Dressing Sharpay & Ryan: High School Musical

I decided to start my blogging about “High School Musical” (HSM) with  Sharpay and Ryan, because that was where I started, and many of my other costuming decisions branched off of my vision for them–either complimentary, or in contrast.  Early on, I decided that they should dress in coordinating clothes, and that pink would be “their” color.  I had an image of an “old money” Chanel sort of look . . . I didn’t quite end up with this, but it is where I began.

My costuming of this show was a little different from previous shows because I wanted to incorporate the input of the cast members into their costuming choices and character development.  I also anticipated they might provide some of their own costumes.  Our initial appointments were much more open–with me offering a selection of costume possibilities and my ideas, and asking them to identify what scenes they were in, what costumes they would need, and how the planned to play their character.  Partly I did this because I knew that with modern clothes if they didn’t like what I gave them, I would see a variety of surprises showing up on stage; but largely as a transition to a time in the future when a different costumer who might ask them to provide more of their own costume pieces.  I would say I was more “less” than “more” successful in this approach, but it was a learning experience on my part.

My vision for Sharpay and Ryan was inspired by an after-Halloween clearance sale on halloweencostumes where I saw these tuxes:

I REALLY liked the idea of Ryan rocking a red tux for the closing finale number, and using the same tux in a different color for the first audition scene provided some nice consistency.  The outfits came with jacket, pants, vest, shirt and tie.  They are nicely constructed, and the pants washed well.  They WERE a bit of a splurge, even on sale, but I have a feeling there will be lots of other shows/occasions in the future to use various parts of the outfits.

Once I had these two costumes, I hoped to build the rest of their image around this beginning.  I wanted Sharpay & Ryan to be a little bit “off”.  Not only are they theatrical kids, but they clearly come from monied, indulgent parents and have trouble fitting in with the other students.  Separating them by style and color helps to emphasize that discord.  I also wanted these two characters to be dressed in coordinating costumes, not only because they are twins, but to emphasize their isolation and reliance on each other.

HSM takes place over a five-day school week, so I have divided the post up in that manner.


The opening sequence is important for establishing the personalities of the different characters.  Sharpay and Ryan walk in with a definite “Rule the School” attitude, establishing their uppity and entitled view of life.

The cast member playing Ryan liked the idea of reflecting the movie costuming by utilizing hats as part of the “Ryan” image.  Here he wears a bright pink fedora style hat.  He is wearing a pink button down shirt, his own white sweater, and his own pants.  This dressy look contrasts nicely with the casual look of the basketball players and skater dudes, and the darker colors of the Brainiacs.  Sharpay is wearing a pink dress with a ruffled skirt and a pale pink bolero style sweater (embellished with some rhinestones at the neckline and sleeves).   The skirt has great movement and the gems glitter just enough to give her a little “extra”.

She is wearing pink shoes and carries an oversized blingy bag.  I had mixed feelings about the bag, and might have gone with a smaller cross-body bag in a lighter color, but, the cast member liked this bag, so that is what we went with.  The pink shoes are part of her over-the-top-but-out-of-synch look (remember them from “Legally Blonde”)

It was important to look at Sharpay, Taylor and Gabriella as a group in this scene.


The sweater Taylor (center) is wearing has an argyle pattern.  At our first costume preview, both Sharpay and Taylor also had black/dark colors on, and it made them look much too homogeneous.   By putting them all in skirts, it also gives the idea that while they all are different, they are the similar as well (at least that was my intent!).

Sharpay  & Ryan continue this look into the Darbus classroom.  Cell phones are an important part of their characters, and they opted to use pink ones to match their outfits.  (Some were actual old cell phones, and some were cases filled with styrofoam covered with black duct tape and/or cellophane).

They are next seen in Chemistry lab and on the phone (note their black back-up phones).  Sharpay will need a lab coat for this scene (which I point out becasue I missed it until I saw the costumes on stage).

This will be followed by detention.  I have them coordinate with Ms. Darbus to create a visual connection to her.



In the first audition scene I used the pink tux jacket and pants for Ryan.  We used a rhinestone embellished tux shirt for his “bling”.  This really was the perfect amount of flashy.  After the first look at costumes on stage I was thinking I would need to add bling to the jacket and pants and was a bit unhappy with his “pinkness”,  and then I remembered this shirt, and it was wonderful.  The combination of the white shirt and the centered bling was just enough.  He had trouble putting the tie on during rehearsals, and I actually preferred the look without as the tie was a little too nerdy.

tux shirt with rhinestones

My original thought for Sharpay was this dress upcycle:

I used the full bottom of the dress for the skirt, and it was quite full in the back and moved well.  The sequins were nicely blingy, and I liked the retro look.  Unfortunately, we had some issues and the skirt liked to “climb” as she danced.  As time was running out, I dug through my “bling box” looking for something stretchy and easy fit, and found this dress, which, while not quite as dressy, moved beautifully on stage.  I would definitely use this spangle sequin fabric again!  She wears her own glittery heels.

“Cellular Fusion” occurs on Tuesday evening.  Depending upon your set . . . Sharpay may never leave the stage, merely turning around and it is Wednesday and “Status Quo”.  We did have a quick scene change, but we still pre-set most of her Wednesday costume.  Ryan, too, wore part of his Wednesday outfit.

