Barbra Streisand wore this elegant Bob Mackie jumpsuit to the 23rd Annual Grammys on Feb 25th 1981. On this night she presented the award for Best Rock Male Vocalist alongside Barry Gibb to Billy Joel for “Glass Houses”.
Barbra and Gibb also won the “Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group” Grammy for their hit single “Guilty.”
The 1981 ceremony was held at Radio City Music Hall. Keeping in theme with their album key art fashion, Barbra and Barry chose to wear another matching ivory look.
Barbra’s sexy and elegant Bob Mackie custom jumpsuit was made from ivory crepe and features intricate beadwork at the shoulder pads comprised of fringed Czech bugle beads, faux pearls, and claw back rhinestones.
The V-neck gives way to gathering at the empire waist (one of Barbra’s signature style elements) creating light pleating which continues down the trousers. There is an attached knot front self belt. The sleeves feature eight roulou button loops with fabric covered buttons, and there is a zipper closure at the back. This jumpsuit sold at auction in 2004 for $1,350.00 USD.
Bob Mackie and his lifelong partner Ray Aghayan (1928-2011) had previously designed many looks for Barbra including for The Judy Garland Show & Funny Lady . Around this time jumpsuits were all the rage and Mackie was creating many designs as ready-to-wear for mass market retailers.
In 1919 Italian painter Ernesto Michahelles invented the jumpsuit as we know it today. He dubbed it the “Tuta” because of it’s T shape. It was worn by parachutists & skydivers.
Coco Chanel brought her own take to this look in the 20’s with her resort wear “lounging pajamas”. Not to be outdone, her rival Elsa Schiaparelli began to create jumpsuits cut from green silk.
Though they were met with positive reactions, luxury jumpsuits were put on hold due to the war. In 1937 the image of Rosie The Riveter in her jumpsuit became a symbol of empowerment for women.
The jumpsuit returned in the 1960’s and 70’s with many designers adding the look to their collections. More women started wearing flowing palazzo pantsuits during the liberation movement, as they gave the ease of pants but illusion of a dress.
Stars like Abba, Cher, Elvis, Bowie and Mick Jagger helped make the jumpsuit look iconic.
By the 1980’s jumpsuits had evolved, getting bolder with supersized shoulder pads, heavy embellishments, bat wing sleeves & tapered pants. These became statement outfits and were the epitome of looking effortlessly cool. Barbra pulled this of the moment look off stunningly on 1981 Grammys night.