Nolan Miller, TV fashion designer, dies at 79

During a career that stretched from the mid-1950s to 2007, Mr. Miller dressed many of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, including Lana Turner, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford and Ann-Margret.

In addition to “Dynasty,” his TV work included “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Love Boat,” “Green Acres,” “Fantasy Island” and “Hart to Hart.”

He draped a bra-less Farrah Fawcett in a see-through blouse for “Charlie’s Angels,” Tina Louise in a slinky evening dress for “Gilligan’s Island” and Elizabeth Taylor in violet gowns for her “Passion” perfume commercials. He even made the goth-black number Carolyn Jones wore as Morticia in “The Addams Family.”

Mr. Miller would be the first to admit that making a woman look beautiful was his utmost objective — a habit that often aggravated producer Aaron Spelling.

“Aaron used to phone me up and shout, ‘Nolan! Why have you put Jaclyn Smith in a fur coat and couture dress? She is meant to be a police officer!’?

“He would go crazy, but I couldn’t stop myself. They were all gorgeous,” he said.

When Spelling approached Mr. Miller with his next project, he said, “At last I have a show that will make you happy.” For “Dynasty,” the drama revolving around the oil-rich Carrington family, Spelling gave Mr. Miller a bountiful budget — at least $30,000 per episode — and said that he never wanted to see his stars wear the same outfit twice.

“Until ‘Dynasty,’ Nolan hadn’t had a chance to really explode,” said Eilish Zebrasky, a costume designer who worked on the pilot with Mr. Miller. “He loved it — the shoulder pads, the draping of the dress, the flowy chiffon, the glamorous jewelry. That was Nolan.”

Nolan Miller was born Jan. 8, 1933, in Burkburnett, Tex. His father was an oil worker and his mother picked cotton. He escaped their hard lives by going to the movies.

“I adored all those strong women — Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck — and loved the clothes they wore,” he recalled in an interview for London’s Independent newspaper.

“By sixth grade, I knew I wanted to dress these people,” he said.

He moved to California after high school and studied fashion. Unable to find steady studio work, he took a job in a Beverly Hills florist shop that catered to stars. Crawford was a customer and asked him to design dresses for her.

He opened a design studio in 1957.

Another customer at the floral shop was Spelling, then a struggling writer. He promised Mr. Miller that when he landed a show, he would hire him. Mr. Miller eventually designed the costumes for most of Spelling’s shows, including an estimated 3,000 costumes for “Dynasty.”

Mr. Miller later launched a line of “Dynasty”-inspired ready-to-wear clothes.

For better or worse, women dressing for success in the “Dynasty” era craved jackets with massively padded shoulders like the ones Mr. Miller designed for Linda Evans.

Speaking of the look he created for Evans’s character, Krystle Carrington, Mr. Miller once told the London Independent, that his name would long “be synonymous with shoulder pads.”

Mr. Miller’s marriage to Sandra Stream ended in divorce. He had no immediate survivors.

One of Mr. Miller’s clients, actress Susan Hayward, was so enamored with one of his gowns that she chose to be buried in it.

“She told me that when she got to heaven,” Mr. Miller once said, “she wanted to look like a star.”

— Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times staff writer Adam Tschorn contributed to this report.

Jun 10th, 2012 | Posted in Fashion
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