Before “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” debuted on CBS television in 1972, Cher said,
Sonny and I wore clothes, but they were so kind of unisex, you know? Some people don’t even know I was a girl!”
Here is a glance back at the American singing duo, Sonny & Cher, in their unisex phase of the 1960s, before they launched their glitzier TV career:
Cher hoped that her new variety show would revive her flagging career. Sonny & Cher had been a big hit in the early to mid-sixties but, in the last several years, their popularity had taken a nosedive. By 1971, when CBS offered them a TV variety show contract, their folk rock style of music had given way to heavier sounds by groups like “Cream” and “Iron Butterfly.” In spite of their revolutionary, hip clothing style that set fashion trends in the sixties, Sonny & Cher were quite conservative when it came to sex and drugs, and, in their wholesomeness, had lost their fan base. They needed a new look to make their show a success.
And Cher knew just who could give it to them. She had met him four years earlier, on the set of “The Carol Burnett Show.” He was Bob Mackie; he worked in the wardrobe department. Mackie recalled:
It was 1967 and I was working on a loose thread on a beaded gown and Cher came over and said, ‘Oh, someday, I’m going to have one of those. And we became friends after that.”
Now that Cher had a production budget, she hired Mackie to design splashy costumes for the “Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” (1972-1975) as well as for many later productions. A collaboration that lasted forty-two years was born. From then on, Mackie designed clothes for Cher that left viewers with no doubt that Cher was all girl. With Bob Mackie in charge of Cher’s wardrobe, it was, all of a sudden,
Goodbye, baggy blouses and bell-bottom britches!
Hello, belly-buttons, bottoms, and bosoms!
Mackie transformed Cher from a shapeless hippie into a shameless sexpot. He created outlandish-for-the-day, navel-baring outfits bedecked with beads, sequins, and feathers topped off by enormous headdresses. Her skimpy outfits made the network censors question whether or not they were appropriate for prime time television. Cher’s bronzed and taut midriff was enviable.
Mackie had the time of his life designing for Cher:
‘She was like a big Barbie doll,’ he said. (1)
Cher’s TV shows were popular, as she was a talented singer, comedienne, and actress, but part of the reason she became such a towering success was because people tuned into her programs each week to see what she would OR WOULDN”T be wearing. And Cher never disappointed – thanks to Bob Mackie.
Cher began to make fashion statements on the red carpet, appearing at celebrity functions in “barely there” outfits by Mackie.
(1) Barnard, Christopher. “Cher’s One-of-a-Kind Fashion Legacy,” November 10, 2010. Vanity Fair. Web Exclusive.
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