Dressing ‘Paulette’ in Legally Blonde

Paulette is one of the BEST characters in ‘Legally Blonde’.  She has wonderfully powerful songs, a quirky character, and some of the best comedic lines.  Her character can easily steal the show.

I chose to see my Paulette as a Hippie-esque free spirit.  At this point in the show the Harvard-types are in their staid neutrals, the Greek Chorus is rocking white (and silver), Elle is in pink, and the Hair Affair group explodes with color and craziness.  Our set designer also used a lot of color in the Hair Affair.  These are fun people, and the set is warm & inviting . . . a place you’d like to go and hang out.

When I started out shopping for Paulette I did not really have a vision for her costume set.  My quest was complicated a bit by the combination of size & style I was looking for.  I did find a few statement pieces that helped to start defining her character and provide a theme in her costumes.

When we had our Costume Preview Night (our version of a Costume Parade . .we just do it during a rehearsal), I was really unhappy with Paulette.  Several pieces I thought were “fun” ended up looking more frumpy and boring on stage, and she just was lacking that “something”.

So, I went back shopping with a mission, and with a few pieces exchanged out, and a few hours of “upgrade” work, she was good to go.    A couple “themes” in her costumes included something  for her hair and sequins.  I happen to have lots of colors of string sequins.  They are easy to sew on, washable, and can add just a little bit “more” to costumes.  In addition to a hair piece and sequins, outfits included layers, fringe, some statement jewelry (necklaces & earrings) and the “unexpected”.  She wore black leggings and black boots throughout as another common theme.

 

“Ireland Costume”

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This costume included a turquoise shirt, patterned vest, long blue skirt, necklace and hair ornament.

The skirt came from Kohl’s (Black Friday sales & a 30% off coupon!).  The shirt & vest from a consignment store.  The necklace is actually a Western style belt, but we used it as a large statement necklace.  The headband has a 6″ blue fabric flower, and then fringe that matches the vest.

The vest was “upgraded” by cutting random lengths of rainbow ribbon yarn and sewing them at 1-2″ intervals along the bottom of the vest.  I did it deliberately uneven.  I also added string sequins in various colors along the lines of the design in the vest.  It was not excessively sparkly . . just a little twinkle every now and then.

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This was a super easy upgrade to this vest.  I chose fringe because I already had a vest with fringe for her . . so it continued a theme.  It would also be very easy to remove for a different character.  The fringe also has a lot of movement . .and again, the unexpected.   I also really liked how it reflected the colors in the vest.  The added blue flower in her hair also gives her a more vertical line.

legally blonde thursday rehearsal 441I continued the fringe theme on the hair piece.  You can see some of the streamers on the far side of her face.

We did have adjudicators (for a regional high school musical program) at our performance.  They (mostly) liked the costumes, but one commented that she would have liked to have seen Paulette have more of a progression from uncertain, depressed, etc to the confident, get-the-guy character at the end.  So . . I supposed this initial costume could have been plainer.  I sort of disagree with that character analysis.  I don’t disagree that she’s been burned in her personal relationships and that has affected her outlook, but, don’t see herself as defining herself by those faileds relationships.  In that way I think she influences Elle, more than Elle influences her.  But, that is just my take on it.

Cost:  Skirt $8, vest $6, top $4, donated:  ribbon, flower, necklace, headband

“Chip on my Shoulder”

Paulette makes a brief appearance in “Chip on My Shoulder”.  She is there when Emmett arrives with a Christmas gift for Elle.

Paulette wore a silly Christmas sweater and a red scarf.

Cost:  $8

“We’re Taking the Dog!”

The next time we see Paulette she is going with Emmett and Elle to bring her much-missed, much-loved dog a Birthday cake.

This is  perhaps my favorite outfit in the whole show.  I had actually forgotten Paulette needed an outfit for this scene until our Costume Preview night when she came and whispered to me “What am I supposed to wear to go to Dewey’s?”  and I thought “Oops!”  Luckily we had the extra skirt which I had purchased and then ended up not using.  When I was so unhappy with her costumes, this presented itself as an opportunity to up the crazy quotient.

