfit.

Chip on my Shoulder

This is the outfit that Elle changes into after she meets Emmett after the party.  While she is talking to him, and he is looking around her room for her law books, Elle goes off-stage to change.

At this point, Elle has been at Harvard for awhile.  She is beginning to figure out that she may may need to change her image a bit to attract Warner.  She hasn’t given up the pink, but, she isn’t wearing sparkles anymore.

We quickly found that this costume change was much harder than we’d originally thought.  Unfortunately, this bunny top needed to come off over her head.  That was difficult with her mic on and saying dialog.

After some trial and error, she put the next costume on over the top of this one.  She wore her own jeans, which fit over the bunny briefs.  The pink shirt we slit down the back and added a row of ribbon and some hook & loop tape to close.  She also added a jacket as just the pants & shirt looked too casual for the next classroom scene.  This also covered up any gaps in the shirt back.  To finish it off, she slipped into pink flats.

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Shirt cut open in the back. I sewed ribbon to the opening to help stabilize it as the fabric was a very soft knit. Small tabs of hook & loop tape at the top and back, and a larger piece at the bottom to keep it closed where it extended out from the jacket.

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She missed taking off the wrist pieces at this rehearsal, but she ditched them when the Greek Chorus came out at Thanksgiving.

This costume change was really hard during the show, even with helpers and minimizing the changes.  We developed some stalling dialog . . . .Emmett just knew he had to keep looking for the book until she could pop out.

Cost:  Jacket $4, shirt $3, pants:  her own, shoes:  $8

The Meeting Dewey Outfit

At this point, Elle has realized that she has the ability to actually succeed at Harvard if she applies herself.  On Broadway she wears a skirt that has a large houndstooth pattern on it–if you watch the youtube video about the costuming, it says the designer chose that to represent her transition to the Harvard environment.  I just chose to continue the theme of toning down her outfits.  The skirt is a bit longer, and the jacket more conservative and a bit darker.  She moves to tan colored character shoes.

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Cost:  Jacket $5, skirt $3, tshirt:  $3

The “Navy is my new pink” outfit

Once Elle has her internship, she is willing to take the steps necessary to achieve that goal . . and that includes leaving her pink behind.  I selected a navy blue jacket, a white lace shirt and a gray skater skirt.  I picked the above-the-knee flared skirt because I didn’t think Elle would quite go all the way to the full “lawyer image” on her first try.  The simple top was selected so that she could pull a different shirt on for the Bend & Snap, and then remove it for the court room scene.

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One thing I did discover while creating this outfit is that navy blue is a REALLY hard color to match.  I found this Ann Taylor blazer at a Goodwill, and I was very hopeful that there was a matching skirt or pair of pants somewhere.  I went over the racks multiple times with no luck.  So, I started looking for something else–which opened my eyes to the differences in navy blue, and the difference between navy blue and black.  For this outfit I was very happy to go with a contrasting neutral.

legally blonde thursday rehearsal 682Looking lawyerly, but not quite.  The flippy skirt worked because she wasn’t quite “there” yet.

Cost:  Jacket $5, skirt $4, top $2

Bend & Snap

For the “Bend & Snap” the jacket came off and a black & white wrap top with ruffles pulled on over the top.  Again, this is meant to be a transitional outfit.  The ruffles add fun, especially since she is in the Hair Affair.

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Cost:  shirt $1

The Trial Outfit #1

The first trial outfit is another variation on navy blue.  For this, we took the Bend & Snap shirt off, put the jacket back on, and switched out to a straight skirt that is longer.  She also carries a portfolio case.

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This is by far, the most conservative outfit she wears.  The skirt we found is a very dark blue/gray tweedy sort of fabric.  It has a bit of a pleat in the back for movement.  The straight cut and below-the-knee length are a true change for her.  For once, when she stands with the Harvard people, she truly blends in.  Is it any wonder that Callahan notices her now?

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Cost:  skirt $3, portfolio:  donated

Legally Blonde Remix

And we are almost to the end!  Elle has now decided that she will never fit in and she is going to return to California.  She arrives at the Hair Affair dressed in her traveling clothes.  After Vivienne talks to her she decides to stay and goes into the broom closet to change clothes.  I knew that she would need a coat, and I really wanted navy blue, so I was pleased when I found one.

