Fashion dreams come true when fans around the world hear news of their favorite designers working together on collections or when a fashion house develops a long-term relationship with a high-profile client. Be it a muse to an artist or protege to a veteran, fashion partnerships have been the backbone of a give and take industry. One of the most remarkable relationships in the land of high fashion is the duo of Cher and Bob Mackie. Their relationship began way back on The Carol Burnett Show circa 1960s and has since blossomed into terrific showmanship. Join us here as we take a trip down memory lane, visiting every sequin and milestone the two have come across.
Their campy odyssey officially began with the inception of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1971. The broadcast featured husband and wife rock duo Sonny and Cher in musical numbers and humorous sketches, but the true star of the show was and is Cher. Cher was one of the first people in pop culture to be a classified hippie. She was at the helm of a cultural tidal wave, and her best route of self-expression besides music was her glorious fashion, thanks to Bob Mackie. Bob has gone on the record to talk about how in awe he was of Cher’s slender figure when they first met. He was so struck by cupid’s arrow that Cher would become his muse for creating sleek tailored silhouettes. Being spotted in figure hugging gowns so often, Cher would soon be established as a sex symbol and figurehead of feminine rebellion. With courtesy to Mr.Mackie and his soft spot for revealing cutouts, Cher was one of the most prominent women to show her belly button on television. It sounds tame in modern decency standards, but back then, it resulted in a blitzkrieg of body shaming and insults towards Cher. This was just the starting point of Cher and Bob Mackie pushing the envelope. Throughout the years, Cher would consistently rely on Mackie as she musically reinvented herself comeback after comeback.
Not only is she the Goddess of Pop, oh no, she is also the Goddess of the coveted naked dress. The biblical moment of the new gospel occurred at the 1974 Met Gala. Strutting in arms linked, the duo gave the world its first glimpse of a nude illusion gown. It was a sheer long sleeved gown with snow white feathered sleeves and skirt. It had crystal beads cascading the mesh layer in an intricate vein-like pattern. It shocked everyone that night in 1974, with onlookers scratching their heads trying to figure out what exactly she was wearing. Cher and Bob Mackie could’ve stopped there in the lane of provocativeness, but with each occasion came the need to experiment and play around with what they could do. Take the 1986 and 1988 Oscars, for example. At the 1986 ceremony, she showed up wearing a bedazzled lattice crop top and a black showgirl mohawk. Baring her hips and stomach at one of the most prestigious award shows served as a middle finger to the academy who overlooked her for a nomination in the best supporting actress category. At the time, she was not yet considered a serious actress, despite the acclaim she had received for her performances. As an act of retaliation, she stole the spotlight of the show and created yet another Hollywood sensation moment. When it came around to the 1998 ceremony, and this time with a nomination, Cher stuck to her devilish guns and wore another black belly-baring gown. This time with extra fringe and the Oscar for Best Actress. All these remarkable looks were, of course, created by Mackie. Without his taste for sexual glamour and his desire to have every possible seem snatched, these looks would not be in our canon.
Not only was their signature style translated into major red carpet events, but it also was encoded into Cher’s live performances. The creme de la creme of these looks was encapsulated for Cher’s 2008 residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. For the show, Bob Mackie created a grand total of 17 looks for the starlet. They ventured into planet mystic, with the show’s opening scene portraying a fortune teller’s crystal ball. It showcased visions looking towards the past at the glory days and all the changes she’s been through. The track cuts, and Cher appears in a golden art deco cape atop a throne fit for a queen. Song after song, quick change after quick change, she managed to cover every musical terrain . There was homage to her hippie folk days dressed in red sequined mod number and Go-Go boots, as well as an exact replica of the mesh cutout catsuit from the rock anthem “If I Could Turn Back Time” music video. Other looks worth taking a deep dive into are her coordinating turquoise fringe wig and bodysuit, the Medusa enchantress ensemble, and the peekaboo red heart pasties with the cascading silver chains. Bob Mackie miraculously managed to nail every look in the head and made the blueprint for popstar dressing.
Back then, little did the two of them know that they would set the standard for boundary pushing glamour for future pop stars to come. Their curated look still remains strong in contemporary fashion, on both red carpets and concert stages. Cher set fire to an iconoclastic path for pop stars regarding risque performance looks and genre variation. Decade defining artists like Madonna, Britney Spears, and Taylor Swift, would not be able to make the strides they made if it wasn’t for Cher. A recent notable event where a starlet alluded to the signature Cher and Mackie’s sleek look was Dua Lipa at this year’s Grammy. Dua Lipa is, without a doubt, the pop girl of the moment. To commemorate her win for the disco album “Future Nostalgia” at the Grammys, she channeled no other than Cher in both beauty and style with her sleek raven hued hair and a bronzed goddess glow. The Versace gown featured a form fitting butterfly bodice with major skin on display due to a sky high leg slit and hip cutouts. The pastel fairy array of sequins was very reminiscent of Cher’s own 1974 Grammy look, complete with a white bikini top and butterfly. Even the Kardashians are known to play copycat and dress up with Cher looks, with Kim even going as her one year for Halloween. Cher has inspired so much that it was reported that Kim’s 2014 Met Gala naked dress was modeled to be a carbon copy of the original one Cher wore in 1974. The naked dress has shown up on other celebrities’ signature style shortlists like Emily Ratajkowski, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, and Bella Hadid.
So, where do the two stand today? Bob Mackie was recently recruited to design the costumes for the Broadway adaptation jukebox musical of Cher’s life story, The Cher Show. He even won the Tony award for best costume design and received the CFDA lifetime achievement award in 2018. The 2019 MET Gala exhibit with the theme “Camp”, featured some of Mackie’s original designs in its canon. Cher too has been on a lucky streak of success. She has received numerous honors such as the Kennedy Center Honors prize, a Grammy hall of fame inductee, and the GLAAD vanguard award. Not only do they have the clout of being pioneers, but they also got the credentials and awards to back it up. To this day, the two are commonly referenced in the high fashion discourse, being muses for future generations of fashion. No pair yet has done it quite like them.