I wandered around our local thrift store grasping for inspiration . . and I saw this:

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One of my costuming friends happened to be there at the same time, and she clearly thought I was nuts.  At the time I bought it I was wondering about making a vest.  I figured if I used some sort of stabilizer along the edges I could cut it out and sew it together to make a funky granny square vest–maybe even really long?

In the meantime, however, I went to work (I do that sometimes) and stopped at a different thrift store and found an ORANGE PONCHO.  Now, I thought that was the most hysterical thing ever.  First Serena says “Don’t tell me PONCHOs are back in!” and then Elle says “Whoever said ORANGE was the new pink was seriously disturbed”.  My daughter, well, she just rolled her eyes at me and sighed as I practically fell over laughing at my own cleverness.

So . . . I cut squares out of the blanket and sewed them to the poncho.  Then I added sequins, because Granny squares and sequins?  Who would ever expect that!  Going for the unexpected!


Then I was looking at the skirt, and the triangle I’d cut for the poncho . . and . . inspiration struck!  I carefully cut triangles out of the blanket and sewed them to the bottom of the skirt.  I used the bound edges as much as possible, and then  zig-zagged the cut edges together.

Actually, the blanket was old enough, and had no doubt been washed enough, that the yarn really didn’t ravel at all.  It was very easy to sew.  I also added sequins along the bottom edge, which added another row of stitching to help reinforce any cut edges.  Now, I would never expect this skirt to withstand multiple washings, but for a costume, it is just fine.  I have to tell you that I was giggling to myself the whole time I was making this outfit.

Next came her hair band.  For that I first cut a strip of the blanket, and to stabilize it, I used a piece of tulle.  I sewed the blanket piece to the tulle:

The other good thing about the tulle is that it would help provide a little friction to keep the head band on.

Then I sewed the sequins on along the front edge.  I just use a large zig-zag and sew over the sequins.  You can also sew them on with a straight stitch, but I tend to break more needles that way.  How you do it depends on the base fabric, and what you are sewing them on.

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When I was done with that part I tried it on and realized it was way too wide.  So, I just cut the back off and restabilized it with stitching.

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To make the headband I used a piece of elastic in the back and folded the end of the blanket piece around it and stitched it down.

I added some longer “tails” that I made out of the stabilized piece that I cut off the back of the headband, and attached them with a safety pin . . and it was a headpiece!

 

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I could probably have put more squares on the skirt itself.

Cost:  Skirt $4, shirt $4, poncho $4, blanket & sequins: donated.

“Bend & Snap” Outfit

The ‘Bend & Snap’ outfit was one of the few that I actually LIKED on Costume Preview night.  I did, however, add a few upgrades and tweak it a bit afterwards.

I had found the vest at a thrift store–and this was the piece that actually started my vision of Paulette in a sort of Hippie fashion.  The sleeveless varigated top/dress was another fortunate find.  I, however, did not like the sleeveless look on stage, so . . . .

I had been digging through my fabrics and weird-clothing stash and finding nothing inspiring, and somehow, I got the crazy idea to make “sleeves” out of ribbons.  I think I was inspired by the pattern of the dress itself.  I was looking at it and trying to figure out what would “go”, and it just came to me.  I had the green cuffs leftover from an (unsuccessful) previous costume project idea.

This was actually super easy.  I picked out several colors of ribbon that went with the colors in the tunic.  I added some sequins to some wide orange ribbon.  The purple is actually some thin doubleknit fabric strips cut from an old dance outfit.  I then pinned the ribbon to the shoulder of the dress and sewed it down.  Being very careful not to twist the ribbons, and to keep them straight, I sewed them to the inside of the cut off cuffs .  Then I topstitched it on the front to help hold them secure.  I determined the length by holding the ribbon up to my arm.  I wanted it just a little bit longer than her arm so it would not restrict her movement and be a bit flowy.

