Courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, all my inscribed designer photos hung on my office wall and are now house in a the Archives
Cher, Carol Burnett, Barbie all have one thing in common….BOB MACKIE!!!! The king of making every woman glamorous whether they are on stage or wearing something unique for a special night….what a gift he has. His love for show business, and more importantly, the joy of making all his ladies look beyond amazing is, without a doubt, magnificently on display in the brand new Pre-Broadway production The Cher Show at Chicago’s Oriental Theater through July 15th. A must see! Saw it loved it, the three Chers are spot on as is Sonny, Greg, et al, and the subject of this post, Bob Mackie, has not only outdone himself with the costumes but, in my opinion, his stage double steals the first act…..just saying… The show brings us back to the beginnings and we realized the talent and the relationship and collaboration between the star performer and the star designer… bravo.
A sketch for proposed costumes in The Cher Show.
Bob’s career began in his native California as a sketch artist for Edith Head at
Paramount Studios. His talent for costuming, which began there, is unparalleled
Just think of the excitement, glamour and wit he brought to the weekly live Carol Burnett show. Week after week we would experience his extraordinary costumes
that not only set the tone for the skits but helped create the characters as well.
Can we ever forget the classic “Scarlett O’Hara” skit with the “curtain” gown,
pure Mackie!!! The Carol Burnett Show introduced him to Cher who was appearing as a guest on the show….need I say the rest of that story is show biz and fashion history.
Bob’s sketch for the classic Miss Scarlett “curtain” dress, it now lives in the Smithsonian collections, where it should be as a part of American history
The first time I saw Sonny and Cher, at the very beginning of their career, they
were totally dressed in hippie garb and looked like “mountain people”, whatever that means…when they started their variety TV show Cher became a fashion icon, and remains one to this day, again, totally a Mackie collaboration. The occasion of my seeing these performers was at a Chicago Tribune College Council event held annually at either the Sherman House Hotel or the Morrison Hotel (both demolished long ago). The Tribune hosted all the Chicago retailers College Boards which were a group of college women that worked in the “college departments” at their stores. Each store “marched” into the ballroom in their specially selected outfits some stores had huge groups (think Marshall Fields and Carson Pirie Scott) and Saks Fifth Avenue usually had 8, in my humble opinion, we were a small group but our ladies looked amazing in their gear! When this duo went to the stage the audience was stunned, I don’t think many knew who they were….the minute they began I’ve Got You Babe, everyone not only witnessed stars in action but left the room knowing they wanted to hear more and more we have heard through the years.
I had the great pleasure of working with this designing genius on many formal
fashion productions, most of which were presented in the International Ballroom
at the Hilton Hotel. They were always major choreographed shows that were
themed and featured more beading than any Ziegfeld Show. They were beyond
glamorous and the audience not only loved the shows but adored Bob. Saks Fifth
Avenue always had a huge sales result and many of the pieces we sold are now
housed in the Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum and the Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago. Before Saks Fifth Avenue did these shows the trunk shows were presented at Kane’s and the Collection was also carried at Stanley Korshak, both stores long gone from the Chicago retail scene while Saks Fifth Avenue remains strong, since 1929, on Michigan Avenue.
The above photos are Bob doing his finale walk at one of our formal shows, the second, with me, in the Lobby of the Hilton Chicago Ballroom, prior to another show.
My piece, yes, there are Mackie day pieces….it now lives in the Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago as are the above photos (alas, not from my wardrobe) all were taken by Tanner Branson at my request.
Bob, being the gracious gentleman he is, agreed to be my date when I co-chaired my second DIFFA gala in 1991, also at the Hilton Chicago, it was a Venice masquerade event, my co-chair, Michael Hasten, brought a Fortuny mask from a visit to Venice for me and Bob sent me a major ball gown to wear….below you see us at the party (I think we look like we are at our prom…a very glamorous one to be sure!)
The DIFFA ball in 1990 and the Costume Council event, 2015, same faces a few years later…Dennis Minkel, another dear friend, brought the original photo so we could reinterpret it…fun, yes, indeed!
The second book we read for the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. (Let me know if you are interested in attending and I’ll send you all the details.) We meet the fourth Tuesday of each month (I’m skipping July, next up Jeffrey Bank’s brilliant monograph NORELL in August). I thought an appropriate selection with all the Mackie excitement in Chicago this month. We had a lively discussed at our June gathering while sipping Haute Couture Bubbles, delish and mini bites. The attendees had great questions, obviously a book club is all about discussing the book!
