CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (November 2003) Its not hard to recognize
an Elvis Presley impersonator or tribute artist to those
in the know. Jet black, perfectly coiffed hair, sideburns, wide-framed
sunglasses, and satiny scarves are a few obvious signs. But its
the jumpsuits the rhinestone-encrusted and elaborately
embroidered jumpsuits that require little more than a
thank you, thank you very much, to complete the personification.
And no one knows Elvis jumpsuits better than Butch and Kim Polston
of Charlestown, Ind.
of Polston's handiwork.
The Polstons have been producing Elvis jumpsuits and accessories
for nearly 20 years. Their company, B&K Enterprises, is recognized
for its authentic reproductions, which, in addition to jumpsuits,
include Elvis-style belts, jackets, shirts, suits and capes. It is
the only company authorized by Elvis original costumers to recreate
designs worn by The King. The couple was featured in the
February 2003 issue of American Profile newspaper tab
that is distributed nationwide.
Outfitting tribute artists and celebrities alike, B&K Enterprises
creations have been sold throughout the United States, and most foreign
countries, and have appeared numerous times on the silver screen.
In the 2001 film, 3,000 Miles to Graceland, actors Kevin
Costner, Kurt Russell, Christian Slater, David Arquette and BoKeem
Woodbine sported Elvis costumes. Other Hollywood film credits include
Finding Graceland (1998), Honeymoon In Vegas
(1992), and Into the Night (1985).
When it comes to Elvis costumes, everyone from Tinseltowns head
costumers to local impersonators can count on B&K Enterprises
to help them bring the image of the King to life.
So how did a small-town guy from southern Indiana and his wife become
the worlds premier Elvis costumers? It all started in 1980,
when Kim Polston asked her husband, an Elvis fan since childhood,
what he would choose if he could have any Elvis memorabilia he wanted.
His reply was simple and automatic. Butch Polston said it would have
to be one of Elvis costumes. They were pieces of art,
and I loved the artistic end of it, he said.
and Kim Polston (right)
with the late Bill Belew, their mentor.
At the time, original Elvis costumes were selling for $85,000 to
$100,000, an exorbitant price by most standards. Since they couldnt
afford to buy a jumpsuit, Kim Polston suggested they try to make one.
Butch Polston contacted a lady from an Elvis fan club in Louisville
who had sewn jumpsuits for her son. She agreed to make Polston four
plain jumpsuits for about $25 each.
The jumpsuits were a great start, but they lacked Elvis trademark
gleam and glitter. To make them more authentic, Polston bought studs
from Baer Fabrics in Louisville. He applied them by hand, using pictures
of a costumed Elvis as his guide.
The jumpsuits were finished in time for the annual Elvis fans
pilgrimage to Graceland, a trip the Polstons had planned to make that
year. I decided to take my costumes as conversation pieces,
Butch Polston said.
While in Memphis, Tenn., the Polstons stayed at the Days Inn, a popular
fan retreat, Polston explained. Fans would display Elvis merchandise
and memorabilia in their rooms and would buy, sell and trade from
one another. But Polston, who had displayed his costumes just for
show, was a little surprised when a man who introduced himself as
an Elvis illusionist offered to buy his jumpsuits for
During the trip, the water pump had gone out on the Polstons
car, leaving them with little money for the trip home. If we
hadnt sold those suits, we would have had about 68 cents to
get home on, Polston said.
That night, minus four Elvis suits but with more than enough money
to get home, the couple enjoyed a steak dinner and a business
was born, Polston said.
B&K Enterprises, B for Butch and K for
Kim, started part-time out of the couples home. Polston kept
his day job but worked on costumes every evening. The business grew
by word-of-mouth, and by 1985 Butch had become friends with Bill Belew,
who designed all of Elvis costumes and personal wardrobe from
1968 until his death in 1977. Belew became a mentor, sharing his knowledge
with the Polstons.
Despite Belews blessing, Butch Polston said he began to fear
legal ramifications from the Presley estate for copying the designs
without permission. To avoid potential lawsuits, Polston took a trip
to Los Angeles, where he met with Romano, Elvis former tailor.
Romano gave Polston the names of everyone who he knew had been involved
in making Elvis clothes. One of those individuals was Gene Doucette,
who had started designing embroidery for Elvis in the early 1970s.
Mr. Bill Belew had designed the basic Elvis jumpsuit, and it
was my job to create the embroidery patterns, Doucette explained
recently in an interview via email. Some of Doucettes designs
included the peacock, dragon, and phoenix.
In 1988, Polston contacted Doucette. He had been researching
the work involved with the costumes, and he had finally tracked me
down through his investigation, Doucette said. The Polstons
and Doucette quickly became friends, and Doucette agreed to help them
find the embroidery equipment they needed and teach Kim how to do
The Polstons were thrilled to work with Doucette, who in addition
to Elvis had worked with such celebrities as Cher, Wayne Newton, Tina
Turner, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Liberace and Elton John. Doucette
helped the couple recreate his embroidery designs and gave them official
permission to use them.
Doucette, who lives in Los Angeles, remains active as a designer and
advisor to B&K Enterprises. We work hand-in-hand to create
the closest possible recreations, he said. Im able
to remember endless details and have re-sketched the patterns as closely
as I can. Where I have a gray area, if only due to the
amount of time that has passed, the blanks are filled in by research,
which is Butchs department. He can remember when I did it. I
remember what I did.
Thanks to Belew and Doucette, B&K Enterprises now owns about 80
jumpsuit patterns and another 80 stage, wardrobe and streetware patterns.
Labor intensive, each costume typically takes 12-14 weeks to complete.
The whole Polston family, Butch, Kim and their son, Michael, work
closely with the business, located in Charlestown.
Despite their success with replicating Elvis costumes, life hasnt
been all gleam and glitter for the Polstons. In 1999, Kim was diagnosed
with breast cancer. But now four years in remission, Kim is doing
well and the couple are looking forward to many future projects.
While continuing to promote their Elvis costume and accessory line,
the Polstons would like to branch out to other areas. In the past,
they have made period garments, custom-cut denim jackets and outfits
for stage entertainers, and would like to do more in the future. But
as long as they get to keep making costumes, theyll be happy.
For Kim and I, its about fulfillment, doing something
we love to do, Polston said.
For more information about the Polstons Elvis costuming,