Bob Mackie, born Robert Gordon Mackie on March 24 1940, is a renowned American costume and fashion designer, mastermind behind lists of charismatic entertainment icons.

From his personal humour to outrageous glamorous glittering capabilities, the world has not seen enough of the legendary costume designer. Nicknamed “the sultan of sequins” and “the rajah of rhinestones”, Mackie deems “a woman who wears my clothes is not afraid to be noticed”. A nine-time Emmy winner, three-time Oscar nominee as well as an induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, there is nothing Mackie hasn’t accomplished in his five decade career.

Born in California, and raised by his maternal grandparents, Mackie completed high school but didn’t complete a degree from neither Pasadena City College nor Chouinard Art Institute. He desire was always to make a footprint in the entertainment industry, even if he didn’t originally want to become a costume designer. “I wanted to be in show business” Mackie says. He had learnt how to sew with a sewing machine gifted to him by his grandmother, and began to create costumes for small, local theatre groups, in hopes of building a portfolio. With his never-ending bursts of creativity, he landed his first job sketching for Frank Thompson at Paramount Studios shortly after high school, then worked as a novice designer and assistant under designer Ray Aghayan, who became his partner professionally and personally.

Mackie’s professional career kicked off in 1961, as a sketch artist for Jean Louis. He then moved to being a designer for Edith Head at Paramount Studios. Notable for her work in The Sting, Roman Holiday and several Alfred Hitchcock films, Edith Head was the most famous costume designer of the time, having won a record eight Academy Awards between 1949 and 1973. Working under two of the most influential and inspired designers in an assistant position, marked the beginning of his renowned fashion career.

His first creative project, in 1963, was a costume designer for The July Garland Show at age twenty-three. Several years later, in 1966, Mitzi Gaynor, an American actress, singer and dancer, hired Mackie to design her new stage for her Las Vegas Review as well as her television appearances. Over the next half century, Mackie continued to design Gaynor’s television specials and live stage shows. Worn by Gaynor, his sleeveless, off-the-shoulder floor-length gown made of flowing pink material with lace sequined appliqués hugged by a large sparkling rhinestone belt buckle is now a collector’s piece. He received two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for Music-Variety for Gaynor’s TV specials.

Mackie continued to work in costume designing including working with Diana Ross from 1969 to 2010 for her last tour. Ordering beaded costumes with matching boas and headdresses to yellow and ruby red feathers, Ross was a frequent caller. The television productions involved elaborate and intricate sets, which Mackie overlooked. Tina Turner amongst many has also turned to Mackie, in which he made a series of firebird-style sequined dresses.


Story By Manasa Visakai
Edited By Tiffany Lu


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