Premiere Of AMC’s “Mad Men” Season 4 – Arrivals

Through The Wardrobe And Into The World Of Mad Men

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Janie Bryant talks to BSF about the world of Mad Men and her inspirations.

1.) Do you love London?

I do. My first trip I was 15 years old and I was here with my all girls boarding school. It was my first trip to Europe and London was my first stop, and goodness we got into a lot of trouble. Since then Iʼve always loved it.

2.) Do you design the costumes from scratch or source vintage?

It varies every season depending on whatʼs going on in the script but Iʼll design things from scratch, Iʼll shop vintage, Iʼll redesign vintage. And then we do a lot of rentals at the rental house in Los Angeles and Iʼll also collect from different vendors across the States, so itʼs always that combination of building, renting, buying.

3.) How did your partnership with Maidenform come about?

(Janie is the Wardrobe Advisor for the lingerie label, helping them to trawl their archives and pick vintage styles to update.)

Well as you probably know I have an obsession with intimate apparel and that really started when I started designing Deadwood (the Victorian TV show on which Janie first made her name). That was really about making the corsets and all the different layers of the petticoats and the bustle pads and how all those underpinnings really affected the way that a period costume looks. Itʼs just been interesting to cut to almost a hundred years later designing Mad Men. It was such an important aspect to me when designing the costumes, that the actors wear the proper foundation garments, so their whole world is about longline bras and garter belts and girdles and stockings. For that period in time itʼs not the most comfortable but today we can be more comfortable and still get that great silhouette and still feel secure and shaped and smoothed without
wearing a girdle with new fabrications.

During shooting Season ll of Mad Men there was an episode that included a Maidenform ad campaign, it inspired me to look at some of Maidenformʼs iconic ads for my book “The Fashion File”. Iʼve also always loved intimate apparel and shapewear. I contacted Maidenformʼs PR agency and after meeting with
Maidenform and discussing our shared passion for intimate apparel, a partnership just made sense.

4.) Do the charactersʼ wardrobes change depending on their storylines?

Yeah, that happens a lot. We see that with pretty much all of the characters, theyʼve all had shifts and growths and I think that that is real life – itʼs not about always implementing the new fashion but itʼs about telling a story. A lot of the actors have pieces in their closet from season one, as we do, we have things in our closet for years we donʼt throw everything away, and then new pieces are
implemented into their closet. I think that that can illustrate the growth of their character and also the time period changing as well.

Specifically I think that you can see a lot of changes through Peggyʼs costumes, sheʼs had a lot of different arcs and sheʼs gone through a lot of different phases and her silhouettes have changed a lot as sheʼs grown in the company, her costumes have changed as well. Betty Draperʼs costumes have changed from the façade of being a perfect wife to the outside world and then also the transformation into being a politicianʼs wife. I always felt that she would really be influenced by Jackie Kennedy at that time and so this is the next façade that sheʼs going to present. I think that sheʼs a character who pays attention to whatʼs going on in fashion as well and thatʼs about that façade of being perfect. I love to play around with those ideas in the costumes.

5.) Where do you always try to visit?

My favourite place to be is the V&A because I always love to see the costumes there, Iʼm obsessed. Itʼs such a beautiful museum

6.) How did you get into costume design?

I studied fashion design and I was working on 7th Avenue in New York for a fashion designer. I had met a lot of film people being in New York at that time and I just started getting interested. I always had a passion for old movies and Iʼd also studied costume history when I was at school and it was a natural progression to go into costume design. I got a job with a designer for a movie and then it just grew from there.

7.) Why do you think Mad Men has had such an impact on the fashion world?

I think itʼs because the period is so accessible, itʼs still modern and still quite relevant. Am I surprised? I think itʼs more like it makes me happy, you know? And Iʼm flattered, and itʼs exciting.

8.) Do you have a favourite character?

People love to ask me that question, itʼs so funny, I think itʼs because the audience gets obsessed with a single character and for me itʼs more about the change of whatʼs going on in the script – I love variety. I have favourite outfits instead. Letʼs see, you know Joan had some amazing costumes in season four, probably some of my favourites. I loved the blue and white dress with the flounced sleeve and the ruffled collar. And also I love the costume that Betty Draper wore at the end of season two, it was this little beige brocade with mink trim, it was a two piece ensemble with dress and jacket, it was gorgeous.

9.) Do you try on the costumes?

I try on everything, thatʼs the policy! I remember one time January was coming down for a fitting and Iʼd got some vintage peignoirs and I was trying them on over my clothes. I remember her walking in and she was like, ʻJanie what are you doing?ʼ I was like ʻJust having a little dress up timeʼ. I model everything, I do.
10.) What are your tips for dressing a Christina Hendricks-esque, hourglass figure?

Itʼs about wearing proper shape-wear and accentuating your waist, I always find that that is the most figure flattering for that hourglass. Itʼs funny because I think that for such a long time women wanted to hide that figure or they felt that it wasnʼt beautiful and I always think, when did the hourglass ever go out of style? I
mean, thatʼs the iconic symbol of a womanʼs figure.

11.) And what are the TV shows or films that most inspire you?

