Posts Tagged ‘costume designer’

Remembering Nolan Miller

Friday, June 8th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of costume designer Nolan Miller, who passed away on June 6th, 2012 from lung cancer at the age of 79. Miller designed the costumes for many Aaron Spelling/Douglas Cramer shows, including Dynasty, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Vega$.

Below are some selections from Miller’s 2003 Archive interview:

On how he became interested in fashion:

What turned me on to fashion? Movies. I loved movies. I lived from Saturday to Saturday, and of course I particularly like Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Betty Grable … I knew when I watched Betty Grable movies that that was what I wanted to do.  All those costumes … it’s so strange that in movies there was always a fashion show or something or a girl was picked up by some guy who told her she needed clothes to be presentable and would take her to the store. Of course there was always a designer in a dark suit – note dark suit – and there was usually a staircase that the models came down. I just thought, “this is what I want.” I didn’t realize, though, the 18-hour-day of hard work sometimes. But it sounded glamorous and I loved the whole thing of movies. Anything to do with the movies. I just wanted to work at the studio.

On his start in costuming, on Matinee Theater:

It was an hour show, every day at noon, and it was live. There were usually three groups of people in the wardrobe department preparing shows, because one day it would be a modern show, one day it would be a biblical thing, another day might be a comedy. I think that there were probably 3 or 4 people in my group, and I think we did two shows a week, one if we were on a show that aired on Monday, and we would prep the rest of the week. Maybe we’d have a show for Thursday or something that week. We were always prepping the next show. It was quite an amazing show, particularly in that it was live every day.

On working in a flower shop and meeting Aaron Spelling:

He and his then wife Carolyn Jones were shopping in Beverly Hills and they stopped in the flower shop to say hello. At that point Aaron Spelling wasn’t anyone, you know. He was married to Carolyn Jones, who I was thrilled to meet. We decided to go and have a drink; it was late in the afternoon. So we went and had a drink and Carolyn was under contract to Hal Wallis at Paramount. She had just finished a film and she said the studio was sending her on a PR junket. She said the studio told her to get some clothes for personal appearances. She said, “do you want to design them?” I said, “of course.” She said, “okay, well, why don’t you bring me some sketches.” She told me what she needed and so I did sketches for her.  And that was the beginning, because I did those clothes for her. I found a dressmaker who was highly recommended who had quite a good star clientele, so I knew that she was capable, and I made the clothes for Carolyn.

On Aaron Spelling:

First of all, he’s very unassuming. He’s always been very, very thin, looks like he’s undernourished. He’s very warm, very friendly; he immediately puts everyone at ease that’s around him. After all of these years he still hasn’t run out of ideas and instantly knows what to do. He has a sixth sense about what’s wrong with the show or what he should do or something. He’s great to work with because he sees what the show is going to look like. When he says, “she’s running down the road; she should be in a white sweater,” he has a reason why she should be in a white sweater.  Over the years I would argue with him over certain things, but he usually proved himself right.

On working on Gilligan’s Island:

I was starting to be sort of known for glamour clothes and beaded gowns and that kind of thing. I had my shop at that time. I had a call from the producer, saying they were doing the show and they had a girl who was like a showgirl and they were all stranded. She must have had a very large trunk with her that day that they went for a cruise, because every season we’d do a couple of new gowns. They’d call me, “we need a couple more gowns,” so I did Tina’s clothes. I didn’t do the rest of the show. I just did Tina Louise’s gowns.

On the bra-lessness on Charlie’s Angels:

All of the Paris collections and everything were showing chiffon blouses with nothing under it. Everyone was just aghast. Everyone was so shocked, but they were showing the same blouses on Rodeo Drive. They weren’t so see-through, but you could tell there was no bra on. Before that we couldn’t even show the imprint of a nipple. I had to put a band-aid over the nipple or something. All of the sudden Farrah was in a crepe de chine blouse or a double white chiffon blouse with no bra under it. Everyone said, “ah, this is going to be shocking. They won’t allow this. You won’t get by with this.” But we did.

On Dynasty, TV fashion, and Joan Collins:

Read Nolan Miller’s New York Times obituary.

Watch his full Archive interview.

Bob Mackie on Divas, Dresses, and More!