The pink dress required some thought, and more looking than you might think.  Pink dresses are to be found–but most are sleeveless or strapless.  Pink tends to be a summer color, and not worn for business.

Along the way I had found a really nice bright pink pantsuit, but we ended up using it as a prop in the dress shop and she never wore it.  Initially there was some thought for using if for the first Harvard outfit, but, it seemed to formal.  It was a possibility for the closing outfit, except that it can’t show under the coat so the pants would have had to transform into a skirt.

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I found an old Adrienna Papell 100% silk dress.  That is the fun thing about searching thrift stores, you can find some nice stuff.

It did have some years on it . . so sported some wonderful shoulder pads.  It was also several sizes too big, and had a very conservative neckline.  What it DID have were long sleeves, a wonderfully flippy skirt, a nice cut, AND an awesome pink color.

To upcycle this dress, we first took out the shoulder pads, and then took tucks down the front and back to make the dress fit better and pull the sleeves up.  This made the sleeves too short, so cuffs were added.  Then, a vertical slit was cut down the center front to open the neckline.  The next step was to decide what the final look would be.  The volunteer doing this dress was very creative and sent eight (!!!) different options.

We went with the ruffle across the front.  The fabric was a scrap that matched the fabric of the dress reasonably well.  As luck would have it, on one of my last trips to our local thrift store, THE perfect pink purse was available.

Overall, I was very happy with this dress.

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Cost:  Dress $6, trim donated, blue jacket  $8

Graduation

What can you say about a Graduation gown?

Actually, we tried having a pink gown underneath, with the idea that when she went around to propose to Emmett that she could slip off the black one and be in the pink . . but we ran out of time to perfect the timing of that, so just went with the black.

 

Graduation gown & hat:  $4

Total cost for show:  about $150 + a bunch of donated items

Prepping for the show:

You will note that many of the pictures show a tag on the costumes.   Elle had a cast member assigned as a dresser, however, when we started dress rehearsals, she was not familiar with all of the scenes as she was mainly participating in the dance sequences.  I also wanted the costumes organized so that if someone else had to step in last minute, they would be able to do that.  Since the costume changes were very fast, it was imperative that the costumes were kept organized.

I made a master list of the costumes by number, and listed all of the parts.  These numbers corresponded to tags, which also listed all of the costume parts.  I used shower curtain rings to keep any hangers together.  The dresser also numbered the shoes.

I purchased a new garment rack to organize her costumes as they all were kept on stage.  I meant to take a picture of them on the rack, but must have forgotten.  This rack worked really well as it had a bottom shelf for shoes, purses etc, and also a top rack for hats, the bin that held the bunny suit, other accessories etc.

Conclusion:

Overall I was pleased with how Elle’s costumes turned out.  The fast changes were (mostly) successful (they had a problem remembering to get all of the bunny suit pieces off).  The total cost was a bit more than I had hoped (the jogging suit!), but, the amount of volunteer time to make and/or alter them was quite reasonable.

8 thoughts on “Dressing Elle in ‘Legally Blonde’

  1. I just found your site and have had fun reading through it. I have been costuming for almost thirty years. I just finished Grease last week. I love how different people come up with different solutions to costuming challenges. I look forward to reading often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! You just made my day 🙂 I was inspired to do this after my own frustrating online searches for ideas. I am just a beginner, so please give feedback and/or share ideas for stuff you’ve done!

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      • I surely will. I have several sites for my other sewing projects where we share ideas and techniques but I haven’t seen a costume one in years and years. Early on I belonged to one and we helped each other work out issues as only another costumer can do.

        Like

  2. Pingback: A Rapunzel Dress: Upcycle | costumecrazed

  3. I am starting my costume planning for our fall production of Legally Blonde, and this has inspired me so much!! Thank you for all the great ideas. A question – how did you do the cheerleader costumes for the Harvard essay scene?

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    • So much fun…glad this helped. My daughter and her friends still say this is the BEST.MUSICAL.EVER. Look at my posts for dressing Serena, or What You Want, and I talk about where I got the cheerleader stuff.

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