June 29, 2012

Remembering Nolan Miller

By Chris Varaste

Iconic Hollywood fashion and costume designer Nolan Miller leaves behind a remarkable legacy that changed the television landscape and influenced popular culture for five decades.He designed costumes for some of television’s most recognizable shows including The Addams Family, Gilligan's Island, and Charlie's Angels, but it was Dynasty, the hit night-time soap opera that brought Miller world-wide acclaim in the 1980s.

Set in Denver, Dynasty revolved around the wealthy Carrington family, particularly patriarch oil magnate Blake and his bitter ex-wife, Alexis Colby. Mr. Miller reinterpreted the glamorous haute couture styles of the 1940s for the show's leading ladies, dressing them in lavish wide-shouldered gowns, picture hats and opera gloves. The sophisticated fashions projected a pedigreed, opulent lifestyle that hadn’t been shown in the previous decade, the 1970s. The look was copied all over the world and came to define the 1980s.

“You can definitely see Nolan Miller's influence on the Superstar Barbie® doll and fashions of that decade when everything was created on a grand scale — big hair, big shoulder pads, and lots of make-up!” says Barbie doll designer Bill Greening, who designed 2010's DynastyBarbie® dolls (Krystle and Alexis) for Barbie Collector. “Everything from Jewel Secrets Barbie (1986) to Barbie doll’s pink Glamour Home (1985) reflected that sort of Dynasty fashion-inspired lifestyle.”

Mr. Miller also brought his dramatic vision to the world of Barbie for the romantic Sheer Illusion Barbie (1998), wearing a high-collared gown covered in ebony tulle, and Evening Illusion Barbie (1999), a stunning doll dressed in blue charmeuse and black lace.

Greening adds, “Nolan Miller was a terrific inspiration, and it was a wonderful honor to work on the Dynasty dolls — truly one of my favorite projects. Recreating the fashions was fun, and the dolls look great — thank you Mr. Miller!”


Chris Varaste started out at ABC-TV, producing segments for the Emmys, Tonys & Grammys. A fascination with fashion and pop culture led to his first published book, Barbie: Face of the American Dream – and an appreciation for all things Barbie! His insights on collectibles/brand success have been published in the New York Times, The Economist, and Spotlight Cinema Networks.

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