Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Marlene Dietrich, Kim Novak and Judy Garland were stage and screen stars whose names evoke a glamour and mystique that has never been duplicated. Central to projecting that mega-watt star power through their clothing, was a young fashion designer from Brooklyn by the name of El Gee (or Elgee) Bove. Bove, who grew up on Kings Highway, began designing clothes at the tender age of 12. Five years later in 1951, while still a senior at Samuel Tilden High school, he was working as an usher at the famed R.K.O. Palace in Manhattan. He got a chance to show his creations to Judy Garland, who was booked there for a nineteen-week engagement, and wound up designing her costumes for the remainder of her show.
SWEET THOUGHTS OF MARYLIN MONROE--Who wouldn't change places with a guy whose job is to design gowns and fit them to such lovely forms as Marylin Monroe and Denise Darcel?...Brooklyn Eagle, Jun 8, 1953
The stars of Hollywood, radio and Broadway soon came calling. In 1953 he was voted the youngest American Theatrical Designer. The accolades continued pouring in with Bove gathering numerous awards for his fashion and business acumen. At the ripe old age of eighteen he was honored by President and Mrs. Eisenhower for "his outstanding success in business which has been an inspiration to the youth of America." His clothing lines, Salbert and Elfreda, annually earned over a million dollars a year, with his dresses and gowns going for $500 to $1000 a piece. His talented hands were insured by Lloyd's of London for $100,000.
Bove... rearranges the "mushroom pleats" on his latest creation. Brooklyn Eagle, Jun 8, 1953
Such was the devotion to Bove's expertise that women often took extraordinary measures to be seen by him. Before one soiree, an East Coast socialite flew from New York to Hollywood, (where Bove worked under contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer), for 24 hours so that she could be fitted for an evening gown.
Off to see the President... Brooklyn Eagle, Oct 17. 1953
So what was it that caused Bove to be in such demand? There were hundreds of designers who created beautiful, expensive and elegant dresses. I'd put my money on the unique philosophy on women and fashion that underpinned his designs, and that can be summed up in his own words:
"If people are more aware of you than of anyone else in the room, then you are the most beautiful person there. Clothes don't make the woman, a woman makes the clothes. I have seen women wearing my gowns who might have soon as bought a dress for $8.95. Money plays no part in the art of being beautiful. And I have found that it's the projection in the lady's own personality that makes her look well dressed. Clothes are simply the frame for the picture of a woman. The frame may be extravagant and spectacular, or pure and simple. But if the picture's a dud, nobody's going to look at it for long.
I didn't find many articles about Bove or his career after the 1960's, and if anyone does have information about Bove we'd love to hear from you.
1960's Bove original, courtesy of Rebecca Emily Darling of Rococo Vintage. Imagine this dress with red pumps--Divine!