Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in a scene from the film ‘Grease’, 1978. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

A leather jacket, an off-the-shoulder top, and black spandex pants… a relatively simple outfit, yet it has made a lasting impression in pop culture thanks to Olivia Newton-John in her starring role as Sandy in Grease.

In the last scene of the 1978 movie, Newton-John’s onscreen character Sandy transformed from a shy good girl to rebel bad girl to win over Danny Zuko’s heart (played by John Travolta). It’s a look that’s become synonymous with the late actress’ iconic style and one many fans will always remember, as they mourn the loss of Newton-John, who passed away peacefully at her ranch in Southern California on August 8, surrounded by family and friends.

What many people don’t know is that the legendary ensemble comes with an equally legendary story behind it. Newton-John revealed in her 2019 memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’, that Grease costume designer Albert Wolsky wanted to stay as accurate to the 1950s as possible, so he found body-hugging, high-waist, skin-tight, black sharkskin pants for Sandy’s pivotal moment that was actually from the 1950s. “They were so old, and there was just one pair, so there was no room for error,” revealed Newton-John in the memoir reported by Metro. “One rip and disaster.”

1978: Left to right: actors Jeff Conaway, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta and Stockard Channing walk arm in arm at a carnival in a still from the film, ‘Grease’ directed by Randal Kleiser. (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images)

She continued, “When I tried on those pants for the first time, the zipper was broken, and Albert didn’t want to rip them trying to put in a new one or remove the old one. Instead, I’d be sewn into them each morning!”

In 2019, Newton-John put the iconic finale scene look up for auction along with several other memorabilia pieces at Julien Auctions’ Idols & Icons event. All of the proceeds were donated to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, which was created by the actress to help others who are battling cancer (she was diagnosed with breast cancer three times during her life).

People reported in 2019 that the buyer of the pants remained anonymous until Spanx founder Sara Blakely revealed she was the anonymous bidder of the pants (at $162,000) on an episode of CBS This Morning. Blakely’s bid seems like a small price given that they served as inspiration for her own multi-billion dollar line. 

“I’m gonna frame them and hang them at Spanx,” she told the CBS This Morning co-hosts. “We have black faux-leather leggings and they have become a cult following and they were inspired off of Olivia’s pants. She is the OG of black leggings, I had to own them as the Spanx founder.”

 

Following the news of Newton-John’s death, Blakely took to her Instagram to share an endearing tribute to the actress, calling her her “childhood idol.”

“I loved her so much, I believe I literally manifested her into my life,” she wrote and listed encounters she had with the star, including when Newton-John sang at her wedding. “Fast forward another 10 years Olivia comes to @Spanx and I interview her for our Speaker Series. This is where we become friends. (She really had no choice:-)”

She concluded by confirming that, yes, the iconic Grease pants are framed and still hanging in the Spanx office.

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