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The first Emmy ever awarded for costume design went to Bob Mackie and his late partner (creatively and, later, romantically), Ray Aghayan, for their fanciful designs on NBC’s 1966 TV movie Alice Through the Looking Glass.
They had been nominated a year prior for CBS’ Wonderful World of Burlesque II, which featured Lucille Ball in an elaborate butterfly costume. For some reason, the Emmys awarded no trophy in the category’s introductory year (then called “Individual Achievements in Art Direction and Allied Crafts — Costume Design”), but Looking Glass did win in 1967 (and was the only nominee).
The production’s starry cast included the Smothers Brothers as Tweedledee and Tweedledum; Agnes Moorehead and Nanette Fabray as the Red Queen and the White Queen, respectively; Ricardo Montalbán as the White King; Jack Palance as the Jabberwock and Jimmy Durante as Humpty Dumpty. Mackie and Aghayan put Alice (Judi Rolin) in a sky-blue mod dress, in keeping with the street fashion of the era. Mackie got his start sketching at Paramount in the late ’50s. He was quickly assigned as assistant to Aghayan (Mackie was 21; Aghayan, 32) and his talent was noticed by the likes of Edith Head, working at Paramount at the time.
It was Mackie’s collaboration with Mitzi Gaynor in 1966 — he created every costume for her residency at the Riviera in Las Vegas — that launched him as the go-to designer for daring, eye-popping creations that could move easily. Legendary partnerships with Cher, Ann-Margret, Diana Ross and Tina Turner followed. But he was equally skilled at visual gags and wearable comedy — as evidenced by his work on Looking Glass and, later, on The Carol Burnett Show, where it was his idea to include a curtain rod in Scarlett O’Hara’s dress in a Gone With the Wind parody.
Mackie has been nominated for 32 Emmys; he’s won nine competitive Emmys and one honorary.
This story first appeared in a June standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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