Graceland Opens New Exhibit Elvis Jumpsuits: All Access

Elvis Jumpsuits; All Access, the greatest-ever exhibit of Elvis Presley's iconic stage costumes from the major concert era of his career, 1969-1977, officially opened today in the visitor center at the music superstar's beloved Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. While the permanent exhibits at Graceland relating the story of Elvis' career include 16 of these costumes, the special new exhibit features a dazzling 56 additional Presley stage outfits. The displays chart the evolution of the design of Elvis' stage-wear of this era, from simple two-piece karate-inspired suits to the famed "jumpsuits" with elaborate rhinestone and metal studding and matching capes. A selection of accessories, photographs and performance footage complete the exhibit, which will be in place for two years. After focusing much of the 1960s on his career as a movie actor, not performing in front of a live audience for over seven years, the triumph of Elvis' 1968 concert television special prompted a permanent return to the concert stage with a sold-out, critically acclaimed month-long Las Vegas engagement in the summer of 1969. Elvis did not want to wear a tuxedo, which was basically the uniform of male crooners working in that town. He was going there to rock. Wanting something different and special, he called upon Bill Belew, who had designed the now-classic black leather suit and other outfits for the '68 special. Inspired by Elvis' great interest in karate, Belew came up with simple two-piece gabardine suits in with tunic-style tops and simple, long karate-style belts knotted to one side with the ends dangling from the hip. In Elvis' two Vegas engagements of 1970, the first one-piece gabardine outfits (jumpsuits) appeared. Most had high Napoleonic collars, mod Italian-style pointed sleeve cuffs and – as was the fashion of the day – flared legs. This became the basic design for most of the jumpsuits to follow as Elvis continued his regular Las Vegas engagements twice a year and as he toured nationally in concert from late 1970 until his death in August 1977. The first jumpsuits were simple in their ornamentation – for instance, some with metal accents, some with long fringe. All had long coordinating belts knotted and dangling to the side – some in cloth with ornamentation to match the suit, some with fringe, some in macramé. In the early 70s, the jumpsuits evolved with increasingly elaborate metal rhinestone studding, matching capes and coordinating big-buckle leather belts. From a point in 1974 on, the jumpsuit designs featured ever flashier and more intricate embroidery work, some depicting animals – eagles, a tiger, a dragon, phoenixes, a zebra – and the capes were phased out. Today, the jumpsuits look dated to some of the general public, but Elvis fans and pop culture historians know that these outfits were way cool in the 1970s. "When Elvis began wearing the jumpsuits, he and designer Bill Belew created a new style that many popular entertainers of the time incorporated into their own stage-wear," stated Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises archives director, Angie Marchese. "The craftsmanship of Bill Belew and his team - including Gene Doucette, who is a master with embroidery – was exquisite and the designs were cutting edge. Each one of the outfits is its own special work of art." "You could be daring as a designer and put anything on Elvis and he could make it work," stated Bill Belew. "And the simplest outfits that didn't seem particularly remarkable on the rack transformed into something spectacular when Elvis put them on. He was that beautiful and powerful a presence. As a wardrobe designer Bob Mackie had a perfect muse and a perfect canvas in Cher. I got to have that in Elvis."
Source: EPE - Elvis Presley Enterprises / Updated: Mar 1, 2007 
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Steve V (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 6, 2007report abuse
Any comparison to Liberace is reason enough to not like the jumpsuits. I feel, yeah ok, cool the first couple of years, but by the mid-70's ridiculous peacocks and tigers made him the butt of many jokes. Should have changed the attire after Aloha.
baggypants (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 3, 2007report abuse
he looked like a frikkin' christmas tree in his final years. Cool? Sad would be a better description.
Brando (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 2, 2007report abuse
Wow,have to wait little over 2 weeks and then see that "live".
Mystery Rider (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 2, 2007report abuse
Jump suits are really cool, Elvis was the straight Liberace when it came to stage showman ship
Devon (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 2, 2007report abuse
Ill be there next month, not real big on jumpsuite,s but i will take a i have always said......Elvis Was, Is, and always will be THE KING!!!!
Anton (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 2, 2007report abuse
In the same spirit as bringing the Swimsusits girls to Graceland, why don't they invite Clothing magazines to publish part of the collection this year (several parts) with a little description and story about what Elvis sang then with immense success !!!! For the world to know: Also that EP did not go with the masses, wearing tuxedos in Vegas....he dared again.... Let the word out and the world know about how creative our King was !
Anton (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 2, 2007report abuse
Just fabulous for jumpsuit junkies ! A long overdue must for EP fans to see when they go to Memphis! Can Graceland EPE Mgt make postcards available of "all" different suits? in 10 postcard sets? On back of each card should be printed a little story when he wore it, what new songs he sang, etc, like on the web site..... Good work booiis.
Ruthie (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 2, 2007report abuse
I have to echo the same word used by June - wow! Although I usually prefer the plainer Karate style jumpsuit, I am in awe of the work & artistry involved in the more elaborate suits. And Belew is right on - Elvis could make a burlap bag look good! I am coming to Memphis the end of the month & going straight to this exhibit. I can hardly wait!
June (profilecontact) wrote on Mar 1, 2007report abuse
Dazzling, isn't even the right word........wowie. Can't wait. We were going to drive over today but, there was a tornado watch in Memphis. Going on Sunday. Don't know if I can handle it!

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