The recent Auction at Graceland listed 315 items of Elvis memorabilia. The number of offerings keeps increasing, and this time there were enough items of Elvis’ clothing to fill an ElvisBlog article.
Blue Armadillo Sleeveless Jumpsuit and Jacket:
You may not know it, but Elvis wore several two-piece jumpsuits like this one. Bill Belew and Gene Douchette at I.C. Costume Co. in Hollywood created them with various shoulder designs on the jacket including flames, multi-colored arrows, snakes, and a variation of this one called the red armadillo. The armadillo name came from the shoulder patterns looking similar to the scales or scutes of an armadillo.
Elvis wore the blue armadillo two-piece jumpsuit at eight concert appearances in 1975. There are many photographs of Elvis wearing the suit, which add to its value.
There were nearly 100 jumpsuits created for Elvis over the years, but most reside in the Graceland Archives. Because this auction presented a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire one, the minimum bid of $100,000 was ridiculously low. Collectors placed seven bids running the final price up to $250,000, including the buyer’s premium added by the auction.
Motorcycle Cap Gifted to Elvis’ Uncle Vester Presley:
Elvis owned many Harley-Davidson motorcycles (Graceland currently has four of his Harleys on display), and he also owned a number of black cloth motorcycle hats. This one he gave to his Uncle Vester (Vernon’s brother). In 1983, along with the cap, Vester sold other Elvis gifts like a 1975 blue and white Pontiac Grand Prix and two pistols. The cap resurfaced at the recent Auction at Graceland, and it was very popular. A total of 9 bids ran the price up to $6,000
Three Pair of Pants from Elvis Movies:
It is interesting to identify the scenes where Elvis wore these pants. He wore the Viva Las Vegas pants (with a grey jacket) in the scenes where he went from hotel to hotel looking for Rusty, played by Ann-Margret. When he finally finds her poolside at the hotel, he serenades her and then she pushes him into the pool.
Elvis wore the Easy Come, Easy Go pants in all of the club scenes, the yoga scene, the scene with Captain Jack and Gil, and the Zoltan car scenes.
Elvis wore the Flaming Star pants throughout the entire film.
All three pairs came with multiple photos of Elvis wearing them.
There were labels and tags that verified them as part of Elvis’ wardrobe for the films.
And all three had Letters of Authenticity.
So, you would expect them all to go for the approximately the same price. It didn’t work out that way.
The Flaming Star pants went for $7,500, and the Viva Las Vegas pants nearly equaled that at $6,785. But the Easy Come, Easy Go pants did not sell. I don’t get it. Maybe it’s because that was a pretty weak movie and the other two were much more significant.
Brown Leather Jacket:
Elvis wore this dark brown leather jacket in the 70’s until his increased weight made it too small for him. Believe it or not, this coat came from Sears.
Considering all the custom made clothing Elvis bought, who knew a Sears jacket was part of his wardrobe.
There is a little story about this jacket told by Dave Hebler, Elvis Bodyguard from 1972 to 1976:
“One day Elvis invited me upstairs to his bedroom at Graceland and offered me all of his old jumpsuits. He complained that they no longer fit him and that he wanted them out of his closet. I told him I had no use for 50 jumpsuits nor did I have the ability to store them at my apartment. In retrospect, I wish I had. Instead I moved a majority of the jumpsuits to the shed at the back of Graceland. I did take a couple of Elvis’ jackets for the colder winters in Memphis.”
So, if you think about it, because Hebler did not take the jumpsuits that day, the collection stayed at Graceland, and they can now be enjoyed by us fans in one place. Otherwise, they would have been sold to collectors over the years and we’d never see any of them.
The leather jacket did not come with a photo of Elvis wearing it, and thus came in under the estimate at just $4,250.
Electric Purple Button-Down Shirt:
This is another item that Elvis gave away to his Uncle Vester. The auction website says:
“Elvis’ personal fashion in the ’70s mimicked his concert costumes with a style and flair that was the embodiment of men’s fashions in that decade. With its puffy sleeve construction and bright purple hue, the offered example is in keeping with the bold patterns, colors and stylized designs of men’s fashion at the time.”
This cotton shirt with a big collar, puffy sleeves, and two pleats on the back was a favorite with the bidders. It started with a minimum of $2,000, and 16 bids later it sold for $5,500 (without benefit of a photo of Elvis wearing it). Do you think it would have gone higher if the seller had bothered to get it ironed?
Rabbit Fur Coat:
Elvis gave this fur coat to Patti Parry. I have seen her name before, but was not sure of her connection with Elvis, so I was thankful for the history the auction website provided:
“In 1960, at the tender age of 17, she met Elvis for the first time. Patti, who ran into Elvis while on Santa Monica Boulevard, was in beauty school at the time with Larry Geller. When she met Elvis, the two immediately hit it off and she became one of the few women to spend time with the entourage in LA. Elvis treated her like a little sister and would often introduce her as part of the family. She would style Elvis’ and sometime Priscilla’s hair. Patti was there the time The Beatles met Elvis, she was in the audience for the “’68 Comeback Special,” she was on his movie sets and at his Vegas performances, and she did his hair for the Aloha from Hawaii satellite broadcast concert. Theirs was a special brother-and-sister relationship and as with close friends and family, Elvis lavished Patti with gifts, including the offered rabbit fur coat.”
