If you are as obsessed with Mad Men as I am (which is a lot), then you know that Janie Bryant is the genius behind the costumes on the show. As the costume designer she sketches and plans costume ideas for each character, from Don to Trudy, some of which are custom made and others which are reworked from vintage pieces.
I met with Janie just before the season finale to find out how she works her magic on Mad Men and get the scoop on all the best outfits of the season.
Fashionista: What types of reference images do you use to inspire your designs? Vintage magazines? Classic films?
Janie Bryant: I love doing research, and it’s always so inspiring to me. I watch movies from the period like North by Northwest, The Apartment, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, That Touch of Mink, Dr. No, Sex and the Single Girl, A Hard Day’s Night, Alfie, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf among others. Vintage magazines, catalogs, newspapers and photographs are also a huge part of my research as well.
Season 5 of Mad Men has been crazy for me as a fan and I’m sure for you as the costume designer–what has been the biggest change in the way that you’re designing for the show?
It’s the same philosophy that I’ve always used since I started designing the show which is [that] the principal cast is really limited in what their character has been from the beginning. There have always been changes in each passing season for each character, but they’ve always been subtle. I’ve been able to show the passage of time more with the new characters, for instance, Megan, Ginsberg, and Jane Sterling.
Jane Sterlings outfits kill me. I wish I could walk into a vintage store and find one of those white jumpsuits!
I know, I know. I love that piece. I bought that piece a couple of years ago knowing that Matthew Weiner was going to write a scene for some character to wear that amazing jumpsuit. It’s ivory silk crepe that is so divine and delicious, you can’t even believe the way that fabric feels…it’s just so Jane Sterling–very dramatic. I love that she’s the character who has nothing to do all day except work to plan her outfits, her outings, her hair and her makeup. I always imagine her sitting around eating bon bons. [Laughs] I do!
Which character is your favorite to design for?
It changes all the time. This year has been so much fun and so challenging to do all of Betty Francis’ costumes. I’d say 98% of them I designed and we built from scratch, so that has been so much fun. Also just in terms of a character really changing from season to season…I mean, I think the whole world was shocked by, you know, Betty’s situation.
What about the new Mrs. Draper-–Megan (Jessica Paré)?
It has been really fun to have that character transform from the secretary to Mrs. Draper. It’s like with Jane Sterling–their economic situation really does change, and so it was a real shift for Megan. She’s been able to wear and afford spectacular costumes in the office, but I never saw her as a character that was frivolous in the same way that Jane is. I love the fact that she is not only Mrs. Draper, but that she is also the modern, the young, and the new. It also is really interesting to play with the age difference between Don and Megan–you can really see that contrast in their costumes.