Remembering Nolan Miller

June 8, 2012

Renowned costume designer Nolan Miller passed away on Wednesday at the age of 79. Miller died of lung cancer at the Motion Picture & Television Fund hospital. He had been living at the MPTF retirement community for two years.

With a career that spanned more than four decades and a list of actresses he has designed for that includes Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, Ann-Margret, Lana Miller, Barbara Stanwyck, and Susan Hayward, Nolan Miller was something of a legend among costume designers.  It was he who created the iconic look, shoulder pads and all, of the women on the 1980’s soap Dynasty, which earned him an Emmy in 1984.

Miller was born on January 8, 1933 in Burkburnett, Texas. By the time he reached 6th grade, Miller knew he wanted to be a costume designer. Though he was discouraged by family and friends, Miller never lost sight of his goal.

After high school, Miller studied design at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, but struggled to find work in the field after graduation.  He settled for a job in a Beverly Hills flower shop.  While at the flower shop he contacted Walter Plunkett at MGM who took a look at his sketches and sent him on to Al Nichol at Western Costume.  Nichol got in touch with Ret Turner at NBC who hired Miller in the wardrobe department part time.

But it was actually at the flower shop where Miller would get his big break.  In the mid-1950s famed producer Aaron Spelling would regularly stop in to purchase flowers for his wife. Miller and Spelling became friends, and the relationship landed Miller many years of work on Spelling shows such as Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart and Dynasty.

The iconic designs Miller created for Dynasty spawned a line of clothing inspired by the show. Miller also designed a collection of costume jewelry, which was sold on QVC.

Miller is survived by a niece and a nephew.

Make a contribution to MPTF in memory of Nolan Miller »

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