TRAVERSE CITY — If the 2014 Olympics handed out medals for costume design, Stephanie Miller would be right there on the podium.
Miller works out of her Kingsley home and has designed costumes for figure skaters of all levels for more than 20 years. Her reputation for the stunning creations she and her business associate, LuAnne Williams, produce spread throughout the skating world, where her designs are sought by world class competitors.
U.S. pairs skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who hail from Michigan and are favored to take the gold medal in Sochi, will wear Miller’s designs. Additionally, Olympians from China, France, Canada, Italy, Japan, Azerbaijan, Australia and Russia are expected to perform in Stephanie Miller creations.
Skaters seem to find her even though she’s not easy to locate.
“We don’t have a label. We don’t even have a Facebook page or website. People hear about us through word of mouth and they find us,” Miller said.
Her knack for costume design dates to the 1970s, when she competed in synchronized skating and ice dancing.
She participated in ice dancing and team synchronized skating and reached senior national competition levels in synchronized competitions.
She stopped competing in 1996, but continues to coach.
“I designed my own costumes, and people always wanted to know where I got them. I started designing for other skaters, and it just caught on,” Miller said. “I’ve been designing for Meryl since she was a little girl. In Vancouver (in 2010) I had dresses on the podium when Meryl and Charlie took silver medals and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, took the gold.”
Her photo albums are filled with costumes she’s made for some of skating’s current biggest names: Alissa Czisny, Jenny Kirk and Evan Lysacek wore her designs while they rose through the ranks.
Miller said skaters usually take many costumes to the Olympics for practices and live competition. Every dress is different.
“Meryl probably took around 20 dresses with her to Sochi,” Miller said estimating that each of Davis’ dresses cost a minimum of $3,000 to $5,000. “All the dresses are competition level, and she has three variations on the same dress that are similar, but not identical. She might not make a final decision on which one she’ll wear until the last minute.”
Miller said the dresses are made with meticulous care and meet strict Olympic rules and standards. Once a dress is designed, creating a matching shirt for a skating partner is easy. The intricate lace patterns are cut from yardage and sewn on individually.
Jewel patterns are affixed with industrial-strength glue, and the costumes are worn through numerous rehearsals to ensure they fit well and stretch perfectly through each athletic maneuver.
“There shouldn’t be any wardrobe malfunctions at that level of competition,” Miller said.
Miller estimates she and Williams create about 250 costumes a year. When she’s not designing, Miller, 59, coaches skaters at the Traverse City Figure Skating Club.
“It’s so nice because I like it so much,” she said. “I’m always around skating and I’m able to keep up with what’s going on.”