Monday, 20 October 2014


There are so many things wrong with Dirty Dancing. For example, I understand that despite the film being set in 1963 they would choose a song that is very decidedly from the '80s for the final dance, since the movie was released in 1987, but why is Johnny singing along to it?  Is he a time traveller?   Also, as with the case with many films of the time, class and money are very important factors in the story.  Baby (seriously?  I know the story is all about her coming of age, but that name is so on the nose) is always being harangued by the other characters for "using Daddy's money" or not understanding how it is for REAL PEOPLE or that she's just a tourist in their world, dipping her toe into the tough lives of the economically inferior.  She's a diamond and they are the rough.  I find it curious that this theme died out in Hollywood teen films in the '90s, with the trend moving more towards having glossy rich girls that we were supposed to aspire to be - *ahem* Clueless - I guess that storyline doesn't work so well when the rich girl is the outsider.  

That said, I have always loved this film.  When I was younger I would see it in on the shelves in Blockbuster before I was old enough to rent it and long to watch it.  I always thought it must be a REALLY RUDE film because of the cover artwork and the title.  It's not, obviously, but they do use the dancing as a pretty successful metaphor for Baby's sexual awakening and, of course, this is reflected in her outfits...  

This is Baby at the beginning of the film.  She's so innocent in her neat dresses and knitted cardigans, boxfresh Keds on her feet and fluffy hair. 

Then THIS happens.

Despite her interest in Johnny, the wayward dancing bad boy rebel (we all know one), at first her style doesn't deviate far from what she knows.  She wears shirts and cute floral tops with denim shorts.  (I want to draw your attention to what is happening below - the women at this holiday camp are whiling away their vacation hours by trying on wigs).  

Baby really likes breton tops.

However gradually we see her begin to loosen up and slowly she starts tying up her shirts to reveal her tummy, and in general begins wearing less and less.  She is literally slowly undressing over the weeks of learning to dance with Johnny.  

Until eventually she loses the shirt all together and steps out in this amazing bralet and matching shorts. 

Then she's like, "It's getting hot in here so take off all my clothes" and starts rolling around rehearsal wearing cropped vests and skin coloured tights and knickers. 

Last to go are the Keds, replaced with shiny silver dancing shoes.  Our Baby is growing up. 

For me this moment below in the learning to dance montage when she's on her own on the steps outside the resort crucial.  It's when we really see Baby start to discover her inner vixen.  And it's wonderful.  

After that she turns it up to 11.  One word, fishnets. 

I really like that her shoes are silver and Penny's are gold.  The mentor and the mentee.

I also enjoy how the film makes excuses for why she's wearing less clothing.  It's so hot!  She's doing a lot of exercise!  She needs to practise dancing in heels and hosiery!  Penny and Johnny need to be able to see her body clearly to check her form!  It's important she knows how to apply makeup if she's going to be performing professionally!  "God LEAVE ME ALONE OK?", screams the film, slamming its bedroom door.

No but seriously, look how hot it is.

Around her family Baby has to revert back to her old way of dressing.  But she does start to copy Penny's wardrobe slighty = peasant tops. 

Then there is this outfit, worn for her first public performance.  I really like it with her hair down and her natural makeup. 

But with the blue eyeshadow and chignon it's a teeny bit scary.  

She looks so lovely here, waiting to talk to that awful rich boy who treated Penny so terribly. 

This is another classic Baby outfit that kind of incoporates her old and new looks.  Side note - I find this holiday camp super odd.  They're doing an end of summer show, a revue if you will, but all the guests take part?  And have to make the sets and paint them?  I don't understand.  That seems more like work than a relaxing summer holiday.  Or the weirdest prom ever. 

 Finally at the end of the film Baby becomes the woman she has been edging slowly towards.  She outs herself to her parents as a full on real life adult female, and climaxes with a big massive metaphor dance with Johnny where they perform together in a way that fully displays their intense attraction.  It's a wonderful thing.

The first time we see her, Penny is leading the older clientele in a dance class.  She's all sweet and accomodating, "for the guests".  

But backstage in the staff quarters it's a different different story.  This lady is a killer dancer oozing sex appeal. 

 She is best friends with Johnny, they're very close, and while she puts on a smile with everyone else she's not a fan of Baby.  In fact, she postively dislikes her.  We never really know why...I guess it's the whole spoilt rich kid thing again.

Baby is very intimidated by Penny and her icy stare.  Penny doesn't mess around, she's not accomodating and she's tough as nails. Well, we think she is...

Penny's look is very considered.  Her nails match her lips and dress, her hair is perfect, she is always wearing earrings, necklaces and rings.  Lots of delicate gold and red rubies.  She's immaculate.  She's classic '60s glamour on a budget.  And she's pretty much always in scarlet.  

There's something very Sharon Stone in Casino about her look.  That blonde hair, small frame and glowing tan.  

You can't tell, but in that screengrab above she's wearing pedal pushers. 

