this thing's incredible

The Brooks Brothers Shirt Bob Mackie Has Been Buying Since 1957

Mackie, in 1968, wearing a Brooks Brothers shirt on a Fred Astaire special, standing next to the dancer Barrie Chase. Photo: Mr. Mackie

Bob Mackie is a costume and fashion designer who has dressed everyone from Mitzi Gaynor to Carol Burnett to Liza Minnelli to Bernadette Peters. He’s perhaps most well known for being Cher’s longtime fashion collaborator and creating her most iconic looks through the years.

When I was on set, when I was doing huge shows in Vegas and doing fittings for thousands of costumes backstage, I would think, who cares what I’m wearing, but I’d want to look decent. People would always ask me, ‘where do you get your shirts?”

I was very fussy as a teenager, and I would wear a brand-new shirt to school every day. When I was in high school in Pasadena, the Ivy League look was very popular, with those two buttons in the front of the collar and the button in the back. I remember I was around 17 and I went into a Brooks Brothers and bought a shirt that was too expensive, but I liked it. I realized how much nicer it was than the ones I was buying in the men’s store in the mall. I wear a style called regent — it sounds very collegelike. They fit me so well; the collar sits in the same place. I’ve been buying them all along.

Bob Mackie, in his Brooks Brothers shirt, at dinner with the producer Joan Stein in 2010. Photo: Mr. Mackie

I go to the one here in Palm Springs, where I live. It’s for old golf-playing men. I don’t play golf — I was a caddie for one day once, and I thought to myself, this is the worst experience of my life. The other day, I went in to get three new ones, and the sleeves were too long, the neckline too big. I was taking a 17-inch neck, now I’m taking a 16 and a half. I’ve gotten skinnier!

The fabrics hold up. I have shirts that are almost 20 years old that look brand new. I used to have a houseman who would bring my laundry to the dry cleaner. For years and years, I did weekly variety shows and specials and Vegas shows, and so I had people taking care of that for me. But my Aunt Bea taught me how to press my shirts, and now I just do my own damn laundry every day, and the shirts look great. Who thinks about what you wear when you’re 84, but I do!

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The Brooks Brothers Shirt Bob Mackie Has Worn Since 1957