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Carrie Robbins, Costume Designer for Dozens of Broadway Shows, Dies at 81

Carrie Robbins, a meticulous and resourceful costume designer who worked on more than 30 Broadway shows from the 1960s to the 2000s, died on April 12 in Manhattan. She was 81.

Her death, at a hospital, was confirmed by Daniel Neiden, a friend, who said her health had declined after she fell and broke her hip in December.

In 1972, when she was just 29 years old, Ms. Robbins began “emerging as one of the hottest costume designers in show business,” as the syndicated fashion columnist Patricia Shelton put it, thanks to her work that year on the original Broadway production of “Grease,” six years before it was turned into a hit movie.

Ms. Robbins was given a budget of only $4,000 (the equivalent of about $30,000 today). For the character Frenchy, she dyed a wig bright red using a Magic Marker and fashioned a pink poodle skirt out of her own bath mat and furry toilet seat cover.

To prepare for designing the costumes for “Grease,” Ms. Robbins studied high school yearbooks from the 1950s.Credit…Betty Lee Hunt Associates

The poodle skirt practically became a mandatory feature of “Grease” shows. And when, years later, Ms. Robbins visited a production of “Grease” backstage, she saw a man taking a red Magic Marker to a wig. Baffled, she told him that the wardrobe department surely could afford a high-end custom hairpiece. He replied that only a Magic Marker would be authentic.

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