Bill Belew

Fashion designer

1931 – 2008


Who was Bill Belew?

William Lewis Belew was an American costume designer who created stage outfits worn, among others, by Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, The Band, Gladys Knight, Gloria Estefan, Josephine Baker, Brooke Shields, Joan Rivers, Dionne Warwick, the Osmonds, and the Jacksons. It was Josephine Baker who encouraged Belew to work as a costume designer.

While he made costumes for plays, musicals, operas, ballets, TV specials and TV series, Belew is particularly famous for the stage outfits he made for Elvis. He created the tight-fitting black leather outfit that Elvis wore in the 1968 NBC Comeback Special, and the bell-bottomed jumpsuit outfits with high Napoleonic collars, pointed sleeve cuffs, wide belts and capes, decorated with gems, metal and rhinestone studding, sequins and embroidery. Belew also designed the suit Elvis is wearing on the famous photo of President Nixon and him in the Oval Office, a velveteen outfit originally designed for Elvis to use in his Las Vegas shows. Of the collars, Belew has explained that they were inspired by Napoleon's wardrobe and that he chose them because they would frame and draw attention to Presley's face.

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May 20, 1931
United States of America
  • Parsons The New School for Design
Jan 7, 2008
Palm Springs

on July 23, 2013


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