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Graceland offers look at Elvis’ youth, style

BY LINDA MILLER Published: April 18, 2010

In celebration of what would be Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday, Graceland is shaking things up with three new exhibits on his style, his childhood and his iconic stage costumes.

Celebrating Elvis happens daily at Graceland, the Memphis, Tenn., mansion-turned-museum he bought in 1957 and where he lived until his death in 1977. But not often do visitors get to see so many of his costumes, his personal wardrobe and items from childhood. Many items are on view for the first time.

"There are actually lots of things that have never been on display before,” said Angie Marchese, Graceland’s director of archives. "Only about one-tenth of our collection is actually on display at Graceland. ... Elvis’ father never threw anything away, so we just have so much stuff.”

"From Tupelo to Memphis” chronicles Elvis’ childhood, growing up in Mississippi and moving to Memphis, through his high school years to the recording of "That’s All Right” at Sun Studios in July 1954. The exhibit includes his first-grade crayon box, third-grade and seventh-grade report cards (he got an F in music), a couple of items belonging to his mother and a trunk the Presleys brought from Tupelo to Memphis.

The other two exhibits focus on his style — what he wore personally and what he wore on stage. One chronicles his stage costumes and the evolution of those designs, starting with his return to Las Vegas in 1969 to the late 1970s. Anyone remember the two-piece karate outfits inspired by his infatuation with the sport? The design then evolved into jumpsuits with capes and supersize belts, to the intricately embroidered jumpsuits he wore in the late 1970s.

The first jumpsuit Elvis wore cost $400. As costumes became more elaborate, the price soared to as much as $1,800. One spectacular piece is the King of Spades wool gabardine cape with red satin lining. It’s embellished with stones from Austria and weighs 30 pounds. Elvis wore the cape in 1973-74.

Perhaps the showstopper and most intimate of the three exhibits is "Elvis Presley: Fashion King.” It’s a chance to walk through Elvis’ closet and see what he wore personally, Marchese said. About 200 pieces are displayed boutique-style, as if you’re going shopping in a store. All of the clothes are something Elvis would have worn or purchased.

Along with the handmade shirts, pants, jackets, coats, hats, scarves, shoes (he wore a size 12), ties and jewelry are a couple of guns and badges. "With Elvis, guns and badges were more of an accessory,” she said.

The King also was into bling long before it became stylish.

For more information on the new exhibits and Graceland, go online to The "Fashion King” exhibit will be on display through March 2011. The stage costumes and early years exhibits continue through the year.


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