Ritual Elvis Wear
E MP's vast and shiny Sky Church recently hosted an Elvis Presley Tribute Show, with a couple dozen amateur impersonators singing the hits, some in striped Jailhouse Rock ensembles and others pairing leis with tropical shirts, bringing on a zany bingo-hall vibe. Most performers wore costumes from Elvis's Vegas era, because that was when he was at his most intriguing, what with his panther-like sexiness and heart full of obscure sorrow, and his blood swirling with drugs.
Elvis's famous white jumpsuits were intricate, striking, and costly—encrusted with semiprecious stones and careful embroidery, and built from Italian stretch-wool gabardine (not ever polyester, I should point out, the most unfairly ridiculed material in all of fashion history). Silk scarves, assorted pendants, and hefty lamb chops completed the ensemble, while sweat rolled from Elvis's body in dense and glittering sheets. This made all the ladies go apeshit with desire, and to ensure the effect, he would consume a handful of salt tablets and several quarts of water just before a performance.
His weight fluctuated wildly, but it's tough to say just how bad it really got. In 1975, Hilton staff stopped allowing photographs to be taken of him in the showroom, so it must've been pretty bad. From David Adler's The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley, room-service records indicated "he lived on hamburgers and more hamburgers piled high, high across his [hotel] bed." In Gulp, Mary Roach describes the ring Elvis commissioned with a range of colored diamonds to symbolize each prized ingredient in a Greek recipe: green for parsley, white for bread, brown for meat, yellow for onion.
Now back to the Sky Church and its collection of fashion notables. Performer Scott Coon purchased his bejeweled American Eagle jumpsuit from B&K, a remarkably high-end Elvis-wear company that uses authentic materials and the King's original garment patterns. Found by performer Elvi-lele in a Utah thrift store, another look started as a Mormon baptismal uniform, made of a thick white heat-crimped synthetic with a subtly curdled texture. A former insider tells me much of this religion's ceremonial wear imparts a "retro-sci-fi-Logan's-Run" flavor, and the jumpsuit's flared collar and bell-bottoms were already close to perfect, but Elvi-lele had to add the fringe and glitz and jingles himself.