Accessibility links

Designer Bob Mackie Dresses Hollywood Stars


Costume designer Bob Mackie is known as the Sultan of Sequins, and some of the biggest names in Hollywood have worn his flamboyant creations. Mike O'Sullivan paid a visit to Mackie's Los Angeles studio to see how he designs outfits for the stars.

Mackie has dressed a galaxy of stars from Anjelica Huston to Cher, and his fashions range from the elegant to the outrageous.

His list of clients stretches across the entertainment world from comediennes Carol Burnett and Whoopi Goldberg to singers Madonna and Barbra Streisand.

"When they're terribly famous and they've already made a name for themselves, these ladies have a look already," Mackie says. "They have an image already. And sometimes you like it and sometimes you don't. But as a costume designer, my job is always to enhance that image to make them look as good as they can. You don't want to change them and make them into something else because it wouldn't be them."

Some people come to Hollywood to become a star. Mackie came to dress the stars. As a young art student, he loved the glamour of the movies.

"I liked the color, I loved the scenery, I loved the whole thing about movies and movie musicals and movie adventure stories, the pirates and Arabian Knights and all that," he says. "You know, it didn't look like that at my house, and I wanted to be part of that."

Fresh out of art school, he worked as a sketch artist for film costume designer Jean Louis. Then he worked with designer Edith Head at Paramount Pictures.

He went out on his own and built a roster of clients.

"You know, I was doing a lot of shows and I met a lot of people and I worked with a lot of stars, but I wanted that special one that was my very own that does a nightclub act and appears on variety shows and would always come to me for her clothes," Mackie says.

The actress, singer and dancer Mitzi Gaynor became his first celebrity client, and many others followed, from the Motown star Diana Ross to pop star Elton John.

Mackie has won eight Emmy awards for dressing stars on television, and earned three Oscar nominations for dressing stars in the movies. The Hollywood Arts Council is adding another honor, granting Mackie its first annual fashions arts award.

"He represents so much to so many different people," says Nyla Arslanian, the council's president. "And he's our own, and we really want to recognize him with the first fashion arts award."

After more than 40 years in Hollywood, Bob Mackie is at the top of his field. He also designs for people outside Hollywood. Those fashions are sold on the QVC shopping network on cable television.

But he turns his imagination loose for his celebrity clients, creating plunging necklines on gowns covered with sequins and rhinestones, sometimes topped off with brilliantly colored hats and headdresses.

Mackie is at work now designing exotic outfits for Cher's upcoming show in Las Vegas, to open in May.

"It'll be nostalgic and there will be some looks that she has had in the past," he says. "There'll be some things that you have never seen before. It is a fabulous show with all kinds of effects, acrobats and dancers and scenery and costumes that go in every direction."

Those costumes, he promises, will be memorable.

XS
SM
MD
LG