The performer Liberace's life is a cascading story of fame and riches and fantasies, utterly bought into. Sure, there were smack-talkers along the way, such as William Connor, writing under the byline Cassandra for London's Daily Mirror, who called him "a sugary mountain of jingling claptrap wrapped up in such a preposterous clown," along with other unpleasantries. Mostly, though, everybody just loved the living fuck out of Liberace, with his corona of feathery hair, schmaltzy piano tunes, and absurdly fancy costumes—and even more so when he'd leave the stage "to go slip into something a little more spectacular," as he'd say. In tribute to these very moments, costumers-to-the-stars Connie Furr-Soloman and Jan Jewett have created the new compendium Liberace Extravaganza!, a book perfectly blending designer bios, technical garment descriptions, and loads of fashion pictures, each of them throbbing with vision and dazzle.
Liberace drew style inspiration from Beau Brummell, a 19th-century menswear connoisseur of tailcoats and breeches and tasseled brooches, who claimed to wear boots polished with the froth of champagne—not just the uppers, the soles too. Similarly, Liberace's ensembles pair woozy combinations with a hallucinatory attention to detail. Watch for: rhinestones set in Tiffany mountings; crimped silver leather; fox fur dyed pink, formed into pom-poms, and finished in sequins; and tiered lace ruffles everywhere—bursting from the chest or dangling from cuffs and secured with hidden Velcro. One trench coat alternates strips of black mink and black-dyed snakeskin, encrusted with rhinestones and crystals and beading. For a bright and blurry look, an electric light-up jacket contains 4,000 multicolored bulbs suspended in its 4,000 buttonholes. Another black-beaded tailcoat has eight 14-karat white-gold buttons, each crammed with 50 diamonds forming the letters of Liberace's name: "The buttons cost more than the suit, but I couldn't come out in just the buttons," he told his audience.
There are also fur capes trimmed in feathers or animal tails, and trains spreading across the stage in a pool. The book describes the public unveiling of a particularly magnificent cloak, made from stacks of French-curled ostrich-fringe boas: "'Look me over,' says Liberace, unleashed from his wire, twirling slowly in a purple feather and silver sequin ensemble. His hair is glittering with fairy dust. 'I don't dress this way to go unnoticed. Do you like it?'"
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