The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum honored Bob with their Designer of Execellence Award at a conversation with Hal Rubenstein and sit-down dinner in April 2015. Bob, like all our designer guests, viewed some of the treasures in the Costume Collection, and was beyond impressed with the selections he was shown.
I’m with my dear friend, Abra Wilkin, at the Costume Council Award Dinner…both wearing pieces from Abra’s Mackie Collection. Bob was thrilled to reminisce with Abra about his Chicago visits and the CHM Costume.
Saks launched the Mackie fragrance and he created a special edition relaunch for gifts for the dinner guests….each signed by Bob…special indeed. One of the attendees of The Fashion Book Club, Tanner Branson, found this jacket on Etsy it was done as a promotion piece for the fragrance. I seem rather animated while leading the discussion and showing my DIFFA gown festured in the book. Photo courtesy of another standee, David Sanchez.
Two Mackie pieces that were in the CHM Exhibition Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair. The gorgeous hot pink feather costume, was in one of the Mackie formal runway shows I worked on….it was the piece in the exhibition I sponsored. The other more pure Mackie glam!
It has been my extreme pleasure to have worked with this design genius who really knows how to put the “show” in show business and share his wisdom, talent and joie de vie with his stars and his clients….glamour is most certainly Bob Mackie’s forte.Another iconic genius…Victor Skrebneski, photographer extraordinaire, and my friend of more years than we care to admit, did a brilliant video program for my Fashion Group International Chicago Award in 1990, also at the Hilton Chicago. He asked Bob to send gowns for me to wear for the photo session….a story unto itself…here is one in ink green sequins, an example of Bob Mackie creating a body even if you don’t have one……
Bob, thank you for making my professional life the joy it was and for filling everyone’s lives with glitter, glam and drop dead gorgeous creations all Unmistakably Mackie!
When previewing this post…the photos seem to be off center, can’t seem to be able to correct this problem…..so sorry, I hope you enjoy the copy along with the photos and sketches, any illustrations or photos, not credited, were found on Pinterest and I don’t have photo credits. The two sketches are by Bob Mackie also found on Pinterest
All I can say is “wow” what an article about you and Mackie. Loved all the personal aspects and pictures! I believe he did many shows with you at the Hilton for the American Cancer Society. We always use to say we needed to bring the glamour and glitz of Mackie back into our fashion shows because that had always brought in the ladies.
Yes, Marcia, we did many Annual American Society shows several,of which were with Mackie. Glad yiu enjoyed the article.
Loved waking up to this post! As always,, a great story and photos.
Thanks so much Annette. A fun one to write.
Absolutely love this, I have forever memories because of these moments, thanks for giving them to me 🤗
Thank you for being a huge part of the memories, those were the days of extra special shows and Bob was one of the master of Show biz! Yes, they are forever memories!
What a fabulous walk down memory with you and Bob Mackie over the years. Such fun to see his extraordinary designs and the fun you two had together. Thank you for sharing your memories and glamorous photos with us, and it’s obvious you still are full of smiles and chic as ever,
Thanks so much Abra…only wish we could still do the extra special shows that I so loved doing. Bob was an extraordinary talent (still is) and was my joy to have had him as a friend in my career. Don’t think I smile much any more and as for being chic…that is debatable, but I appreciate your kind remarks.think of all the glorious gowns you wore to thrill us all!
Fabulous! I loved working with Bob Mackie back in the day!!!
Those were the days….so happy we have those memories when shows were shows. Bob made them fun.
Dear Nena, could you please find out from Ms. Wilkin, if she still has that INCREDIBLE Bob Mackie fringe Indian poncho, as I purchased one EXACTLY like it from a dealer…could it be the same one??? Can you also ask her about the matching boots…I am a collector, and ANY information would be most appreciated…NOW, to watch Bob win his Tony award TONIGHT!!! SO SPECIAL!!
Many, many thanks
Cape Cod, Mass
Hi…I’ll check with her, to my knowledge she still has those pieces, and get back to you ASAP.
If Bob doesn’t win, I’ll have to give up on ALL award shows. He is beyond the best!!!!!! Best regards….Nena
Thank you so much for your quick reply! I am enjoying your blog VERY much, and look forward to any information you may have, regarding my FAVE Bob Mackie treasure.