Dressing Gabriella (and Troy): High School Musical

rooftop garden, HSM

Gabriella Montez is the leading lady in “High School Musical”, and she, in contrast to most leading ladies, wants to be a part of the chorus.  She has recently moved to a new school, and, having struggled with her identity at her old school, she just wants to sit back, get the feel of the school, and basically fly under the radar for awhile.   She does, of course, meet a BOY, so that changes things somewhat, and in the end she does have her moment in the spotlight.

When I started dressing Gabriella, I was looking to provide a contrast to the Sharpay-Ryan character.  I wanted to avoid pink, and I wanted her to mainstream, and avoid strong colors or patterns.  She also needed to relate to Troy, and show the development of her character.  I was fortunate because my college-freshman daughter sent home a bin of rejects over Christmas break, and so I had a nice selection of costume potentials to begin my costume quest.

Briefly about Troy:

As a basketball player, Troy (obviously) has his BB uniforms and team apparel.  However, because Troy is struggling with this identity as “only” a basketball guy, I chose to dress him in casual school clothes for all but his specific BB scenes.  In contrast, the other BB boys were told to wear their jackets like they were T-bird jackets, and to mix & match their team shirts, athletic pants and other gear as they chose.  Troy wears casual, understated neutrals and subtly reflect Gabriella (or vice versa, depending on which costume came first).


The Monday opening sequence introduces us to all of the main characters.


Ichose a navy blue polka dot dress with a mustard yellow sweater for Gabriella.  She wears her own tennis shoes, and carries a heavy backpack.  The skirt and sweater ensemble is similar, yet different, to that of Sharpay and Taylor.  Initially we tried a white sweater, but the yellow color was a better choice.  She and Troy connect in the New Years Eve flashback.    These outfits are also worn for the Darbus classroom scene and detention.  Troy has a fairly quick change into his basketball uniform for the “Head in the Game” sequence.

Gabriella needs a lab coat for the chem lab scene.


Tuesday is the audition scene.  Gabriella and Troy arrive together after the auditions are officially complete, but end up singing for Kelsey and landing a call-back slot.


Gabriella continues with her yellow color.  The skirt has a subtle pattern, which is not showing up well in these pictures.  She and Troy both wear red shirts underneath, and the yellow of her outfit blend with his khaki pants.

I really loved how all of the colors complimented each other in this costume set.

Tuesday audition, HSM


Wednesday begins with the “Status Quo” lunchroom scene.  Gabriella is hanging out (and beginning to identify) with the Braniacs, but she is not yet reflecting them in her dress.  In a group of khaki, plaids and jewel tones, she is wearing pastels, jeans and in general, doesn’t fit with anyone else in the scene.

Status Quo, HSM, brainiac table

She actually is dressed for the Rooftop Garden scene.


I picked the jacket and shirt because they toned with the foliage and sky.  The general look was intended to be a bit juvenile “just like kindergarten”,  She continues to wear this outfit later when she meets Troy in the gym, and then later for class.



Thursday marks the transition of Gabriella to a Brainiac.  I dressed her in a plaid skirt, and a conservative blue blouse.  Originally I had her in a black leather trimmed jacket to represent her conflicted identity, but, since the scene was done against a black curtain, that didn’t work.  Instead, we switched it to a red sweater to represent her desire to fit in to the red and white Wildcat world.

Thursday, HSM


Troy goes back to his original shirt, but his jeans reflect Gabriella, and once again, they work well together as a pair.

Thursday, HSM


Friday is the day we’ve all been waiting for!  As mentioned previously, Thursday into Friday is one long scene with very little time between sequences.  Gabriella is first seen in the Science Decathlon.  She wears her red Breaking Free dress underneath her lab coat.

science decathlon, HSM

As she runs to the auditorium, I had her remove her lab coat.  She also can wear it for Breaking Free, or remove it part way into the song.


I wanted a twirly dress, and subsequent to the photographed (Thursday night!) rehearsal I added a few upgrades to the dress.  At this point it was decorated with red crystals, but unfortunately, they did not show up well on stage.  I ended up adding rhinestone crystals, some red glitter (which didn’t show up past the first couple of rows) and eventually, heavy red fishing line along the hem, and a scavenged pettiskirt to the lining.

This was one of those costumes that I just couldn’t quite get “there”, although by the end I was happy with it.  Part of the problem was inconsistency in choreography.  Until they had a dance plan, I couldn’t see how the dress moved.  Overall, I was very disappointed in the red crystals.  I thought they would give a subtle bling, but, it wasn’t enough.  The rhinestone crystals were better.  The Extreme Glitter paint (mixed with fabric medium) was worthless.  The fishing line on the hem, and the bit of poof from the ruffles on the lining helped a lot.

For the finale, Gabriella does a quick change into a sparkly white dress.  This matches with the white uniform Troy wears, and contrasts to the red that Sharpay has one.

She opted to switch back to her red dress for curtain call.

I found Gabriella a bit difficult to costume prior to actually seeing the show as it was presented onstage.  Once I could see her, in context with the other cast members and with the set, then I was able to “see” what she needed with more clarity.

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