Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Impressionable Mind: Dirty Dancing

Welcome back to "My Impressionable Mind," where I look at films and books of my youth that influenced my fashion sense, for better or for worse. (Usually worse.)

In my household, the word "Swayze" is a proper noun, an adjective, and a verb. The correct usage goes something like this: "In which movie do you think Patrick Swayze was at his Swayziest?" Or, after watching Road House, you could say, "I totally just got Swayzied." So, let me ask you, my friends: "Are you ready to get Swayzied?"

I very clearly remember the first time I got Swayzied. It was with the movie Dirty Dancing. (Duh.) I must have been around 12 years old and a friend's mother said I could watch Dirty Dancing with her daughter as long as I got my mom's permission. My mom acquiesced, with the caveat: "As long as you understand that what the people in the movie are doing is wrong." I have to say that the abortion subplot, as well as the idea of premarital sex was way over my head at that point, so I assumed she just meant the naughty dancing. But many subsequent viewings of this movie have made it clear to me just how much this movie has influenced me. (Sorry, Mom.)

Due to all the old emotions I have surrounding this movie as well as fresh sadness at the recent passing of Mr. Swayze, this is a film that I'm incapable of seeing through fresh eyes. It is just as awesome now as the first time I saw it. However, I am capable of talking about the clothes, which is what we're here to do anyway.

The plot to this movie needs no introduction, so let's get right into the fashion. (If you're not familiar with the plot of Dirty Dancing, stop reading this and rent it right now. Be sure to ask your mom first, though.)

Dirty Dancing
was made in 1987, and it's set in 1963. One common theme I'm seeing in favorite movies of my childhood is that they're all set in times gone by. But in totally inaccurate ways. The producers of Dirty Dancing didn't even try to make it authentic to its period. Seriously, this is supposed to be 1963?

I love a makeover montage, and Dirty Dancing has one of the best. Jennifer Grey, as Baby Houseman, goes from drab to fab. Actually she goes from clothed to practically nude. (Fully nude comes just a bit later.) Watch the amazing shrinking clothes!


Baby's sister Lisa is pretty much solely responsible for making the movie look like it's set in the early 60's.

Patrick Swayze, as Johnny Castle (best character name ever!), wears a variation of the same costume throughout the whole movie (at least when he's not in his fancy dancing togs), most likely due to how awesome he looks in it.

The best costume, though, is the one that Baby wears in the final dance, which is also the most amazing dance scene EVER. I loved that even though Baby thought Johnny was gone for good, she still dressed to dance. See how much Johnny Castle changed her?

In a rare moment of historical accuracy, Baby wore a crinoline and seamed stockings.

But then the hair! It's magnificent, even if anachronistic.

There's really so much to say about Dirty Dancing. But, in the end, all I can really say is this: Thank you, Patrick Swayze. For making this world a hell of a lot Swayzier.


  1. Great post. I loved the movie - the music, the love story, the clothes... but most of all the dance. Magical!

  2. I love this movie! I worshipped it as a teenager, at around the age of eleven I used to watch it, rewind it, and watch it again. And again. =) It might have woken my love for dance, now such a huge part of my life. The movie is still wonderful today, beacuse of the love story and the memories it brings.

  3. My cousin got married at Mountain Lake where it was filmed right after the film hit theaters. She got married in the gazebo on the water. The film had been out for a week or so and people were coming to Mountain Lake out of curiosity. They were all gawking at the wedding!!
    They lived in the area and knew some of the folks used as extras and people who owned cars used in some scenes.
    The lake had drained naturally and was empty. They think it has done it before. I am not sure if it has started filling back in or not - haven't read anything about it recently.

  4. Count me as one more caught under the Dirty Dancing spell. I could watch it every day and not get enough. The dancing, the characters. the story, and even the setting were fabulous. I grew up in the 60's and most of the costuming is factual. I had the knee length jeans with the tied at the waist top and even the mohair sweater. Mountain Lake runs a DD weekend each year. Check it out on their website. I did feel terrible when I learned of Patrick Swayze's illness and actually filled up when I heard the news of his death. He seemed like such a genuine person and from what I have read had a good life.

  5. Beautiful post. I think everyone can remember when they first got Swayzied. *sigh*

    I was first Swayzied when watching North & South, where the delish Mr. S. played the handsome, southern, dashing Mr. Orry Main. *swoon* I have loved him ever since.

    His passing is still full of great sadness for me. He was a truly unique human being who enriched the world in ways we are still discovering.

    PS: I can *recite* Dirty Dancing. :)

  6. Your mother's warning made me giggle! I hope after the movie you reassured her that you vehemently disapproved of the behaviour you had witnessed! I never got to see Dirty Dancing when it first came out, my mum didn't trust us girls to watch M movies and judge characters negatively till we were 16. When I finally was allowed, I really liked it, and yes, I was immediately Swayzied, no diapproval there!

  7. "Swayzied", I love it!

  8. Nobody puts Baby in a corner!

    Another Swayzied lady.

  9. Crazy 4 Swayze 4 ever!

    Dirty dancing had the most perfect plot ever from a girls point of view. And Johnny was just sooo hot. Also loved North and South to bits. All because of Swayze. It was devastating to see the recent photos of him wasting away like he did.

    Vibeke in Oslo

  10. What a wonderful post! I too love this movie and was so sad when PS passed :-(

  11. Great post! I guess I never thought of their clothes like that, but now that you mention it, I see what you mean.

    I, too was around 12 years old, and can remember watching it with my cousin while my mom was in the room. Naturally, she thought we were hysterical with our giggling and muffled screaming in pillows during the "naughty" scenes.

    We memorized every word and had a running tally of how many times we had watched it. RIP Patrick!

  12. this movie is just.... *sigh* -Love, Backseat Betty

  13. Okay, okay... I know it isn't Swazi-fied, but the second Dirty Dancing, Havana Nights, was soooo good. Music was fantastic and it was hot hot hot.

  14. I'm feeling very TWIN-ish with you, Gertie. We also use "Swayze" around the house as an adjective, noun, and verb!

    I would say Mr. Swayze is at his Swayziest in either Roadhouse or Point Break. Roadhouse is just about the sleaziest film, though. You can watch an even more depressing version of it in the movie Cocktail, if you're a Cruise fan (which I'm not).

    Mr. Swayze is also pretty awesomely Swayze in other roles like Donnie Darko, To Wong Foo..., - in short, he's just rad. RIP.

    And I was also about 12 when I saw the film Dirty Dancing. I just loved it and I still enjoy listening to the soundtrack now and then. A couple years ago we had a movie night where several of my friends came over, we had Italian potluck, & watched the film projected on the wall. Let me tell you, that is a GREAT film to watch with other women!

    Thanks for a great post!


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

© Gertie's Blog For Better Sewing. Powered by Cake