"Bye Bye Birdie" Costume Ideas


The musical "Bye Bye Birdie" was originally staged in 1960. Its plot, centering on rock star Conrad Birdie and his draft into the U.S. Army, was inspired by the real-life draft of Elvis Presley. In the show, Conrad is to perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and debut a new song, "One Last Kiss." For any production of "Bye Bye Birdie" you'll need costumes that are consistent with the 1950s fashion era.

Conrad Birdie

  • Conrad is an outrageous, over-the-top rock star and his costumes should reflect that. For the "Ed Sullivan Show" scene, he should wear an Elvis-inspired jumpsuit with flashy details like sequins or gold fabric. For more casual scenes, black jeans, a T-shirt and a simple blazer will work well. When Conrad dresses like a woman, go for a '50s housewife look with a floral-print dress, hat and a fur overcoat. Conrad's hair should always be bigger than that of any of the other men, perhaps with a high pompadour if the actor's hair is long enough. You will need a wig or scarf for Conrad when he dresses as a woman.

Male Characters

  • Conrad's manager, Albert, is always a professional, so he should wear suits throughout the musical. Two-piece suits or three-piece suits with a vest will make the character. Simple loafer-style shoes and a hat to match each suit complement the look. Young men like Hugo could wear a casual costume in the "greaser" fashion consisting of jeans and a T-shirt, while older men like Mr. McAfee might wear trousers, a white collared shirt and suspenders.

Female Characters

  • Conrad's young fans should wear poodle skirts or similar full skirts that flow to the knee or just below the knee, short-sleeved blouses, bobby socks and saddle shoes. Saddle shoes are flat leather lace-up shoes that are black or blue in the center with white panels at the toe and heel. Costume young women like Rosie in dresses with empire waists and full A-line skirts, or in a button-down blouse and cardigan sweater with a knee-length pencil skirt and low pump shoes. Middle-aged women like Mrs. McAfee might wear a floral print dress with a cinched waist. Add an apron over Mrs. McAfee's dress to highlight her role as a housewife. Accessories like hats, gloves and shrugs will work well with these costumes.


  • Most of the male characters should have slick, well-groomed hair. Hairstyles for women should help to define their age groups. Conrad's young female fans can wear their hair in high, bouncy ponytails tied with a ribbon to coordinate with their outfits. Rosie could wear her hair down with a flip at the end or pulled back into a neat ponytail. Older women like Mrs. McAfee should have well-polished hair with a lot of wave, pinned back away from the face. If your female characters wear hats, add some curl to the sides of their hair to accentuate the headgear.

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  • Photo Credit 1950s pink satin dress with hat image by DSL from Fotolia.com
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