I really like her collection of dresses, that red and gold halterneck one in particular.  And you have to love a woman who rehearses dance with blowdried hair, high leg leotards, belts, and a full face of makeup.  Not to mention the jewellery.  

Penny is awesome. 

I've always had a real soft spot for Lisa.  Baby's older sister, she lives in a completely different world.  She's from the rich side of the train tracks and she wants to get married to a Harvard man, live in a beautiful house, have four babies and be drinking gin and tonic by 3pm on a weekday.  She's so eager to play the game.  Lisa is always wearing florals and pastels, preferably at the same time, and she is a big fan of hair adornments.  Bows, hairbands, bow hairbands, you name it.  

She has a sort of young Jackie O thing going with her dark hair and cats eye glasses.  She's a sixties post-teen dream style queen. 

This dress, below, is so beautiful. Big rose print worn with pearls.  

Look how high her little ponytail is. 

My friends and I always found this scene where she sings Hula Hana so odd.  Why is she singing it?  Why did she pick that particular song?  Does she have a connection to Hawaii? Did someone put her up to it?  Why didn't anyone in rehearsals say, "Um Lisa...what about singing something a bit easier?  Or less bizarre?" 

Her outfit is great though.  Although I worry she'd be a little chilly.  I hope she brought a cardigan to wear through dinner. 

Also I've just started watching Gilmore Girls and I just realised Lisa and Baby's mother is played by KELLY BISHOP!  Matriarch of the Gilmore clan!  Look how beautiful she is sat there in the candlelight!

I don't know if mullets were a "thing" in the '60s,  but they were in the '80s and somehow Patrick Swayze managed to sneak his onto set and into the film. 

Like Penny, Johnny has to be all charm and smiles for the guests (sometimes a little too charming...) but behind the scenes he's a roguish bad boy who expresses his working class angst in the only way a bad boy really can - THROUGH DANCE.  

In fact he actually has a speech he gives Baby about how the kids are dancing in the garages back home in this new crazy way.  There's a revolution of dance happening!  It's like Footloose!

Johnny's wardrobe is flawless, but it's also very simple.  T-shirts, fitted black trousers and black dance shoes. 

His best outfit is this one below, which he wears when he takes Baby outside the classroom so she can really experience the freedom of movement.  Classic bad boy.  He has a black shirt and leather jacket over his black vest.

"You're wild!"

When they get to the great outdoors he takes off the jacket and shirt and his shoes, and looks utterly elegant. 

It's nice because the costume designer, not too subtly, has him completely in black and Baby completely in white.  


When he's dancing professionally Johnny wears suits, and a chunky gold bracelet.  Now this is a very cropped jacket that he has paired with a skinny sixties tie.  

Love this shirt below.  He looks so good in that blue. 

Oh yeah, this scene.  Perfect Baby/Johnny outfits worn for their mime-a-long.  Baaaaaby, oh sweet baaaaaby. I really need to watch this film again. 

Question - why do men sometimes point at their chin in a fight?  

I also like that extra stood on the steps watching them.  I imagine it was his choice to have his shirt completely open, flapping about in the summer breeze. 

Below - perfection.  

It's such a skill to be able to reduce your look down to just one colour or that you just wear T-shirts and jeans.  But if you can do it and not get bored, the results are amazing. 

Aw, I love him.  I love them. 

Hey, remember this bit when he showed Baby that dance was all about rhythm, which is all about following your heartbeat?  So dreamy. 


Wow, she actually hasn't aged. 



  1. I don't know what to say apart from YES. YES. YESYESYES. xxx

    1. STUNNED and SHOCKED that Kelly Bishop has played two such iconic matriarchs xxxx

  2. I always love reading your style dissections! Baby's outfits are flawless!!

  3. ... well I know what I'll be watching tonight! I loved your dissection of the characters outfits, especially Baby's. I never even realised how they subtly showed her "becoming a women" through her clothes, or lack of clothes.

    I'm now off to read more of your style dissection posts! First stop, Sabrina!

  4. Love, love, LOVE this! Seriously, Kelly Bishop does not age and would be gorgeous in a garbage bag under fluorescent lighting. Also, I absolutely love Dirty Dancing, but am I the only one to have found the final dance incredibly underwhelming?

  5. I'm off to a Dirty Dancing night tonight. I'm fascinated by the fact that Baby & Lisa's styles are all over the shops here in the UK right now. Especially Baby's dresses in the beginning. I too only realised Emily Gilmore was Baby's mum a few years ago. Great post. ;)

  6. I'm off to a Dirty Dancing night tonight. I'm fascinated by the fact that Baby & Lisa's styles are all over the shops here in the UK right now. Especially Baby's dresses in the beginning. I too only realised Emily Gilmore was Baby's mum a few years ago. Great post. ;)

  7. Thanks so much! My friend is going to a H'ween party as pink performance Baby. I'm going to troll her and be crawling-in-shorts Baby. Needed a reference... did not expect such detail! (You mean you don't practice dancing in lakes?!?!)