With Bob Mackie, it’s a bit tempting to just put up a slide show. Some of the most iconic costume design from the ‘70s on are Bob Mackie creations. Most obviously, you could do nothing but different images of Cher. Her most famous Oscar ensemble—it’s kind of understating it to call it a dress—is his design. He also designed her costume for the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video. They met in 1967, and many of her most famous costumes in the decades since have come from the mind of Bob Mackie. Apparently they are also close friends to this day, which is a lovely story.
However, Mackie’s first famous design was for another icon—and it’s a dress that’s currently in the news, in fact. It was Mackie who did the original drawing of Marilyn Monroe’s dress for John F. Kennedy’s birthday party, shortly before Monroe’s death. Many of Mackie’s calling cards were already there—the effect of nudity and the rhinestones, for example. He was at the time working for couturier Jean Louis. This was the year after, per Wikipedia’s description, Edith Head found him while he was working at Paramount Studios. This would be Mackie’s career—big names, imaginative designs, and pop culture fame.
He met Cher on the set of The Carol Burnett Show, where Cher was a guest, and in fact that’s where Mackie came up with the idea for one of the funniest sketches in the show’s history. (A high bar indeed.) According to Burnett, he was the one who came up with the idea for “Went With the Wind,” starting from the concept of “I saw it in the window and I just had to have it,” one of the funniest scripted lines to ever appear on the show. True, it’s nothing on some of the laughs Tim Conway got for ad libbing, but the laugh as Burnett came down the stairs in that dress was worth the entirety of the sketch.
Enormous numbers of great names have worn Bob Mackie designs. “A woman who wears my clothes,” said Mackie, “is not afraid to be noticed.” He started working with Diana Ross in 1969 and has worked with her as recently as 2010. Such names as Vanna White, Barbie, and RuPaul have all appeared in Mackie originals. He’s won multiple Emmys, is in the Television Hall of Fame, and has been nominated for three Oscars. He’s only going to EGOT if he records an audio book, and of course if he actually wins an Oscar as well—his Tony, of course, is for The Cher Show—but even without the awards, you can’t miss Bob Mackie.
Beautifully, he still appears to be working, too. He’s 83 and is doing what he loves. He says his family didn’t understand what he wanted to do with his life, when he told them, but it’s honestly a little hard to picture Mackie in any other career. With Bob Mackie, you get a lot of spectacle—even though his work with Carol Burnett proves he can do more understated things as well. He also remains friends with most of the people he’s worked with, and that sort of thing is always charming to discover.