‘I had a little trouble in tinting class. In fact, I had a little trouble in all my classes’
Grease’s Frenchy (played by Didi Conn) is an unexpected addition to the Pink Lady clan – thanks in part to her ever changing hair colour and her almost-ridiculous breathy voice. She doesn’t conform to the expected high-school rules, dropping out of Rydell High to attend beauty school, whilst at graduation; her on/off beau poses with a dog, leaving her alone on the sidelines. If Sandy can get her man, why can’t she?
It’s not immediately apparent what Frenchy offers to the Pink Ladies (it’s not sass or seduction, Rizzo and Marty have those covered) but (repeated) viewings reveal that she’s a clever plot-driver device – introducing Sandy to the Pink Ladies and then to Danny, and is instrumental in Sandy’s make-over for the closing scene. Frenchy is outlandish, a ditsy dreamer, fun and open hearted with a penchant for girly gossip – and comes with ever-changing hair colours, what more could you ask for from a character?
Costume designer Albert Wolsky opted for a sorbet-hued palette for Frenchy – classic Fifties shades that are sweet but not saccharine. In the 1950’s Frenchy wouldn’t have been the coolest girl in class, but she must have been the most fun…and today, her hair eccentric attire and that pink hair doesn’t look so out of place.
She’s the first Pink Lady seen in Grease, clashing her satin pink bomber with a pastel midi-length pencil skirt, a check shirt, a waist-cinching tan belt and a peach silk neck-scarf, tied to the side – so far, so 50’s. She marks herself out from the other students with her orange dyed hair and an array of hair-slides – a coquettish mix of girlish charm and knowing ingénue (well how else did she get that nickname?). Her transition from Rydell to Beauty School isn’t as smooth as she envisaged – and the resultant bubblegum pink hair (‘You look just like an Easter egg’) highlights her internal struggle between her career choice (not a fave with feminist critics) and the pressure to ‘go back to high school’, helpfully demonstrated by Frankie Avalon.
At the dance-off, she’s ‘a beautiful blonde pineapple’, resplendent in a full-skirted lemon yellow prom dress, worn with heeled lemon T-bar shoes, white gloves – this femininity with a distinct Frenchy twist. Her hair, newly blonde it’s piled on top of her head in a messy up-do. Of course, Frenchy puts her own spin on prom dressing – accessorising her look with a silver clutch bag, a corsage hairpiece, ribbons and ruffles. In the closing scene (where her hair was actually meant to be green…) Frenchy is back to ‘50’s kitsch, clad in a lilac and cream polka dot sundress with pretty puff sleeves and a white waist belt – a classic 50’s look. There’s a garland round her neck and a comb stuck in her belt, as Frenchy embraces her quirky characteristics and looks to a future without Rydell.
Images via Clothes On Film