The rabbit fur coat that Elvis gave to Patti has six front buttons and a pleat on the back. The fur has a size label “40” in the collar above the maker’s label, which reads “Finest French Rabbit” and has “EP” embroidered on the inside. It brought in a price just slightly below the estimate at $7,500. Is French rabbit fur superior to American?
Red “Elephant Corduroy” Suit:
This marvelous suit went from Elvis to super fan Paul Lichter to Chris Davidson for display at his Elvis-A-Rama Museum in Las Vegas. The museum has been closed since 2006, and supposedly Davidson sold its entire inventory to CKX, the company that owned Elvis Presley Enterprises at the time. However, it would appear Davidson held on to this suit.
I must say the folks writing the text for this auction’s item descriptions have risen to new heights in descriptive prose:
“Elvis was not only a musical superstar, but he also served as an icon of style, helped in part by Bill Belew, who designed outlandish stage costumes that became street fashion for the trend-setting king of rock ‘n’ roll. In the 1970s that he took his fashion to new heights and embraced the fun bohemian concept of using oneself as an art palette for fashion, mixing bold, bright colors, textures and patterns. The decade of the 1970s was about chic comfort and a lazy, luxurious feel, with diversity in individual style reflecting one’s own self-expression. No one could have carried those exaggerated elements of flared pants, oversized collars and accessories worn from head to toe better than Elvis Presley.”
“Bill Belew, Elvis’ jumpsuit designer at the I.C. Costume Company, created iconic jewel-covered jumpsuit synonymous with Elvis, but he also pushed the envelope with Elvis’ everyday wear, using the bold styles and popular fabrics of the day which included suedes, polyesters and corduroys. Corduroy, a woven fiber that lies in parallel lines forming a distinct “cord” pattern with the larger, thicker-striped version known as “elephant” corduroy, was often utilized for both men and women’s fashion.”
The website stated that photos existed of Elvis wearing the suit although none were offered. There were only five bids, but the price must have leapfrogged up from the minimum of $30,000 in big increments. The red corduroy suit topped out at $62,500.
Suede, Leather, and Fur-Trimmed Jacket:
This brown suede jacket has leather on the shoulders, pockets, and belted waist, and fur on the cuffs and collar. Wearing it, Elvis would have been prepared for any cold winter Memphis weather. Once again, Elvis was cleaning out his closet when it got too full, and he gave the coat to his cousin Harold Lloyd.
No pictures of Elvis wearing it were provided, but the coat does have interior label indicating that the jacket was “Custom Tailored for Elvis Presley. It was certainly an in-demand item, with 16 bids pushing the price up to $8,750.
Brown Velvet Jacket, Pants and Cape Ensemble:
We have already seen how an item of Elvis’ wardrobe designed by the jumpsuit master Bill Belew sold for big bucks. The owner of this ensemble and the auctioneers thought it would, too, and set the minimum bid of $35,000.
Belew created Elvis’ Black Leather outfit from the ’68 Comeback Special, the American Eagle Jumpsuit, and the suit Elvis wore during his famous Oval Office meeting with President Nixon. . He loved creating striking masterpieces for Elvis’ personal wardrobe as well. This set is a good example.
It includes chocolate brown pants, jacket and cape. The heavy, long sleeved, brown velvet jacket has a brown and white spotted lining. Tit has velvet-covered buttons, two false front pockets, wide lapels, six buttons on each cuff, and a Velcro strip on the back of the collar by which the cape can attach. The brown velvet pants are heavily bell-bottomed. The matching brown velvet cape is fully lined in brown satin. According to the auction website, “this elaborate ensemble vividly depicts Elvis’ love for dressing extravagantly in not only his professional but his personal life… It has remained in a private collection since 1999, and now presents a rare opportunity for collectors to own a personal outfit from the ultimate showman.”
In spite of all this, the three-piece outfit did not sell. There were two bids above the minimum, but they did not get close enough the estimate of $70-80,000 to please the seller, so it was pulled. I think a photo of Elvis wearing the ensemble would have made a big difference.
Cape with Tiger Skin Pattern on the Lining:
You would think that with the item description above, the featured photo on the auction website would be the one I chose to show. However, the exterior of the cape is the one that pops up when you click on the item.
Five variations of it were offered, including two blow-ups of the jewels.
All this is fine because the jumpsuit is not called Tiger Skin. It is the Lava Jumpsuit or the Amber Jumpsuit. Strangely, they chose not to offer a photo of Elvis in the suit. It wasn’t hard to find a couple on the internet. Unfortunately, none show Elvis with his arms outstretched holding up the corners of the cape and exposing the faux tiger skin lining.
The Lava Jumpsuit is already part of the Graceland Archive Collection. Do you think maybe Graceland paid the winning bid of $83,750 for the cape so they could pair it up with suit?
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