Make It Sew: The Costume Blog – The Sultan of Sequins

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Robert Gordon "Bob" Mackie is an American fashion designer, best known for his costuming for entertainment icons such as Carol Burnett, Cher, Judy Garland, Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner, and Mitzi Gaynor. He was the costume designer for Carol Burnett on The Carol Burnett Show during its entire 11 year run and designed the costumes for its spinoff, Mama's Family, and for the 1993 television adaptation of Gypsy.

Mackie was discovered by legendary costumer Edith Head in 1961 while working as a novice designer at Paramount Studios. Mackie designed costumes for the Las Vegas Strip-based burlesque shows, Hallelujah Hollywood, which was inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies and ran at the MGM Grand(now Bally's Las Vegas) from 1974 to 1980, and Jubilee!,  which has been running since 1981. Both productions involve intricate, elaborate costumes and grandiose sets. Images of many of Mackie’s design drawings for these productions are available in the Showgirls collection from UNLV Libraries Digital Collections.

Two of Mackie's best-remembered creations had a humorous side. While working on The Carol Burnett Show, he designed a "curtain dress" (complete with a curtain rod across the shoulders) that Carol Burnett wore in the Gone with the Wind parody: Went with the Wind. Mackie also designed the garish ensemble worn by Cher at the March 1986 Academy Awards: black stretch pants, a bejeweled loincloth, knee high boots, a black chainlink top, and a huge feathered Mohawk headdress that was one and a half times taller than her head. Introduced by Jane Fonda with the words, "Wait'll you see what's gonna come out here," Cher was appearing as a presenter after what many considered an Oscar snub (Cher was not nominated for her performance in Mask). "As you can see," said Cher, "I did receive my Academy booklet on how to dress like a serious actress."

Mackie is often called the sultan of sequins, or the rajah of rhinestones, known for his sparkling and imaginative costume designs He has won nine Emmy Awards for his designs, and was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Mackie has said, "A woman who wears my clothes is not afraid to be noticed."

Mackie is also known for his exclusive dress designs for collector's edition Barbie dolls.

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Mackie's vast celebrity client list includes...

Beyoncé, Carol Burnett, Cher

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Whoopi Goldberg, Elton John, Liberace

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Madonna, Pink

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Diana Ross, The Supremes, and Tina Turner

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11 Responses to Make It Sew: The Costume Blog – The Sultan of Sequins

  1. I remember the dress that Cher wore to the Academy Awards. Just over-the-top. The Carol Burnett Gone With The Wind drapes was hilarious. It made that scene a comedy classic. I can’t imagine how much one of those Barbie dresses would cost if tailored for a full-size mechwarrior princess.

  2. Some of those costumes are insane. I can imagine certain celebrities wearing full sized versions of those Barbie designs, but it’d be a shame if that happened, they work better as they are now: as works of art.

  3. Prof. A.Q. Anthrax

    The Carol Burnett drapery dress is in the Smithsonian’s American History Museum Kennedy Center Honors collection.

    Here he discusses not just how he came up with it, but the aftermath.

  4. Prof. A.Q. Anthrax:
    The Carol Burnett drapery dress is in the Smithsonian’s American History Museum Kennedy Center Honors collection.

    Here he discusses not just how he came up with it, but the aftermath.


    Thanks for posting this!

  5. I didn’t know that Went with the Wind was performed on live television.

  6. JR19759:
    Some of those costumes are insane. I can imagine certain celebrities wearing full sized versions of those Barbie designs, but it’d be a shame if that happened, they work better as they are now: as works of art.

    Actually every piece Bob Mackie did was a piece of art, you are just talking scale at this point! I think he would get a kick out of seeing celebrities wearing full sized versions of those Barbie designs- BUT, I don’t think we ever will seeing celebrities wearing full sized versions of those Barbie designs, BECAUSE, Mattel would be utter foo-s to give up rights to those designs!!

  7. The Atomic Punk:
    I didn’t know that Went with the Wind was performed on live television.

    I think by live he meant live in front of an audience. As I understand it the CB show was taped twice per episode; a dress rehearsal with one audience, and another audience brought in to the “show” show. In interviews Carol has mentioned several times that the show ran like a play as often as possible – with breaks only when absolutely necessary.

  8. djuby: I think by live he meant live in front of an audience. As I understand it the CB show was taped twice per episode; a dress rehearsal with one audience, and another audience brought in to the “show” show. In interviews Carol has mentioned several times that the show ran like a play as often as possible – with breaks only when absolutely necessary.

    That’s still interesting. I picture a theater, a stage, real sets, and real laughs. The last show that I remember doing that was Kids in the Hall. Anymore, it’s a studio set with canned laughter to tell the audience that something was supposed to be funny (see: Pavlov).

  9. Prof. A.Q. Anthrax

    The Atomic Punk: That’s still interesting. I picture a theater, a stage, real sets, and real laughs. The last show that I remember doing that was Kids in the Hall. Anymore, it’s a studio set with canned laughter to tell the audience that something was supposed to be funny (see: Pavlov).

    The 1992-93 season of the Fox show Roc was done live, and was the only prime time scripted show since the late 1950’s to do so.
    In 2000, CBS did a live broadcast in black and white of “Fail-Safe” with Richard Dreyfuss and George Clooney, and an introduction by Walter Cronkite. It was really impressive looking, and felt like a pumped-up (in a good way) stage play.

  10. Carol Burnett famously said during one question and answer set with her live audience that most shows add canned laughter instead of an audience, but that they were very proud to tape the show with all the audience laughter AND THEN add canned laughter.

  11. @Prof. A.Q. Anthrax

    I forgot about Roc. Then, I never watched it.

    @Herr D

    Seems everything that I knew about the The Carol Burnett Show was a lie. Well, joke is on Carol Burnett. I’m too bitter and jaded to feel disillusioned. ;p