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Costume Ball:
Designer Bob Miller Zips (and unzips) the Cast of GH with Comments on How They Do and Should Dress!
by Stella Bednarz, Soap Opera Digest 8/12/86

"He creates wedding, evening, and night gowns; checks to see that the extras aren't attired in red or white makes sure that no one visiting Tony and Tania Jones ever wear green.  When the credits roll at the end of General Hospital, one line reads:  Costume Designer- Bob Miller.  Who is this guy?  How did he get his job?  More important, is it fun working with the actors or are they a big pain?

For tall, affable Californian Bob Miller, his work is 'such a challenge and such a joy.'  He came to GH in August of 1984 as assistant designer to Ann Somer Major with the understanding that he would take over when she departed, which was a year later.  Displaying a clam but upbeat attitude, Bob has his own vision of how a costume designer fits into the scheme of a show.   'You're designing with the director, the producer, and the actor in mind.  I don't believe in designing for yourself.  If you want that, do fashion for a small boutique with your name on it.  Costume design is communitive.'

A daytime show obviously presents limitations in terms of prep time.  Working on a weekly budget, Miller oversees a staff of seven who are responsible for costuming 260 shows per year.  Compare that to a prime time soap such as Dynasty, where Nolan Miller only has to worry about clothing Krystal, Alexis et al for approximately 26 episodes.  For instance, much as he enjoys designing, Bob can only create about 15% of the show's clothes.  The balance is acquired by shoppers who comb all types of stores for just the right look for Frisco, Monica or Ruby.  Not surprisingly, a lot of sophisticated Anna Devane's wardrobe is purchased in Beverly Hills.

To plan and budget wardrobe, Miller receives advance story lines and meet weekly with set designers.  He explains, 'If there's a new set, we ask, "What are the wall colors?  What will the curtains be?"  Then we get there and what the characters happen to have on is the same color as the bedspread, which is the one thing we didn't ask about....  If someone goes to visit Tania and Tony Jones, they do not wear green because the room is green.   You have to take into consideration where the characters travel that day.'

GH keeps a log of all the costumes used.  There are sheets with the character's name, actor's name, show number and what they've worn.  If someone wears three outfits in one episode, it also records the scenes in which they were worn.  Careful notation can be quite valuable.   Recently, Jack Wagner (Frisco) broke his elbow during a concert.  'We needed to redo the airplane scenes and have him break his arm in Catalina.  We looked up those costume sheets of what he wore so we could reshoot it,' Bob remembers.

Sometimes, a costuming problem isn't resolved quite so easily.  When Jimmy Lee gifted Celia and Lorena with fur coats, it was a focal point of the story; whatever the two women met, they were wearing them.   However, furs aren't usually purchased.  In this case, GH made a deal with Saks for the use of the coats.  Unfortunately, one day the store sold Lorena's coat.   What did they do?  Miller smiles ruefully, 'I had to scour the town to find the same fur at a rental place and it cost $250 per day!'

Each character has his or her own 'closet' of clothes from which ensembles are pulled.  Thought it might seem that way, they don't always wear new outfits; instead, the wardrobe is rotated and pieces are mixed and matched to produce new combinations.  It isn't advisable to build up too much of a wardrobe for a number of reasons:  styles change and characters undergo transitions.  When that happens, Bob and executive producer Gloria Monty consult to determine the proper style change for a character's clothes should reflect his or her mood.  A case in point is Dr. Monica Quartermaine, whose wardrobe went from staid to snazzy when she took up with roguish Sean Donely.  The designer says fondly, 'It was fun to do Monica's change.  Now that she's falling in love and having the affair, we just perked her up quite a bit!'

Even when a transition is planned, the writers' whims can play havoc with the best-laid plans of a costume designer.   Miller remembers Ginny Webber's pregnancy very well.  He had made a deal to use a line of maternity clothes.  'Unfortunately, I didn't know Ginny was going to give birth two months early.  When I finally got the clothes, I liked them... all of the sudden I got this script that said, "Two weeks from now she's going to give birth in the elevator," so it was like well...' he trails off, shrugging his shoulders.

Another of Bob's responsibilities is overseeing the ever-changing cast of extras, who provide their own clothes.  'We explain what we need and if they don't have it, we supply it.  We tend to ask extras not to wear any whites, no bright reds, no hot colors and always bring three choices.   Anything can distract you- even blondes because their hair reflects a lot of light.'

