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Book chronicles Jackson as king of style

NEW YORK--Michael Jackson was the ultimate entertainer, who oversaw all the details of his shows, from the slick choreography to the rhinestones and pearls carefully hand sewn onto his elaborate costumes, his longtime costume designer says.

As much as music and dance characterized the pop superstar, the late Jackson was also known for his style, from military outfits and regalia, to jewel-encrusted gloves, fedora hats and intricately beaded jackets.

In a new book, “The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson,” Michael Bush, the man who designed and made Jackson's stage costumes for 25 years until the pop star's death in 2009, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic superstar and the development of his signature style.

“The clothes had to work around the way he was performing,” Bush told Reuters in a telephone interview. “He wanted his outfits, or his costumes, to be as entertaining on a hanger as they were on him. It was an added layer of refinement and detail that he was projecting to his audience.”

Everything Jackson wore had a focus and was an extension of what he was doing on stage, with dance playing a pivotal role in the designs. He favored rhinestones and beading because they reflected the stage lighting.

Function, fitness and comfort were essential, with neckties and fringes forbidden because they could be grabbed by fans.

“It was very contrived. It was very thought out,” said Bush, adding that as the stadiums got bigger, Jackson's pants got shorter and shorter, the better to see his rhinestone socks.

“Michael was concerned that the people in the back row paid just as much to see him perform as the people in the front, so no one got cheated out of the entertainment he was projecting, because everyone could see what he was doing,” Bush said.

Each of the 800 to 900 costumes Bush and his partner Dennis Tompkins, who died last year, made for Jackson were over-the-top, skin tight, flashy pop-star creations. Many are shown in detailed photographs in the book, along with sketches and performance photos.

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