Yesterday I made my way to Memphis, Tennessee to fulfill a bucket list item: visiting Elvis Presley’s storied estate, Graceland. While the 13.8-acre property, stuffed with memorabilia and original furniture from the Presley days, was a thrill to see in itself, getting up close and personal with the King’s legendary fashion archive (especially the bedazzled cape above) was by far the highlight of my trip. His signature show costumes were displayed inside the mansion, but after the tour this sartorial nerd bee-lined to the nearby Elvis Presley: Fashion King exhibit to get an in-depth look at Presley’s evolving fashion choices.
Presley’s multicolored Native American-inspired fringe cape.
The exhibit is across the street from Graceland and opened on March 1 of this year in honor of Presley’s 75th birthday. It showcases both performance and casual garb that’s had a direct influence on today’s fashion, and proves that Presley was decades ahead of his time in terms of style. Just as his early music was a combination of both rhythm & blues and country music, in the 1950’s his style reflected both cultures. He was known for purchasing suits from primarily African-American boutiques in Memphis, but added his own rock-rebel flair to them, like a popped collar. He also started having his shirts custom made to reflect his love of prints – especially paisley.
Handmade shirts by Lanksy Brothers on Beale Street in Memphis. Presley requested that elastic was added to the wrists and elbows to add volume.
How sweet are these blue buckle ankle boots?
While the 1950’s were all about perfecting his rock ‘n’ roll edge, by the 1960’s Presley had developed a more sophisticated style that reflected his budding career as a Hollywood star. He enlisted Frank Sinatra’s tailor, Sy Devore, to help sharpen his new suave style. But by the 1970’s, the musician’s showy fashion sense returned, gradually becoming more eccentric and leading to his new-found love for statement accessories like bold scarves and blinged-out rings.
A portion of Presley’s enviable jewelry collection, including his famous 11.5 carat solitaire ring with the T.C.B. (Taking Care of Business) emblem surrounded by lightning bolts.
A closer look at the King’s designer clothing roster, which includes pieces from Bally, Bill Blass, and Christian Dior.
Elvis Presley: Fashion King runs now through March 1, 2012.