We were talking last night about Barbarella. I canʼt say itʼs my favourite but I love that film. One of my all time favourites is Guys and Dolls with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, I love it so much, I was always obsessed with that film. Probably because in that scene where theyʼre singing Luck Be a Lady, where Marlon
Brandoʼs singing and all the guys are dancing and theyʼre all in their beautiful menswear with their contrasting bright socks and matching shirts, I always thought thatʼs amazing. That is the power of costume design, just to notice all of those details and see something different every time. And Gone With the Wind, I just watched that again recently and I have to say thatʼs one of my all
time favourite films costume-wise.

12.) How can we average girls get the Mad Men style without looking like we’re wearing a costume?

A sheath dress is a perfect way to go. It is the most flattering silhouette. It hearkens back to the period but always looks modern.

13.) In terms of the menʼs costumes, how do the suits of the era differ from todays off the rack suits?

The suits of that period have a very narrow collar and lapel. The rise of the trousers is much longer and is made to sit at the natural waist. The materials are very different as well. Most of the suits of that period were wool blends creating that permanent press effect to always look neat and perfectly wrinkle free.

14.) Joanʼs character is celebrated for showing off that perfect hourglass figure of the era and has helped start the debate for curves over skinny on the catwalks – did you imagine when you were starting out that the show and the costumes in particular would be so influential?

No, I really had no idea the costumes would be so influential. I just knew I loved the period and I loved the story. I think it is weird that the hourglass was ever out of fashion. It is an iconic form of femininity.

15) Do you think Mad Men can in some way be credited for the new interest in all things vintage?

Oh Yes absolutely!

16.) There are a lot of strong female characters in the series so how does their clothes reflect them?

It is my job as the Costume Designer to tell a story about each of the characters through their clothing. Each piece of their costume tells a particular story of who these characters are.

17.) Mad Men is all about the attention to detail – how did you go about finding something individual for particular characters?
For example Joan always wears a pen around her neck…

That is the exciting thing about being the Costume Designer. I will either design or seek out those pieces that speak to me about each character.

18.) Were any/many of the clothes originally sourced or did they all have to be specially created/designed? What about the shoes and other accessories?

When costume designing the show I design and build from scratch, do rentals from the costume shops in Los Angeles, buy and redesign vintage and buy vintage. The shoes are purchased in vintage stores and/or rented that goes for the accessories as well. All of this cannot be done alone! I have an amazing Costume department that works with me.

19) A lot of the costumes are re-worn by characters throughout the series – which character has the biggest wardrobe?

All the charactersʼs wardrobes change from season to season. It really varies depending on the script.

20) What’s the biggest challenge of your job?

There are so many! I would have to say when designing Mad Men in particular itʼs about melding the progression of the years seamlessly from season to season.

21) How did it all start for you?

After studying fashion design, I worked for a fashion designer John Scher on 7th Avenue in New York City. During that time I met a
costume designer at a Christmas party. She told me all about her job as a costume designer and from that moment on I knew thatʼs
what I wanted to do too.

22) Where do you get your inspiration?

I get my inspiration from so many different places but for me itʼs mostly about the research and totally immersing myself in a period.

23) Do you have a favourite designer and why?

I always have many favorites! My “Tried and Trues” are Christian La Croix, Valentino, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Dolce and Gabanna and Marchesa. All of these designers have a true understanding of the female form with a bit of whimsy, elegance, and femininity! All of my favorite things!

24) Which character is the most fun to dress?

People always ask me this question. For me itʼs more about whatʼs going on with the character in the script that excites me more than just a single character. It is more the audience that get attached to a single character. I do have favorite costumes though. Some of Joanʼs costumes in season four are some of my favorites like her blue and white dress with the navy and cream ruffle and I love
Bettyʼs gorgeous costume at the end of season two- a beige brocade dress and matching jacket with mink trim, just to name a couple.

25) You are in London for a shoot with the Puppini Sisters.What are they like to dress?

“They were great and all very different shapes. Kate is very vintage-inspired on and off set but Stephanie and Marchella are more modern. I found some very glamorous gowns for the shoot, ones I have worn myself on the red carpet. I also used Maidenform shapewear for them as the look was about the smooth hourglass shape and nipped-in waists.”

26) What do you wear off-duty:

“Letʼs get into house pants as my fiancé says. I have linen pants, I just never feel comfortable wearing sweats or tracksuits. I do pilates so I will wear my leggings and little sports bra tops to exercise in.”

Janie Bryant, famous for her costume designs for hit series Mad Men, talks to Glam about the show, her inspirations, working with The Puppini Sisters here in London and future projects…

27) You are in London for a shoot with the Puppini Sisters. What are they like to dress?

“They were great and all very different shapes. Kate is very vintage-inspired on and off set but Stephanie and Marchella are more modern. I found some very glamorous gowns for the shoot, ones I have worn myself on the red carpet. I also used Maidenform shapewear for them as the look was about the smooth hourglass shape and nipped-in waists.”

28) What do you wear off-duty:

“Letʼs get into house pants as my fiancé says. I have linen pants, Iust never feel comfortable wearing sweats or tracksuits. I do pilates so I will wear my leggings and little sports bra tops to exercise in.”