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Bob Mackie’s name alone conjures up certain iconic celebrities: Cher, Carol Burnett, Barbie… In his Archive interview, Mackie talks about the many incredible stars for whom he’s designed, including Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli and Elton John, and discusses how he not only loves designing flashy pieces, but everyday-wear, too. In the clip below, Mackie discusses the single piece of clothing for which he’s most famous: the curtain rod dress he made for The Carol Burnett Show’s spoof of Gone With the Wind:

Watch Bob Mackie’s full interview here:

About this interview:

In his interview for the Archive of American Television, Bob Mackie recounts his earliest experiences in Hollywood working for respected designers Edith Head and Jean Louis. He discusses working with Ray Aghayan on The Judy Garland Show, and recalls the notable television specials with which he was involved, including Brigadoon, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Carousel and Kismet. Mackie details his eleven-year tenure on The Carol Burnett Show, and explains the weekly requirements for designing costumes for the complex, ensemble show. He speaks fondly of designing costumes for Burnett’s most memorable characters: southern belle Starlett O’Hara from “Went With the Wind,” dim-bulb secretary Mrs. Wiggins, shrill Eunice Harper Higgens, and fading legend Nora Desmond. Mackie describes his successful collaboration with Cher, beginning on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and continuing with Cher, The Sonny and Cher Show, and her various television, concert, and public appearances (including her well-known Academy Award outfits). He also comments on his designs for Donny and Marie, The Diahann Carroll Show, and such feature films as “Lady Sings the Blues” and “Funny Lady.” He speaks about his most recent work, including a line of collectible dolls for Mattel’s Barbie, more television collaborations with Carol Burnett, and television specials including Gypsy and Mrs. Santa Claus. Finally, he reminisces about designing for such performers as Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing, Elton John, Dinah Shore, Ann-Margret, Mitzi Gaynor and Lucille Ball. Jennifer Howard conducted the three hour interview in North Hollywood, CA on June 29, 2000.

Legendary Costume Designer Ray Aghayan Dies at 83

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

We’ve just learned that noted costume designer Ray Aghayan has passed away at the age of 83. He began his work in television designing costumes for Matinee Theater, while on staff with the NBC wardrobe department. He worked on many live shows of the time (often requiring much artistry to accommodate quick costume changes during live broadcasts). He also won the first-ever awarded Emmy for costume design (along with his longtime professional partner Mackie) for Alice Through the Looking Glass. Among his other work, he designed costumes for The Judy Garland Show, many Academy Awards telecasts, and the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics.  Below are some excerpts from his 1997 Archive of American Television interview.

What do you think makes an excellent costume design?
I think an excellent costume design is that which serves its purpose to the best possible degree.  Gives the actor the character.  Helps the actor grow into that human being.  And to be able to, it helps the audience to be able to look at that and know what the hell it is they’re looking at.  That is the best costume.  When it really serves as that complete thing that you, gives you all the information you need to have.

What makes an excellent costume designer?
Having talent obviously helps.  Beyond that I think, unfortunately you have to also be a good politician.  You have to be able to keep the people below you and the people above you happy.  But basically, anybody will put up with talent.  If you can really do it that’s what it’s all about.

What to you constitutes bad work?
When it’s ugly.

What advice would you give a young person about going into the profession?
I would think that you have to be sure that you’re very good.  I would think that you should be able to draw and draw well.  And have an enormous amount of tenacity, because they’re coming out of the woodwork, there’s so many.  And it’s, there are more costume designers than there are jobs.  So the only way, you have to be very good.

Ray Aghayan and Judy Garland

How has television influenced the fashion industry?
There were 52 million homes watching The Carol Burnett Show, so you take it from there. Obviously Cher caused everybody to go naked.  There was a while that you could never buy a halter top, for example.  Seriously. And then suddenly she happened – it was an accident – four or five weeks in a row she had a halter on. The halter top became the thing to wear.  It’s just like that.

Are costume designers aware of that when they’re creating?
No.  I don’t think so. I don’t think they sit down and say now I’m going to draw something so that when it’s on camera everybody will see it and therefore they will copy it. I don’t think anybody does that.

What knowledge do costume designers need to bring to the table?
Basically they should bring a great knowledge of history, of costume, which most of them don’t.  And be able to read and understand the character.  And help the actor to realize the character visually, that she has, or the director has, in their mind.

Watch the full interview at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/ray-aghayan