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May 9: Nudie Cohn

May 8, 2015

nudiefashion10Clothing designer Nudie Cohn (Nuta Kotlyarenko), who designed rhinestone-studded suits for singers, actors, dancers, and other celebrities, including Elvis Presley’s famous $10,000 gold lamé suit, died at 81 on this date in 1984. Born in Kiev, he came to the U.S. with an older brother at age 11 and became an itinerant odd-jobber for a number of years. He married Helen “Bobbie” Kruge in 1934, and the couple opened a store in New York, “Nudie’s for the Ladies,” that specialized in g-strings for “showgirls.” By the late 1947s they were operating “Nudie’s of Hollywood,” creating ostentatious Western (cowboy) outfits. Among the performers and celebrities for whom Cohn created clothes and costumes were Hank Williams, Liberace, Dolly Parton, Robert Redford, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, John Wayne, Gene Autry, Cher, Ronald Reagan, and many, many others. He also gained a reputation for his garish customized auto- mobiles. Cohn was fond of wearing mismatched boots in tribute to his impoverished childhood. To see a video about him and his outfits, look below.

“Cohn made his mark by adorning Western-cut suits with galaxies of rhinestones, forests of fringe and symphonies of sparkling oversize G clefs. He fitted Elvis in gold lamé; created a shocking ensemble for Gram Parsons, the proto-country rocker, embellished with pills and marijuana leaves; designed hundreds of shirts for... Roy Rogers; and parked a star-studded 10-gallon hat on Elton John.” —The New York Times