Early on I had asked my Sharpay if she had any statement shoes, and she ordered a pair of thigh high pink boots.  These worked well for the “Status Quo” scene (and while not the Chanel look I had originally imagined, lol, they were a dramatic look and fit well).  The pink sequin headband is used to helped keep any of the “cake” off her hair.  She is wearing a robe over her skirt and top–and this also help to hide her drama-boots, after all, we wouldn’t want to give her next look away prematurely.  After she finishes her lines, she goes offstage and removes the robe and replaces it with a leopard print fur jacket.   If she had remained on-stage the entire time, my plan was she would remove the robe, hand it off to a stage hand, and replace it with the jacket as she moved to her next position.  Ryan has time to add costume pieces as he has off-stage time while she gives her “Rules” speech.  Here he adds a matching leopard print vest and a white hat.


And then . . . the cake in the face!

We used a layer of whipped topping on a cake form.  Sharpay has intermission and the rooftop garden scene to repair her makeup.  She removed the whipped topping from her face, and smeared some on her jacket.  The fur jacket worked very well.  We could easily wipe the whipped topping off and it didn’t soak in or stain.  Originally I  had made some pieces of “cake” to pin to her jacket, but, in the end, using the actual whipped topping worked fine.  (Shaving cream was nasty if it got in her mouth, and it did get close to her eyes as well).

Sharpay next is seen at  her locker with Zeke where she selects a new top (we used a jacket).


She is easily able to walk off stage, remove her fur jacket and replace it with the pink jacket, and walk right back on-stage for the study hall scene.

The jacket is edged in pink sequins.  It is worn with a multi-color sequin top and a black skirt.  The jacket was sized down by making a pleat in the center back, and adding tucks along the curved back and front seams.  It no longer buttons closed, but it doesn’t need to and it hugs her body nicely.  Ryan is rocking his own leopard print shoes.


Thursday begins with Sharpay and Ryan doing a little rehearsal of their pairs audition dance.  Sharpay is wearing a hot pink unitard.  I had initially offered this as an option and the cast member wasn’t crazy about it, however, our Director LOVED it . . . and so she wore it, and I had numerous comments from audience members about how much they loved this costume (which was a thrift store pick find).  Sometimes things just work out 🙂  Ryan is wearing an outfit of his own.  The shirt is light pink.  It is a casual look and while I initially wasn’t crazy about his choice, I grew to like it as I think it helps move him toward his independence from Sharpay.  We see him being a bit snarky to her in this scene, and he helps Troy find Gabriella.  This shabby-but-chic look is a hint of his rebellion to come.

Later on Thursday Sharpay and Ryan do a brief walk-through study hall.

Sharpay is wearing the pink bolero sweater from the first scene and a sparkly silver dress (another Director pick).  Again, she contrasts to the casual look of the other students.  Ryan was supposed to keep the same shirt on, and change from the overalls into the black pants that go with the “Bop to the Top” outfit . . but he forgot at this rehearsal (he didn’t forget again, as he was late for his next entrance, lol–so it was good it happened during a rehearsal).  I liked the switch to the black pants because, while it was fine to show his more casual side to just Sharpay, it didn’t fit with his “school image”.


Friday marks the big finale to the show and LOTS is happening on stage!  To the left we have the basketball team and the championship game, to the right we have the Science Decathlon, and in the center we have the pairs auditions.  Once again, I coordinated Ms. Darbus with Sharpay and Ryan.  I went with a blue theme, because that is what the audience expects from the movie costuming.  (I’ve recently been obsessed with the costumes from the Broadway musical “Anastasia” and the costumer remarked on much the same thing . . she originally had Anastasia wear a pink dress in Paris, but after audience feedback and disappointment, switched to a movie-inspired blue dress, for the actual Broadway show.)

Sharpay wears a thrifted dance costume that was upgraded with bling and has 18′ of feather boa pinned to the bottom.  Ryan has a glittery aqua eyelash fabric shirt, with a sequined  belt and sleeve accents.  I’ve fallen in love with feather boas recently.  Originally these boas were pinned on to a different dress (which we rejected once we saw it on stage).  I just unpinned them from that dress and pinned them on to this one.  There are two marabou boas around the top, and 3 6′ 70 gm boas around the bottom.  These can easily be removed and used for another costume.  The front design is a sequin applique on net that I stitched to the dress, and then added extra gems and motifs cut from glitter “leather”.  The three pink circular ruffles are edged in black horsehair which gave them lots of body.  I added two rows of string sequins to the top, and one to the bottom of the top two ruffles, and the bottom one has the feathers pinned to it.  The bodice is a black stretch velvet/velour and I love the richness that fabric has on stage, especially when you compare it to the black of his pants, or the black knit of the waistband on his shirt.  I wanted costumes with a Latin feel to reflect the rhythms in “Bop to the Top”.

Costume details:

For the celebration after the big game, Sharpay wears a sparkly red dress, and Ryan rocks his red tux (with the same white sparkle shirt).  They have plenty of time for this costume change during “Breaking Free”.

The red dress was a donated Prom dress that was maybe 15 years old.  It was a confetti glitter dot fabric, and oh my, was it ever shedding dots, especially where the skirt was stretching on the bias cut.  This was a floor length dress that I just cut the bottom ruffle off and raised it up.  A piece of the leftover fabric was used to fill in the sweetheart neckline.  It looked great on stage, and provided the “Wildcat” look Sharpay needed for the finale.

Sharpay & Ryan are the most costume-intense characters in this show, and also require the two “specialty” outfits for both audition sequences.  The cake situation was less of a problem than I originally thought it would be, but that was due to the smock-styling and fabric type of the jacket we used for the “Status Quo” scene.  You can also just pick something very washable and plan on doing laundry in between each show.  I already had to do laundry between each performance because of make-up on the white basketball uniforms, so, I could easily have done something of hers as well.

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