Nickerson Dresses for Success
Last December, Nancy Nickerson ’80 (SFA), ’81 MA celebrated 25 years as a costume designer at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Denmark’s equivalent of the BBC. Over the course of her long career, she’s dressed news anchors and actors in original shows like “The Killing” (the inspiration for the AMC series), and contestants in the popular Eurovision talent contest—one of her career highlights. She met her current husband, a Danish lighting designer, on the set of the drama “Taxi.”
Nickerson first visited Denmark in the late 1980s, a few years after graduating from UConn. She felt an immediate sense of familiarity—with its long coastlines and cold winter weather, the country reminded her of Cape Cod, where she had grown up. She returned to the U.S., but dreaming of moving to Denmark, she joined the Danish Society of Massachusetts, attended celebrations of Midsummer, a Danish holiday, and taught herself Danish, in part by listening to Danish songs and then looking up the English lyrics. Some of the colloquialisms puzzled her—instead of saying that someone “went bananas,” Danes say they “went cucumbers”—but she kept it up and is now fluent.
By 1985, Nickerson had finally saved up enough money to make the move. She arrived in Copenhagen on a tourist visa and immediately began applying for jobs. After months of fruitless searching and with only two weeks left before she’d be forced to leave the country, she received a job offer for a position in the costume department of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, which sponsored her for a work visa.
It was the perfect job for Nickerson, who learned to sew at the age of five on her grandmother’s treadle machine and who fell in love with the theater by going to musicals each summer at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. She decided to attend UConn because the school was one of the few in New England to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. After graduating, she decided to stay in Storrs for another year to earn her master’s in costume design.
Even though she moved thousands of miles away from her alma mater, its influence, as well as the friendship of two inspirational teachers, the late Dr. Ardelle Striker and the late Alicia Finkel, continued to guide her throughout her career.
Nickerson’s UConn education has served her well in her adopted country. Even after a quarter century, Nickerson hasn’t tired of Denmark or her home town of Copenhagen. “For me, it’s like if you put Boston on Cape Cod,” she said. “As a city, you have everything you need as a costume designer—cultural institutions, TV stations, and theaters. Plus, you’re really close to the beach and nature.”