Growing up wearing hand-me-downs during the Great Depression, Liberace’s rise to stardom can in some ways be measured by his outfits. From the purchase of his first set of tails to electric costumes adorned in 4,000 light bulbs, Liberace stood alone on a pedestal of style. He made a point of donning outfits that, as he put it, “no one else in show business could afford to wear or would dare to wear.”
Authors and costume designers Connie Furr Soloman and Jan Jewett have mined the Liberace Foundation’s archives, photographing and recording to finest detail a collection of costumes from the showbiz legend. The result is “Liberace Extravaganza!” a book that catalogues 50 outfits in words and images. Speaking of a cutaway suit made of ice-blue rhinestones, the authors go over bugle beads, gold seed beads, crystal AB rhinestones and pearls—a collection of ornaments that are carried from the shoulders to the shoes.
Whether you treat it as a historical record of ornate costuming, a designer’s inspiration book or a manual of personal style, “Liberace Extravaganza!” is a riotous ode to the man and his wardrobe.
Images by James Thorne