The Auction at Graceland•Elvis Week•August 12, 2017
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/12/2017

Elvis’ return to live performances in 1968 was a revival of his musical career that ushered in his new style of stage fashion. His newly designed stylish costumes were the inspiration of Bill Belew at I.C. Costume Company. Bill created the famous black leather outfit that Elvis wore on his NBC “’68 Comeback Special” and so began a long relationship between Elvis and his costume designer. Bill tailored his designs to highlight Elvis’ stage presence while enabling the singing sensation to move freely and make his mark. The pair took advantage of the trendy jumpsuit style of the ’70s and Bill created spectacularly unique pieces that would make the jumpsuit synonymous with only Elvis. In 1973, Elvis took the stage at the Honolulu International Center for the most-watched entertainment special of its time, Aloha from Hawaii. For the show, Elvis’ only request to Bill was that his costume “say America.” Bill had just visited an American Embassy in Europe which was embroiled in controversy over the eagle emblem, and it was this visit that sparked the idea for the famous eagle jumpsuit. However, Bill wanted Elvis to be able to make a big splash by turning his back to the audience, opening the cape to a full size spread-winged eagle, so he created a matching floor length cape. The 12-pound cape, however, was so heavy that when Elvis put it on and stepped forward, he fell right backward. Bill had to quickly make a cape more manageable for the performance. The cape was so popular that more followed with stage jumpsuits paired with matching capes.

Bill Belew and Gene Doucette together designed and embroidered over 100 jumpsuits for Elvis in the 1970s. They were in total command of the art form with designs that were styled to dazzle in the stage lights and focus all attention on Elvis during his performances; some of the jumpsuits were created with capes to provide further flash. One such jumpsuit was the Lava Jumpsuit, also known as the Amber Jumpsuit, which included an unusual cape that featured embellishments in the pattern of a tiger’s back on the outside and was lined with a tiger-striped faux fur material on the inside. Most capes featured embroidery or embellishments on the outside with a solid-color lining, so this offered unique cape is quite rare. The Lava or Amber jumpsuit, worn by Elvis in the August and September 1973 Las Vegas season, is currently on display at Graceland without the accompanying special “tiger” cape being offered here.

Like the coveted jumpsuits, of which very few are in private hands, the capes are rarely offered on the open market, so this opportunity is extraordinary. This significant cape is bejeweled with amber-colored rhinestones on the white outer fabric, is lined with a plush tiger-striped material, and has three metal hook attachments at the collar. This amazing cape, a partner to the jumpsuit in the treasured Graceland Archive Collection, is a precious find that would be the pinnacle piece in any serious collection. The coveted cape measures 31 by 70 inches (78.74 x 177.8 cm) and is accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Graceland Authenticated.

Also accompanying the cape is a 2008 letter from designer Gene Doucette which he wrote after meeting with our consignor and viewing the cape in person. It reads in part: "This particular cape belongs to the stage outfit I designed commonly referred to as the "Topaz Stone" suit. This suit was the jeweled version of a Tiger skin. I have personally inspected this cape at great length, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is the original. I recognize the fabric, including the fake Tiger fabric used in the lining. I also recognize the jewels, rim settings and the details of the gold nail head enhancement as all authentic. I also recognize the overall workmanship as my own." There are also two prints of photos of Gene with the cape.

The tiger print interior remains supple and free of major defects. The exterior has several small areas of staining, brown like dried blood. This cannot be confirmed. The amber rhinestones remain intact. There is considerable wear along the collar attachments. Excellent condition.
1973 Elvis Presley Stage Worn Cape with Tiger Skin Pattern on the Interior
Current Bidding (Reserve Has Been Met)
Minimum Bid: $35,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $83,750.00
Estimate: $70,000 - $100,000
Number Bids: 6
Auction closed on Saturday, August 12, 2017.
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