Southern Indiana man makes costumes fit for the King
CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WISH) — The Oscars are this weekend, and one of the top movies nominated for numerous awards is Baz Luhrman’s “Elvis” biopic.
The movie also has a Hoosier connection.
Butch Polston, and his wife, Kim, own B&K Enterprises in Charlestown, and Butch is all Hoosier, all the time.
“If I had the choice between being president of the United States or governor of Indiana, I’d be governor,” Polston said.
Butch is also quite the Elvis fan; so much so that his whole business is built carrying on the King’s image. “We do these off the original patterns. We are the originals. We carry on the same legacy as the original designers. We carry on what they wanted us to do in the manner and the form they wanted us to do.”
It all started in 1980 when Kim asked one question, and it’s a story you cant help falling in love with. Butch said, “We were engaged at the time, and she asked me, ‘Sweetheart, if you could have one thing of Elvis’, what would it be? And I said, ‘Man, I’d love to have one of his jumpsuits.’ And she looked at me and said. ‘His jumpsuit? Why would you want someone’s old clothes?’ And I said, ‘Because they’re pieces of art.'”
Butch tried to track down an original Elvis jumpsuit, eventually finding one, but the guy wanted $50,000 for it back in 1978. Butch knew he couldn’t afford that. Instead of spending time at the Heartbreak Hotel, he set on a different avenue, eventually meeting a woman at an Elvis convention in the early 1980s who sold him four blank jumpsuits.
“After Elvis died, all these tribute magazines come out everywhere, so I had a bunch of those with pictures in it and I matched the studs up best I could by pushing the studs and stone through with my finger and using a screwdriver to bend them over,” Butch said.
Putting so much work into the those jumpsuits, Butch wanted to show them off. He took them to a convention where an Elvis impersonator fell in love with the suits and offered $500 apiece.
Butch said, “He was serious. He stuck the cash out there, and my wife took her elbow and starts beating me in the side going, ‘Take it, take it. We can always make more jumpsuits.'”
That moment catapulted them into business. As trade picked up, Butch began worrying about legal ramifications and set out to get permission to make the costumes, meeting Bill Blue, who was an original designer of Elvis’s costumes in the late 1960s. Blue gave his blessing and even did the Polstons one better.
“I got to know all the people who was in charge of making them. They all gave me their blessing in writing. They transferred copywrite to the artwork, and one of the original designers is still alive and works for us, and that’s Gene Ducette,” Butch said.
That true authenticity helped them gain credibility and that led to jobs, eventually leading to one of their biggest projects.
If you’ve had the chance see the Luhrman’s “Elvis,” Suspicious Minds might wonder how they managed to make those costumes look just like Elvis’s jumpsuits. It was Butch and his team.
“When watching it, it was kind of like ‘wow.’ Baz had said this movie was made for the big screen and he was absolutely 100% right because it looks much better to see something you worked on, ‘boom,’ there on the big screen,” Butch said.
Along with the seamstresses, the Polstons made many of the jewel-studded jumpsuits for the Oscar-nominated film.
If you’re all shook up, imagine how the production designer for the movie felt.
“She was shocked, too, when she came in here and said, ‘You’re in this little town?”” Butch said.
While “Elvis” is the biggest production Butch and his team have done, it’s hardly the first. “We’ve done 30 movies, 28 TV things, numerous things for celebrities.”
Butch knows construction-worker-turned-professional-Elvis-costume-designer is about as unlikely as it gets, but he says there must have been something that helped this small-town guy make clothes fit for the King.
“I feel Elvis Presley’s presence all the time and always have. It’s almost like there was this guiding influence. I mean, I’m a kid from Indiana. I’m not in Hollywood. I’m not in New York. I’m not in fashion capitals of the world, Paris. Something guided me to do this,” Butch said.