To finish the dress, I added a row of green sequined ribbon to the bottom of the dress and along the bottom of the cuffs.  I used this same ribbon to make a headband, and then added a cluster of orangey flowers to up the visual punch.

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In the show:

I really liked how this costume looked.  I also liked how the unusual sleeves emphasized her arm movements–both when she meets Kyle, and also when she is doing the “Bend & Snap”.

It also happens that many of Paulette’s costumes mimic the colors of the Hair Affair.  I had seen the fabric that was being used for the chair cushions, but I had not seen the actual set.  This all happened strictly by luck.  I’d like to pretend that we were both that organized and that clever . .but . .  we weren’t, lol.

“Legally Blonde Remix”

This is the Irish dancing sequence.  I knew right off that I wanted Paulette to have an outfit that initially didn’t scream “I am going to Irish dance”, but, that when the time came, would enhance the whole surreal experience.

I had actually picked up the skirt awhile ago from a thrift store just because it had a really nice border on the bottom.  I did shorten it.  I did this in a way so that the skirt could be made longer again.  I measured up from the bottom of the skirt and marked with pins the desired skirt length.  I then ran a row of zig-zag stitching along that pin line. I cut the waistband of the skirt off just BELOW that stitching line, leaving the elastic and about 4″ of fabric.  I then zig-zagged the top edge of the remaining skirt bottom to keep it from fraying.  I divided the skirt in quarters (center front, center back, and sides) and pinned the waistband on right-sides-together with the raw edges facing the top of the skirt section.  As I sewed, I easing in any excess fabric, often using little pleats.  The waistband then flipped up, and the extra fabric remains inside the skirt.  I could remove the waistband and sew it back on if I ever wanted it longer again.

I added some gray sequins to the trim pattern at the bottom of the skirt.

The base top is one that I actually used for Rizzo in “Grease” last year.  It is always really fun to be able to use something over again.  I had a gauzy top with sequin trim (that I unfortunately didn’t take a picture of before I started).  The reason I had purchased it in the first place was for the sequinned yoke.  I cut that off, and squishing here and there, managed to sew it on to the front of the shirt (upside down from the original top).

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I then cut the gauzy top layer off the top and divided it in two pieces.  I trimmed it evenly (mostly) so that it would extend below the original sleeve and zig-zagged the edge to keep it from fraying.   I sewed into the sleeve, squishing in pleats where needed.  Again, I used the “quarter” system to make it somewhat even (pin at center front, center back and at the “quarters” between those two marks–you can figure those out easily by folding as you are pinning).

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I then took what was left of the top, between where I had cut the sequin trim off the yoke and where I had cut the gauzy layer off, and made it into a headpiece.  Of course, sewing on a few sequins.

The gauzy tail end is the strip I cut off of the sleeves when I evened them up.  This was totally made of cut-off trash pieces.

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I think this outfit achieved my goal in the show.

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Cost:  skirt $4, top–reused, cut up top $2, sequins: donated

Finale:

All good things must come to an end . . and so does the show.  In the final sequence several years have passed . . Paulette is now married to Kyle, and life is good.  As she sings the epilogue she stands (pregnant) to make the closing “statement”.

So . . you’d want something a bit memorable.  This outfit consisted of a maroon cape (reflecting the Harvard colors, especially for Graduation), a full white shirt, a funky zoo animal necklace, crazy leggings, head scarf, and her pregnancy belly.  The belly was merely a circle of fabric stuffed with some random fluff stuff, and tied around her waist with long ties.  Nothing fancy or expensive.

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Of course when she stand up, everyone giggles.  The cape did a good job of helping to  hide her little “surprise” until she was ready.

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Cost:  top reused, cape $15, pants $8, necklace donated.

Overall I was pleased with Paulette’s costumes.  I felt like they helped to shape her character and enhance her performance.  We had the best time coming up with crazy stuff for her to wear.  I did spend a bit more $ on the final cape than I typically would.  When I first ordered it, I had a vision that it would be the defining piece, and would be used more than once.  As it turned out, that didn’t happen as I really didn’t find things that complemented it, and her costumes ended up going another direction.

 

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