Go to main content

The Great Bill Belew Interview

August 27, 2000 | People
Several months ago Elvis Friends Hollywood gave our readers the opportunity to ask Bill Belew a question. You gladly took the chance and a lot of questions ended up in our mailbox. In fact, there were so many questions Bill wasn't able to answer them all during the "get-together" of Elvis Friends Hollywood. We are very thankful that Bill Belew did take the time to answer the remaining questions by mail. Also we take a bow for Bev and Sandi for giving us the opportunity, and an extra deep one for Sandi for taking the time to work them all out, it's a great birthday present!
Hopefully you'll find the answer to your own question, Bill Belew turned out to be short but to the point in his answers, which is no wonder and helpful with the amount in mind.

Did you also design the outfits the band wore?

B: In the first couple of shows then after that Charlie Hodge took over the band wardrobe.

Did you save all your sketches?

B: Some I still have, most were donated to Graceland.

I have always been curious to know what Elvis' basic measurements were and exactly how tall he was. I've always been told he was 5'11" but 6' with shoes on.

B: Chest was 42; waist was 30; 5'11-1/2 Shoe size 9

What was the average weight of a jumpsuit? Early years vs later when some were very ornate.

B: First suits were about 25 lbs. later they went as heavy as 75 lbs w/

What was the lightest suit? The heaviest?

B: The first suits he wore were the lightest and the heaviest was the American Eagle.

Are you still designing for any artists?

B: No

Did Elvis ever mention to you which of all the stage suits that you m ade for him, was his personal favorite?

B: The only one he ever mentioned was American Eagle.

Is there a chance that you may have taken any pictures of the suits or outfits you made for Elvis in the 70's before sending them to Elvis? If so, has there been any thought in putting a book together?

B: Yes I have some photos and there has been some talk of a book, but no publisher yet.

How did it come about that you designed suits for the Osmonds? Did they request the Elvis style jumpsuits?

B: Yes, they were looking for a new look and liked the jumpsuits I designed.

You said you used stretch Gab for Elvis' suits. I assume that you designed the rare white leather two piece suits Elvis used in the later 70'. What was the reason for changing material for those particular suits?

B: Yes I designed the leather suits and the change was simply to try
something different.

Is the material you used for Elvis' jumpsuits still available today?

B: A similar fabric is available but the fabric I used for Elvis has to be ordered from Milan.

Why did Elvis stop using capes?

B: Again - to try something different, to move on to something new.

Elvis said on stage "I did a TV Special and had a suit with a eagle on it.
That eagle died and lost all its feathers and he's on this suit." Do you know which suit he was talking about?

B: The Gypsy Suit

Did you make many of the casual everyday outfits Elvis wore or just his stage suits.

B: I designed his personal wardrobe as well as his stage wardrobe until his death.

When I was at Graceland, and saw the sundial suit, it looked to be smaller than I thought it would be. What size was it?

B: Size 42

As you know, Elvis died in Aug. 77. That year he performed mostly wearing the Sundial suit and occasionally the King of Spades suit. Were other suits ready at that time?

B: Several new suits were in the works for a new look, including the laser suit...sketches had been made.

I understand that the Sundial suit and King of Spades suits Elvis wore during the last tour in June 77 were originally made in l974, Is this true?

B: Yes it is

The high collar seemed to start with the 69 leather jacket. Was this something Elvis came up with or was it either your idea or the people around Elvis at the time?

B: No, it was my idea...so as to frame his face.

Two of my favorite suits have come to be known as the Gypsy and Gypsy Alpine or Dark Blue Aztec suits. They are just simply majestic. How did you get the ideas for those and were they designed to hide growth or to give him a break from the other white ones.

B: As a designer, I was always trying to come up with something different for his public-these designs suited him for that period.

How many jumpsuits in total were made for Elvis from 1969 to 1977

B: As well as I can remember I would say well over 75.

Was there any jumpsuit that you made for Elvis that he refused to accept?

B: No - he was great about trusting my designs and taste, and he wore
anything I designed. Elvis was very good to me that way.

Did Elvis ever give you ideas for jumpsuits?

B: He did request that I design something patriotic for the Aloha special
so that is how the American Eagle design came about.

Do you have any of his jumpsuits?

B: Unfortunately, no.

How many years did you work for Elvis?

B: From 1968 to the time of his death.

Did you ever get to visit his home or fly on the Lisa Marie?

B: Only once and it was a late night trip and then back to LA.

What was the most expensive jumpsuit made for Elvis?

B: The American Eagle which at the time cost approx. $65,000. To make the same suit today it would be 4 times that amount.

A last note from Bill Belew: Thank you all! I hope this answers some of your questions....to the best of my memory, oh time and age!