One of Bob Miller's, or any costume designer's, more delicate tasks is dealing with actors and avoiding comparisions- even when most of the major characters turn up at the same party.  Bob emphatically believes, 'It's dangerous to play favorites.  If you do it for the show, there shouldn't be any competitions.  Designers shouldn't give people "gifts."'   I will say, 'This is a good thing for you and the character.'  Fashion doesn't come first- the character and show should.  Someone might wear a gown that's proper; someone might wear one to impress a date and another might wear one to impress everybody.   It's a different attitude.

'During the fittings, I'll explain why we're buying or designing something.  If they feel it's really wrong, you can't force someone.  You've got to make them feel comfortable; they have to act and make it believeable... They're all fun to dress.  I like fitting Tristan (Rogers, ex-Scorpio) because he was there to try on clothes.  He'd look in the mirror and if he didn't say anything, you knew he liked it.  If he didn't, Tristan would tell you why, nicely, then ask your opinion and you'd talk about it.  Most of the time, he never said anything.'

One of the more intriguing aspects of Bob's position is deciding on a character's "look".  In the case of Derek Barrington (Mark Goddard), making the concept a reality was a snap.  'He walks right into a suit.  I've never worked with a perfect size 40 before,' Bob remarks, slightly surprised.  He describes the way some of his subjects dress:  Sean- 'Casusal elegance.  Always dressed correctly, no matter where he is.'  Lorena- 'Flashy on the verge of trashy'; Frisco- 'A progressive dresser who doesn't wear fads, he wears current designs.'emma6.jpg (8284 bytes)

Sometimes, it is the actor rather than the character who provides the best test, such as when Bob dressed Emma Samms (ex-Holly, now Fallon, The Colbys).  'Emma was a challenge.  She's beautiful, petite, short-waisted; an hourglass figure.  No insult, but I always call it very English.  Emma is very similar to Elizabeth Taylor.  They always look stunning when dressed properly.  Emma is an actress who should have a designer because she can't walk into a store and always buy something.  If they look bad on camera, it can because of what someone has put them in, not because of them.'  (Remember that the next time your favorite characters turn up at a soiree.  If one looks like a dream, while the other is a nightmare, blame the designer, right Bob?)

Here are his fashion profiles on some of Port Charles' citizens (and the actors who play them):

Anna Devane (Finola Hughes):  Finola has very pale skin.  She looks good in true jewel tones.  Great in blue, also purples.  Unfortunately, sometimes the purples turn blue so it looks like Anna's always in blue.  She looks good in reds and pinks; yellow and green are not good for her complexion.  Anna has traveled all over the world.   She knows clothes because it was part of her business, not because it was frivolous.  She dresses whether it costs money or not.

Jake Meyer (Sam Behrens):   Jake doesn't care about clothes.  They're not important to him.  He cares about the law, what is right.  He likes a jacket because it's going to last long- not because it's the best thing.  He wore black tennis shoes at Kevin and Terry's wedding.  Why stand there and be uncomfortable when no one's going to notice.

Ginny Webber (Judith Chapman):  She's good with sharp edge colors.  Judith looks great in red but then can look okay in khaki, yet can wear hot pink.  One of the few people who can wear any color- her complexion is neutral enough.  Judith is very good for her collars, she's got a wonderful long neck and a very good frame.  She's had years of pantomime and dance.  Finola's a dancer too.  They both move well in clothes.

Lila Quartermaine (Anna Lee):  She's great, timeless.  Lila dresses for comfort, dresses properly, knows that she's got money but doesn't have to tell anybody.  She wears caftans and loose things around the house and then when she goes out, Lila wears suits.  A lovely lady, a joy to dress because she has know-how.

Robin Soltini (Kimberly McCullough):  We always said, 'Think of Filomena making her clothes.'  She raised her, and she's from the old country, so Robin was dressed up like an old-fashioned little girl; fluffed up.  Robin is softening.  Before, Anna probably didn't buy her clothes but gave Filomena money for them.  I think now maybe Anna's buying Robin's clothes.  She's still cute.

In real life, Bob advises fashion and money-conscious people that, 'There are good designers and good clothes on all levels of stores.  If you can go to an inexpensive boutique and catch the young designers before they become expensive, you can still get something that looks like a million dollars at a low price.'  Any more fashion advice for the average person?  'I think people should look in the mirror- from behind!'"


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