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Elvis Presley: Which Jumpsuit Cost the Most to Make?

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

In his later years, Elvis Presley often preferred to perform in heavy, rhinestone and jewel-laden jumpsuits. He owned hundreds of them, and none of them were cheap. Ask any Elvis impersonator and they’ll explain the intricacies and cost that go into such a wardrobe. But which one of the Kings’ jumpsuits cost him the most?

That honor goes to the “American Eagle” jumpsuit, sometimes called the “Aloha” suit. That’s because he wore it in the Aloha from Hawaii special in 1973. The cost of the suit was $65,000 then, that’s more than $250,000 in today’s money.

He originally had a large cape attached to it, but the cape weighed so much that Elvis almost fell over while wearing it, Rolling Stone reported.

“Presley had the cape made to hide behind at the opening of the Hawaii show,” says Bobby Livingston, a spokesperson for RR Auction who was selling the cape. “The show was heavily choreographed — he intended to drop the cape and reveal himself to the anxiously awaiting crowd. However, when Presley tried on the cape during rehearsals, the weight almost pulled him over backwards, and it was decided that a smaller version was needed.”

The original cape weighed around 20 pounds, but they were able to get it down to about 12 by showtime.

Nightline got access inside Elvis’ home Graceland before it was open to the public. The caretakers gave the reporter access to a room filled with hundreds of jumpsuits, each costing more than $2,000. Elvis’ friend Joe Esposito said that it was only about half of the collection since Elvis had given away more than half of the jumpsuits before his death to charities. They would auction them off, usually. Most of the suits now are in private collections and museums.

The Evolution of Elvis’ Jumpsuits

The suits were made from gaberdine. It was the same material used to make figure skaters outfits.

Elvis Presley’s tailor Bill Belew got the idea to use that material after Elvis had an unusual request. “The one thing he said that he wanted to incorporate in his act was his karate. And I thought I’ve got to find something that will allow him to do that.”

Belew told Rolling Stone in 2005 that the jumpsuits evolved over time. Mostly because they were testing out which would work best with the stage lights. And, of course, Elvis would have to be able to perform in it comfortably.

“The lighting [in Las Vegas] was still in its early stages,” said the designer. “And we found that the color that worked the best was white. It allowed them to change the colors on him, where as black would absorb all the color. And it was hard to highlight him. And we experimented with blue which was one of his favorite colors. Red. But it just ended up that white was the best thing and, of course, you know, you want the star to be the person, you know, and not the wardrobe.”