A 12-pound cape custom-made for Elvis Presley for the singer’s famed 1973 performance Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite is up for auction.
The full-length cape, adorned with an American eagle and stars and inlaid with semi-precious stones, measured nearly five feet in length, but when Presley tried it on in rehearsals, he found it too heavy to be worn onstage for the show. Designer Bill Belew was forced to create a lighter replacement for Presley, with the original sent back to Graceland.
“Presley had the cape made to hide behind at the opening of the Hawaii show,” says Bobby Livingston, a spokesperson for RR Auction, the Massachusetts company selling the cape. “The show was heavily choreographed — he intended to drop the cape and reveal himself to the anxiously awaiting crowd. However, when Presley tried on the cape during rehearsals, the weight almost pulled him over backwards, and it was decided that a smaller version was needed.”
According to the description on RR Auction’s website, “three small hooks and Velcro are sewn into the collar to connect the cape to Presley’s jumpsuit, and two small straps are sewn into the corners to enable Elvis to stretch out the cape while wearing it.”
Belew, who died in 2008, gained fame for designing many of Presley’s outfits from 1968 to 1977, including the velveteen ensemble the singer wore for his infamous “Elvis meets Nixon” photo. In 2008, Presley’s Belew-designed peacock jumpsuit sold for $300,000, making it the most expensive piece of Elvis memorabilia sold at auction at the time. In 1999, the actual Aloha cape used by Presley for the Hawaii performance sold for $105,250 at auction.
In a 2005 interview, Belew explained his process behind designing Presley’s white jumpsuits. “The lighting [in Las Vegas] was still in its early stages,” said the designer. “And we found that the color that worked the best was white. It allowed them to change the colors on him, where as black would absorb all the color. And it was hard to highlight him. And we experimented with blue which was one of his favorite colors. Red. But it just ended up that white was the best thing and, of course, you know, you want the star to be the person, you know, and not the wardrobe.”
Presley filmed the special on January 14th, 1973 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center (then named the Honolulu International Center). It aired in more than 40 countries, with the United States airing it three months later on April 4th.
The cape is being sold through Thursday, March 20th.