29) How did you get involved in Maidenform?

“There was the Maidenform campaign in Mad Men, so it sparked the idea from there and put the brand back into my consciousness. I would look at all Maidenform ads while looking for inspiration for Mad Men. I also love intimate apparel and shapewear, I wanted to use vintage ads in the book and contacted the PR agency in New York. There were so many areas to explore together and started a discussion of our passion for intimate apparel and ended up in a
partnership together. “

30) What are your favourite Maidenform pieces?

“I love to choose pieces that accentuate a womanʼs curves. Some of my favorites are Maidenformʼs Custom Lift(R) Longline Bra, Pure Genius! Extra Coverage bra and the very sexy Easy-Up(R) Full Slip. The feminine form is so beautiful, why hide it? ”

31) And you use Maidenform for Mad Men cast?

“I use long line bras and girdles. Itʼs more authentic to the period and that is very important in designing the show for me. The actresses experience the custom of getting dressed as women did in the 1960s and have those elements in their closets. A transformation back in time. Contemporary shapewear is very different – we are lucky it is more comfortable.”

32) Seems to be related to Hollywood…

“Change of perception with trends. Probably because Mad Men is a period show and the costume design is showing the story of the characters rather than what is in fashion.”

33) How do you go about dressing the characters?

“I have my creative discussions with Matthew Weiner. We always have discussions about the characters, where they are going and then I will take it from there and start to research and inspiration boards and sketches, colour palettes and looks for different characters.”

34) How important is costume design to a show?

“ It is always integral to a show. With a period show the attention is drawn more to the costume designer so if I have had a part in that I feel very proud.”

35) Mad Men is more famous for the fashion than the script…

“Everything you see on television and the actors in costumes, there has been someone responsible for all those choices and the stories they are going to tell through their costume. When you realise that there is that person making those choices, there is a deeper level of story-telling.”

36) Where do you get your inspiration from?

“I find the show very inspiring and it is also about the magical element of all of us working together from the beginning. I would call it “our little secret” at the beginning and we really work in this creative environment – the creators, producer and the production and hair and make-up. It is amazing that a team works so well and the magic that creates.”

37) Do the actors have any input?

“Since the beginning, they have trusted me and donʼt really say too much. Christina and I both like certain colours – I like to stay within a colour palette for her. It is also dependant on what I can find and re-master if I donʼt have time to make something. There are different situations where I may be looking for other choices. Elizabeth Moss asked me “please donʼt put me in mustard
anymore” and then she changed her mind about mustard – she loves it now! She embraced the mustard – I loved that about her.”

38) What are your favourite suits and dresses?

“I was just thinking about that today. I loved Januaryʼs pale brocade ensemble in series one and what I call her sad clown dress, the silk organza sun dress with coloured circles. Elizabeth Moss had a little grey plaid suit that she wore a lot, I loved that.”

39) Whatʼs your favourite era?

“I love so many. The Baroque period, romantic period, Napoleonic and Victorian – Iʼm obsessed with knife pleating and Edwardian are all very inspiring. For the 20th Century my two favourites are the early 50s – circle skirts and crinolines and the extreme bullet bras and the 70s for men and women. That was the first real decade of freedom for women – and for men it was the last decade they dressed up. I miss that.”

40) How important is underwear?

“Foundations are really important. Itʼs an intricate part of the costume and how it all works together.”

41) What are you most proud of?

“Mad Men is so much about menswear and that is such an exciting element for me, to get men to change their fashion is much more difficult. Women change their trends on a whim so influencing menʼs fashion is so much more satisfying. Menʼs tailoring is such a fine art and all about the subtleties, which I love.”

42) Whatʼs next?

“Two capsule collections for QVC and I have the Nailtini which comes out soon, I am continuing working for Maidenform which is great and I am off to New York for the CFDA panel. I have been doing the book tour and I start Mad Men again in June. I am so busy! I donʼt know how I am going to fit it all in.“


43) How important are the under garments in terms of creating that silhouette?

Very important. Itʼs an intricate part of every costume. It really is the foundation of a look.

44) If a bride wants to be ultra comfortable on her wedding day can she be wearing Maidenform?

Absolutely. Their Custom Lift® bustier is one of my favorite pieces- I wear it almost every day- and itʼs perfect for brides. Itʼs strapless convertible, sexy and cinches the waist- I love it!

45) What style of wedding dress would you choose for acurvy bride?

One that accentuates her waist. I always believe in showing off your curves rather than trying to hide them. Shapewear- especially waist nippers and thigh slimmers can smooth and contour the body, creating a gorgeous and feminine hourglass shape- the perfect compliment for a mermaid, sheath, column or any
silhouette. Maidenformʼs Flexees ® Easy Up® Pull-on Waistnipper is the perfect undergarment to achieve this look.

46) With vintage being huge in the bridal world at the moment how can a bride create this look?

A lace gown always hearkens to vintage and lace is so romantic, feminine and classic. Also beautiful headpieces that have that vintage flare are little pill box hats with a veil or a decorative fascinator.

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