THE AUTRY NATIONAL CENTER UNVEILS
“HOW THE WEST WAS WORN BY…MICHAEL JACKSON”
Celebrating the western wardrobe of Michael Jackson, whose birthday was Sunday, August 29, the Autry National Center has unveiled its latest exhibit, “How The West Was Worn by…Michael Jackson,” showcasing the Western fashion worn by the self-proclaimed King of Pop. The exhibit will be on view indefinitely in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery.
The Autry and Hot 92.3 FM celebrated Michael Jackson’s birthday on Sunday, with live dance performances and classes, zombies, birthday cake, and fun giveaways throughout the day.
“When the Autry approached us in 2009 about contributing to this exhibit, we discussed it with Michael [Jackson] and he was excited and humbled by the request,” said Michael Bush, one of Jackson’s longtime costume designers. “It is our honor and privilege to in any way help fulfill Michael’s vision and to be able to share with the world a glimpse into the artistic collaboration we were so fortunate to have had with Michael Jackson for almost 25 years, and contribute to furthering his incredible legacy for generations to come.”
“I am delighted to have this exhibit here representing Michael and what Michael meant to this country and so many generations of fans,” said Jackie Autry, Founding Chair and Lifetime Trustee of the Autry National Center.
Surrounded by objects belonging to the likes of the Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery, the Michael Jackson outfits stand inside a specially designed, three-sided case featuring two full-size mannequins. The costumes include a blue rhinestone and fringe cowboy outfit worn on the television variety show “The Jacksons” on March 2, 1977; a red-and-black bib-front shirt designed by Tompkins and Bush—who are responsible for many of the Western influences found in Jackson’s clothing; a fedora hat; aviator sunglasses; and a pair of altered Levi 501 jeans (embellished by Tompkins and Bush) that Michael wore on November 17, 1996, while promoting the HIStory World Tour in Sydney, Australia. In the center of the display case is the most iconic Jackson clothing accessory, a single white glove, which Jackson wore on the March 2002 cover of Vibe magazine. It was the last time he was professionally photographed wearing his trademark accessory.
Other items on display include a Western-style belt and buckle that Jackson wore on several occasions, most noticeably for the “Beat It” single record cover and promotional materials—and a pair of steel cowboy boots, designed by Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush, that Jackson wore to the White House in April 1990. An original sketch of the red-and-black bib-front shirt by Tompkins and Bush is also prominently displayed and includes Michael Jackson’s signature. A video accompanying the display features Jackson ’s performance of the hit songs “Cisco Kid” and “I Shot the Sheriff” on a set decorated to look like a Western saloon.
In the world of style, Jackson ’s willingness to try different patterns and designs made him truly unique. While many of Jackson ’s costume influences—from military jackets to aviator sunglasses—are readily apparent, his frequent use of Western wear has gone virtually unnoticed. The new installation at the Autry reflects Jackson ’s ability to use classic Western styles in distinctive ways.
The Michael Jackson installation is made possible by the generosity of costume designers Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush. It is located in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery, a permanent gallery dedicated to the imagery of the American West as it is depicted in popular culture. Access to the installation is free with museum admission.
The Autry National Center is located in Griffith Park at 4700 Western Heritage Way. Hours: Tuesday through Friday 10am to 4pm. Saturday and Sunday hours 11am to 5pm. Museum admission is $9 for adults, $5 for students and seniors 60+, $3 for children ages 3–12, and free for Autry members, veterans, and children age 2 and under. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month.