CHICAGO — Bob Mackie said he’s “surprised and delighted” to receive the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum’s Designer of Excellence Award.
“It’s very amazing. Chicago is one of those places where when I was in the business of selling evening gowns, they were hugely receptive. Lots of hospitality,” Mackie said in a telephone interview while en route to the museum.
Mackie, who has dressed everyone from Judy Garland and Carol Burnett to Diana Ross, Cher and Rihanna, was quite modest about his longstanding career and being recognized by the museum.
“It’s nice that people know you’re still alive. I go to work everyday and I do my job. I don’t think about it,” said the designer, 77, who will accept the award Tuesday evening at a museum reception that will also feature a conversation with Hal Rubenstein.
“I was really surprised and delighted that they cared,” Mackie said. “I love coming back to Chicago. It’s a lot of fun. The city looks entirely different.”
Fresh out of college, the young Mackie’s first job was at Paramount Studios in L.A., where he worked as a sketch artist with designers Jean Louis and Edith Head. He then worked on “The Judy Garland Show,” “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.”
“I was planning to come to New York and hit Broadway by storm. Instead I got a job in L.A. at Paramount Studios. There was an opening and I was at the top of the list. So I got the job,” Mackie recalled.
“I always wanted to be a costume designer, I never wanted to be a fashion designer,” he said. “My job was always to dress women to look like themselves. If they had a personality that the public responded to, you didn’t try and change them — you tried to make them look as good as they possibly can look. Sometimes, stylists miss that.”
The museum will feature a selection of Mackie’s gowns during the event on Tuesday.
“The Costume Council is truly privileged to add Mackie to its distinguished award list of fashion luminaries,” said Kristin Noelle Smith, president of the Costume Council at the Chicago History Museum. “It is long overdue. He has many devoted fans in Chicago.”
Past award honorees include James Galanos, Christian Lacroix, Sonia Rykiel, Hubert de Givenchy, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass and Ralph Rucci.
The Costume Council chose Mackie, who has won nine Emmy awards for his designs, as the 2016 award winner due to his “unparalleled contribution to fashion spanning six decades for television, movies, theater and opera,” Smith said.
Among the Costume Council members honoring Mackie will be his longtime Chicago friends Abra Wilkin and Nena Ivon, both past presidents of the Costume Council, while Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing, will serve as event co-chair, Smith said.
Coinciding with the museum award, Saks Fifth Avenue is featuring a selection of couture Bob Mackie designs, located in the foyer of the Fifth Avenue Club at the Saks on Michigan Avenue. The designer is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of his fragrance “Mackie” and has released a limited-edition bottle, $100, to celebrate the milestone.