Eva Gabor had a secret source for all those couture clothes on Green Acres
Savvy Sixties shoppers know about Lisa's go-to Brooklyn store.
Images: The Everett Collection
Ginger had her gown and Carol had her curtain dress, but on Green Acres, Lisa Douglas had her own signature fashion: garments lined in ostrich feathers.
According to costume designer Nolan Miller, the ostrich feathers we saw again and again through various costume changes on Eva Gabor's famous Sixties character were sneakily transferred from garment to garment, thanks to one hardworking seamstress on set who Miller told the Archive of American Television, sat "in a little, tiny, practically a closet, and she was capable of taking the ostrich feathers off of the cuffs of one negligee and putting them around the neck of the next one."
This thriftiness was necessary, Miller said, because after the first season of the show, when Gabor often wore looks from the collection of one of her favorite designers Jean Louis, the show slashed the budget to just $500 a show for wardrobe.
That made pulling off Lisa's couture looks – and inexplicably frequent costume changes – a challenge for the young wardrobe consultant. Luckily, he was just starting off in his career, and he embraced that challenge, saying in his interview:
"I got a phone call one day. Jean Louis had started the series with Eva, but they were using his clothes. They were just getting some clothes from, I think, his collection probably. But our budget was, I think, $500 a show was our budget, and he wasn’t interested, even though Eva was friends with him."
"So the producer had called me. Eva had seen clothes somewhere, I’m not sure where. I just can’t remember, she had seen my clothes and asked them to call me and so I went to the studio and it was one of those things, that I was just starting out, so I was willing to do whatever I had to do. Because one week, the feathers were on the hem, and the next week, they were around her neck. We had to rob from Peter to pay Paul."
Then came a gift to Green Acres, thanks to the savvy shopper Eva Gabor, who Miller gushed "had wonderful taste, very good taste." Gabor had heard about a store in Brooklyn called Loehmann's, where women could find discounted designer clothes. Miller reached out and wound up getting even more than he bargained for:
"There was a store in New York which Eva found out about called Loehmann’s and they would buy all of the designers’ samples and they would just pack up huge boxes of things and send them to us for us to pick anything that we wanted, and in most cases, designer samples were like a size 2 and Eva was an 8 and she would say, 'oh darling, work your magic on it.'”
Work his magic on it, Miller did. He helped Eva pull off multiple looks per episode, saying he focused exclusively on Lisa Douglas' wardrobe, because she was the only character who needed his attention. Miller said, "It was a fun show to do simply because I adored Eva and she was wonderful. I had very little to do with anything else except Eva, because, again, the other characters in Hooterville wore not exactly couture clothes. And nobody ever, we didn’t explain why Eva had so many clothes or why she changed so often."
Of course, Lisa Douglas didn't always have to shop the discount bins. Miller said every now and again, an episode would call for something special, “Occasionally there would be something very important that we would do a new gown, a new negligee, a new something, but most of the time, we skimped by.”
Because they spent so much time together, Miller said the early gig in his career cemented a real bond of friendship between star and wardrobe consultant, "She became one of my closest friends in three years. It’s a friendship I really, really valued. We worked very well together. I worked with her the rest of her life.”