Janie Bryant is the Emmy-winning costume designer behind the period costumes on Mad Men. Her influential designs for the AMC show have inspired a number of other designers including Prada and Michael Kors. In 2011 and 2012, she created a capsule collection for Banana Republic.
You have done such an amazing job with both the men and women on this show. Is it difficult to keep up with so many of different personalities and styles?
The amount of characters can certainly be a challenge for a show like Mad Men. The turnaround time between filming episodes is very quick, and the costume design is not only for the principal characters, but also for the background characters, which can amount to a lot of people!
How do you approach the different characters? Are certain personalities more challenging to communicate through costume?
Each character has his or her own personality as dictated by the script. I approach each one individually by researching costumes for that character that are authentic to the era. I pull photos from 1960s magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sears, and Montgomery Ward. I also like to watch movies from the 1960s as well as look at newspaper clippings and old photos. Personality differentiation can be a challenge, however those challenges can be found in any project, contemporary or period.
Do you receive scripts and story lines for episode as they are filmed or the entire season?
We work episode by episode—and it goes by quickly!
Has your approach changed since Mad Men started?
My approach to research and preparation is relatively the same season to season, but the subject matter changes. Even the growth that the characters experience has an impact on the process as well.
What is your secret to finding all these vintage clothes?
The costumes you see on the show are a mix of custom built costumes, rentals, vintage, and remade vintage. I have a great team of vendors who supply me with 1960s garments as well as a phenomenal team in my costume department.
Do the clothes require a lot of alterations?
Some of the rebuilt vintage can require a lot of alternations or work to restore the garment to how it may have looked during the period. Sometimes we use a 1960s garment as a pattern and create a new garment in another size, color, or fabric for a character.
How do you see the 60's reflected in today's trends?
The 1960s are all over the runways! I saw capes and sheath dresses in the fall and now I see color blocking on everything from swimsuits to dresses to hats. I love the period and am happy to see others inspired by the show.
Is there a character whose style you identify with personally?
I feel like I identify with a little of all the characters but probably the most would be Jane Sterling, and Megan Draper.
What are a few of your favorite looks from past seasons?
Joan's red Christmas Dress, Betty's Blue Brocade Gown, Rachel Menken's turquoise peignoir.
What are some of your favorite pieces from your Banana Republic-Mad Men collection?
The floral Joan Dress and the Lace pencil Skirt. LOVE!