It would be many years after first watching Grease that I would finally own a pair of shiny black satin trousers like Sandy’s. Possibly, I am so old that my desire for them predates the invention of Spandex. More likely, they simply weren’t available in my home town – despite my home town being a capital city. And so I bided my time in trousers that, while far less exciting, were probably more appropriate for my age.
The pair Olivia Newton-John wore were vintage 50s, and to avoid breaking the zip she was sewn into them each morning on the set of Grease. How much did my friends and I love them? Let us count the ways.
They were the opposite of our municipal school uniform, a shapeless thing in unflattering hues of maroon and grey. They were far more enticing than the prosaic blue Oddball Stretch jeans we wore on weekends. They were excitement in trouser form, full of promise and adventure.
Wearing those trousers, we agreed, meant that you couldn’t fail to have a good time. So enamoured of them was one friend, and so frustrated by their absence on the rails of Clockhouse, that she once tried to colour her legs black with a marker pen.
I, on the other hand, tried to replicate their tightness by cutting the feet off a pair of black school tights, an action that got me no nearer to being Sandy, nor any nearer to being a financially independent woman, my mother swiftly docking 75p off my pocket money in her ire.
Much has been written about the cult of the skinny jean since Grease came out in 1978. Sandy’s black Spandex trousers are, arguably, the ultimate skinny jean, predating that particular cult by many years. But if the skinny jean is the preserve of the indie kid, the Spandex jean belongs firmly in the realm of disco, lighting up the dancefloor like the skinny jean’s naughty big sister. They may not be in fashion now, but they’ll be back.
You can bet your Pink Lady jacket that in the wake of Olivia Newton-John’s sad death, a fashion designer somewhere will be rewatching Grease and getting inspired to design a tribute.
I’d love to say that the allure of black Spandex diminished over time, but that would be a lie. These days, I revere it as much for its slimming qualities as any other attributes, for Spandex was flattening stomachs and lifting bums when Skims and Spanx were still twinkles in their creators’ eyes.
Even if they have been replaced in younger women’s affections by iterations in faux leather and high-shine PVC, for a certain age of woman, Sandy In Spandex will always be a glamorous icon, a woman whose destiny could involve nothing less than jetting off in a magical flying car.