Clothing as Character

Nora Phillips Pedersen ’01 and her prize from “Ryan Murphy night” at the Emmy Awards. (Photo courtesy Nora Phillips Pedersen ’01)

Nora Phillips Pedersen ’01 is not a clothes-horse fashionista. “Definitely not — at all,” Pedersen said with a laugh, even though in 2018 she won her first Emmy, in the contemporary costume category, for the FX series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, recreating the wardrobe, look and feel of the late fashion-design legend.

“I got into this because I love history, and the history of costume. Researching and creating garments from different periods is my forte, and it was cool to get to do that for this one.”

Over the past decade, her work has included the 2012 rock musical Rock of Ages, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, the Robert DeNiro film Grudge Match, along with a half-dozen Adam Sandler movies.

Pedersen’s main job is to hire the crew and “make it happen,” overseeing production of the wardrobe viewers see onscreen.

As costume supervisor, Pedersen’s main job is to hire the crew and “make it happen,” overseeing production of the wardrobe viewers see onscreen. Versace goes back more than 20 years, and the production actually couldn’t afford to buy genuine Versace garments from the 1990s.

“We’d either rent vintage pieces or re-create them,” said Pedersen, who majored in dramatic art at Carolina. “We had an amazing cutter-fitter who created a ton of garments, enough to re-create a runway show. It was daunting, because you wanted to make sure it looks up to par and pay homage to such a brilliant, ahead-of-his-time designer.”

Pedersen is based in Hollywood, and most of her work has been in films. Weary of being on the road, she moved into television, aiming to stay closer to home and have a more manageable schedule. But as directed by Ryan Murphy, Versace was one of the most difficult projects she’s ever worked on.

“We worked 11 months to do nine episodes, which is completely insane,” she said. “There were a lot of moving parts. Ryan Murphy’s shows are always big, chaotic, hard.” The director’s previous TV series include Glee, American Horror Story and The People v. O.J. Simpson.

“He wants everything very stylized and beautiful, and it paid off,” Pedersen said. “It was like ‘Ryan Murphy night’ at the Emmys” — Versace won eight awards, including best director and best limited series.

Pedersen is working on another project with Murphy, The Politician, for Netflix. “It’s a very dark satire of contemporary American politics.”

History in the making.

— David Menconi

The Review profiled the UNC department of dramatic art’s costuming program, “It Only Seams Impossible,” in January/February 2015, available at


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