Sunday, 10 June 2012

Foil and Flounces: In Memoriam of Miller

The Dynasty Cast

The name may bear no significance to you but anyone familiar with Joan Collins, Dynasty or gold lamé shoulder pads has already been introduced to Nolan Miller’s legacy.

After battling with lung cancer for several years, the costume designer died this week at the age of seventy-nine but his contribution to fashion history will be chronicled for many years to come. Miller was the mind behind some 3, 000 outfits for the hit American TV series, Dynasty, which ran for almost a decade and made power dressing, head-to-toe sequins and Christmas decoration sized jewellery synonymous with the 80’s.

Joan Collins and Linda Evans in Miller originals.

 With a weekly wardrobe budget of $35, 000, Miller never wanted to see the characters “wearing the same outfit twice” and would spend the entire week designing and producing fresh garments for every episode. Whilst we may shudder now at the thought of being swamped in gigantuous shoulder pads and full-length metallics like some glamorous turkey wrapped in foil, the look quickly became popular across America. 

Miller was nominated six times for an Emmy Award throughout his time on the show, winning in 1984 but he was also one of the few costume designers to be successful outside of Hollywood.  The creations inspired a Dynasty-branded collection and Miller remained a private couturier to the likes of Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor.

Besides kitting out Joan Collins and Linda Evans in preparation for their numerous catfights (I wonder how he felt about the mud slinging and lily pond brawl), Nolan Miller designed costumes for over forty movies and other series including The Addams Family, Gilligan’s Island, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart and Charlie’s Angels.

That’s hardly a bad run for a man who began his working life selling flowers rather than frocks to his idles. It was in a Beverly Hills florist that Aaron Miller, Dynasty’s producer, first discovered the recent Chouinard Art Institute graduate and a successful, rhinestone adorned partnership began.

Joan Collins looking slightly more demure than usual...

...and finding the roots of sustainable fashion in the form of those powerful wind-turbine shoulders.
Executive producer Douglas S. Cramer maintained, “it was Nolan’s real vision of not just the clothes, but of the surroundings and milieu that were so important for Aaron.” For years the designer even lived with Spelling, before having a disagreement with Spelling’s wife, apparently over a dress (perhaps she was more of a minimalist dresser).

Because a fur trim just isn't enough; Miller added exoticism and glamour to the 80's.
Whether you have a guilty weakness for hefty gilt earrings or the thought of polyester satin just has you waking up in cold sweats, you cannot deny Miller’s designs epitomised 80's power-dressing and those references are constantly being revived in contemporary collections today.

It’s easy to forget the stars working behind the scenes but Miller successfully dedicated his life to dressing strong women in equally strong pieces and made his mark on one of the most iconic eras in fashion. 


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