While trying to learn more about the jumpsuits I found an interesting (original 2002) article about costume designer Gene Doucette.
Not just any white fringed jumpsuit will do
Original Publication Date: August 13, 2002
By Donnie Snow
Every woman wanted him and every man wanted to be him.
Now 25 years after Elvis Presley died, at least some of that is still true. Lots of men still want to be Elvis and premier Elvis Presley jumpsuit reproduction manufacturer B & K Enterprises does its best to accommodate.
But there's only so much that can be done.
"It's hard to make a guy (who weighs) 250 look 190," says B & K's Butch Polston. "But that's why guys come to us.
"We do have to kind of accommodate the guys in the way they look and feel, and this is the same as with anybody in the entertainment industry, it's ego-driven.''
One of the original Elvis costumers, Gene Doucette, who still stitches some Elvis suits for Polston, had to fit suits not only to Presley's approval, but also his physique, something that was a lot easier for him to do, than it is for Polston.
"I've given this a lot of thought," Doucette said; "the thing is, there are a lot of younger impersonators out there who impersonate the younger Elvis because they're smart and what they're doing is closest to that visual.
"I think one of the things that recently came to mind, a lot of the impersonators who do the later Elvis, most of the impersonators are older, they grew up with Elvis, and especially physically they're closer to that."
Closer, but not the same. Elvis had a big chest and tiny waist, Doucette said, and his suits accentuated that.
"It can be frustrating," Doucette said, "working a customer order with a smaller chest and bigger waist than the original, I have to contort the pattern to their body. It's difficult to make it look the same."
As for his favorites, Doucette said he has a few favorite suits for different reasons.
He loves the American eagle suit because, after that, he had no design restrictions.
"I just doodled one with an American eagle, and (Presley) liked it," he said. "With each suit afterwards, I got a little more risque."
Another favorite was the Powder Blue suit, a knock-off of one he designed for cowgirl Dale Evans.
"I always like the Indian Chief and Sundial suits because I was being artistic," he said. "The Sun Dial (the Inca suit) christened my tribute to the Chrysler Building."
He said The Phoenix is a favorite because it got him "out of a hole."
Apparently among a batch of design swatches sent to Presley for his approval was one Doucette hoped for a jungle theme that would incorporate a boa constrictor wrapping around Presley's leg, stampeding elephants and a zebra.
Presley sent back the batch, all approved (nothing was ever turned down) but with a question about why the one with the bird had funny feet.
Unwittingly, Presley mistook an upside-down zebra for a bird. He liked it, though, so Doucette turned it upside down on the suit and constructed the Phoenix.