Elvis is known for his music - but also as a Fashion Icon - an 'Influencer' before that word was invented! Six years after moving to Jackson, just 1 hour from Memphis, we finally got to Graceland last Saturday and the real treat to me was the museum portion that included his show clothes!!!
I thought this picture below and the quote over it was interesting. I wish I knew which young boy is Elvis... If you know - please share in COMMENTS below.
Elvis wore - LOTS of jumpsuits! The majority of them were fashioned of a white stretch gabardine fabric. To me, that means they were likely polyester with some Lycra for more stretch since they were a gabardine weave. Here is a closeup that shows the fabric out of which most ALL of the white jumpsuits were made.
The Designer was Bill Belew, and I'm sharing next some shots that I took with facts about Belew as a designer and the Elvis 'look'.
Common Design Features Are...?
Don't miss the reason for the WHITE as explained in the last image above....
This room of 2 full walls of jumpsuit displays was..... amazing!
Any sewist would readily see that these jumpsuits are all just variations on the same zip-front jumpsuit design with that high (and hot, to me) Napoleonic Collar. I can't imagine a man wanting to wear a jumpsuit like this for long - maybe for stage, but during the day for 'normal wear'? Personally, I hated when jumpsuits were in style. I made/wore very few if only for the 'pain' that they presented when using the restroom.
Here are some close-up pictures. Seems to me there were some 'issues' with the bottom part of the zipper application...and I have to say that I saw that repeatedly. Note that the left laps over the right - as Men's clothes do. Women's lap right over left. I remember that because when I put buttonholes in my toddler son's Sunday little tailored jacket and put the buttonholes (and cut them) then realized they were on the wrong side.....I figured I had to come up with a way of remembering which side buttonholes go on, at least for Women. I came up with:
Buttonholes for Women go on the RIGHT side - because Women are always RIGHT.
I really disliked this puffy 'space-suit' looking gathered one! There must have been some kind of stuffing in there, or at least the lining was cut smaller all over to make the top pucker. Ughhhh.
Some more close-up photos...and I'm posting them here large so that you can see detail.
The 'Sun' image was big because his first recordings were with the Sun Studio - or something like that. All that wasn't that interesting to me...as much as the styling and what details I could see.
All of the pants seemed a tad short to me...and I'm sure the mannequins are exact Elvis height. That's just something I noticed...Oh - and Elvis had BIG feet. The boots/shoes on display could easily have been a size 13-14 or so from my estimation.
I learned how hard it is to take photos with the reflection of others and light coming off the glass...but I still felt this was all quite interesting.
I quickly noticed the pointed long sleeves - the back of the sleeve with an open 6" or so long vent, and quite a bit longer than the front of the sleeve. Here's a close-up which shows a lining, and the tiny finishing hand stitches.
I have no doubt that all of these clothes were fully lined..... so there was good reason for all that sweating Elvis did while on stage!
VERY interesting was the invoices for these garments. I looked up the equivalent in 2022 dollars, and will post that below some of the pictures. I used the CPI Inflation calculator online to find the monetary equivalents. The descriptions also offer some detail.
$6,042 in 1974 is worth $36,314 today
$8,851 in 1974 is worth $53,197 today
One of those white jumpsuits at $2653 in 1974 = $15,945 today
What about those BELTS???
Those $45 belts would be $300 today - not really that bad in my humble opinion...
I thought this was interesting - A 'mix n match' mentality for accessorizing wiith different belts.
Those custom made white shirts? $835 today. With all the work in a shirt, that seems reasonable to me....
All the 'repair' - interesting, sometimes no charge....
Nte above the designation of 'Stretch Gabardine' for the jumpsuit.
Pockets & Detailed Hand Stitching
These seemed to me too all be flaps only - not a functioning 'real' pocket. But then, I was only looking closely through the glass...
I was impressed wiith the hand pick-stitched top-stitching detail I saw on several of the garments. The suit below shows that stitching quite well. Note how it stops at the width of the front facing at the hemline edge. I'll bet it is a heavy silk thread. This fabric appeaars to be more of a woolen gabardine - almost a herringbone weave if my old eyes are seeing right.
The pant fabric is a knit though - I saw those same pants in an entire white tailored suit. Knits would have been pretty new back then. I remember during my college years in Normal, IL 1970-1972, that Greta's downtown was brimming with polyester knit fabrics. I took a men's tailoring class there - actually learning more than I was being taught in my Illinois State University 'sewing' classes!
Elvis WAS certainly a Fashion Influencer - shown clearly in a LARGE room of garments.
Well - this was a very fun visit for me. I have a day without any sewing sttudents, so I'm off to finish an Up-Cycle project using antique redwork squares and seersucker, then I think I'll put on some ELVIS music as I start to play with my newest Fashion Finds from Graceland:
1 grey T-shirt that also features Carl Perkins - who is from where I live, Jackson in TN - so that may well make this get snatched up once I create with it. This T-shirt was just $20 at a restaurant where we ate.
1 black T-Shirt, on sale for half off making it $20 as well. It washed up well - even thoough the Elvis image is all of silver bumpy 'things'. Only Small was available, but that is fine for how I might make use of the image...
1 rayon sheer scarf - yielding LOTS of fabric because it measures 49" x 67". BUT, it has NO drape. Rather, it is 'filmy and 'catches'...kinda disappointing. I may well be underlining it and using it in a stable manner as I design. $17
1 pair of Elvis SOCKS - again $17, but I have the idea these could be the bottom of sleeves. The challenge will be that though they are 'black', the black is almost navy ... hmmm. Anyway, I thought that was an interesting idea, so we'll see.
ALL WASHED AND READY TO ROLL!
Years ago, I had fun making a 'Lucy Jacket' for a good friend of mine who is crazy about Lucy and was going to a Lucy convention. That will be a design starting point for me as I work. Check out that blog post...
I know in my 'Black Bin' that I have a good hunk of that filmy black netting. AND, my mind remembers some glitzy blacks. This will be FUN, FUN, FUN!
I highly recommend a visit to Graceland if you get close to Memphis, TN! Be sure to go across the street from the mansion (where we did not get to yet) to the Museum which is where we visited and I took all of these photos.
PLEASE Comment below if you have any fashion input regarding Elvis' spectacular look.