Elvis Presley: Why the Legend Started Wearing His Iconic Jumpsuits

by Halle Ames

Nobody could rock a jumpsuit quite like The King Elvis Presley could, but why did the legend start the fashion statement in the first place?

When you think back to Elvis, the image that pops into your head probably involves jet black puffy hair and a jumpsuit.

Credited as the brilliant mind behind The King’s iconic outfit designs, Bill Belew wasn’t the only person that had a hand in the creations. Gene Doucette wrote an article for The Guardian back in 2010 on how he was Belew’s successor.

“I crossed paths with Bill Belew in the early 1970s, when he was designing costumes for Elvis,” said Doucette. “The jumpsuit was Bill’s idea. He was inspired by clothing from the Napoleonic era, particularly the high collars.”

The talented writer and designer explains why jumpsuits were the perfect outfit for the energetic artist. Additionally, once the design was up to his discretion, Gene Doucette started to play around with ideas for Elvis Presley.

“Of course, jumpsuits were practical for Elvis because they allowed him to move around on stage without worrying about getting his clothing snagged on something. Eventually, Bill handed it over to me, and I began working on Elvis’s jumpsuits. I loved working with themes, such as primitive, Egyptian, Aztec Thunderbird. I didn’t just want glitter, I wanted a story.”

Elvis Presley’s Dream Closet

Doucette recalls his favorite jumpsuit that he made for Elvis Presley for the 1973 show he did in Hawaii. The jumpsuit was an instant hit.

“My most famous design, and probably my personal favorite, is the suit Elvis wore for his Aloha in Hawaii in 1973. He had requested a patriotic design because the show was going to be broadcast around the world. I grabbed a piece of paper and sketched out an eagle in blue and yellow marker, and told Bill, ‘I want to do this.’ He said: ‘Go for it.’ I think that jumpsuit became synonymous with his image for many people.”

Finally, Gene Doucette worked with Elvis Presley through the grapevine for many years, noting that he never got to actually meet The King despite the constant feedback.

“I continued designing jumpsuits for Elvis until he stopped performing due to ill health. As far as I’m aware, there wasn’t one of my suits he turned down. He wore them all. I continue to make jumpsuit replicas of the classic Elvis design to this day. I’m proud that I influenced Elvis’s style and that the suits became so iconic.”

Many of Elvis Presley’s most iconic jumpsuits are displayed in his estate at Graceland. Take a virtual tour here!