It’s possible that without designer Bob Mackie, there would be no Cher. Or at least not as we recognize her today — wreathed in beads or dripping in sequins; sexy, colorful, and commanding the stage. “Bob changed my entire life!” the icon says. “Without him I would have been a peacock without feathers.”

Bob and Cher first met in 1967, when both were in their 20s and she and Sonny Bono were guest stars on The Carol Burnett Show, and Bob designed the costumes. “In walked this beautiful girl, just five feet and six inches. She was just like a black-haired Audrey Hepburn type,” Bob tells Closer. “I immediately liked her.” Cher already had a unique look, he notes, “But she wanted to do new things.” She loved sparkles, and she coveted one gown he was working on. “She says, ‘One day I’m going to have a beaded gown,’” Bob recalls with a laugh. “Little did we know that she would have them by the tonnage!”

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Cher and Bob in 1985.

With her long, dark hair, broad shoulders, and exotic look, she stood out. “Somebody said she was like my very own Barbie doll,” he says. “But Cher was different for the time.” And her staying power has a lot to do with the fact that “all of a sudden, every girl that had a good-sized nose and dark hair, they had somebody to idolize,” he explains.

The friendship between star and designer blossomed. He created costumes for her TV shows and then for many of her tours. The outfits could take up to months to make. “Sometimes we had to turn things over in a week, so we would have 40 to 50 people working on [them],” he says. And the price can reach “way up in the thousands.”

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Cher in 1978.

They had a brief falling-out in 2014 when Bob’s schedule prevented him from designing for the start of her Dressed to Kill tour, but he was back on board for the second leg. “He’s just unbelievable,” Cher, 71, says. “He’s so creative.”

One of the best things about their partnership, Bob, 78, says, has been watching his friend grow into the icon we see today. “In the old days, she was so young, she didn’t know how amazing she could look,” he says. But he did, and Cher was a perfect model for his designs. “She’s never been intimidated by the outfits,” he says. “She walks out, and there she is!”

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