Video: Mad Men’s Costume Designer Reflects on Dressing Your Favorite Characters

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As the seventh and final season of the acclaimed drama Mad Men draws near, it's impossible not to reflect on the incredible impact that the award-winning series has had not only on the state of television over the past few years, but particularly the world of fashion. No one knows that better than the show's Emmy-nominated costume designer Janie Bryant. In this exclusive video, Bryant sits down for a talk about what it has been like dressing the show's iconic characters, as well as the widespread influence of Mad Men.

When it came to dressing the "very mysterious, very masculine, and also very elusive" Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), Bryant says her palate for the ad man has "always been about grays ... browns, and even black sometimes depending on the journey that Don Draper may be taking." To Bryant (whose previous credits include her Emmy-winning work on the series Deadwood), Draper is understated rather than flashy, and wears his polished suits as armor.

Similarly, Don's ex-wife Betty Francis (January Jones) used her clothing as a different sort of armor: a "facade of perfection," as Bryant describes it. Using a palate of "whites, the gray-blues, the ice-blues, the pale yellows, the camels," the costume designer used Betty's wardrobe as a way of "telling the story of this perfectly beautiful woman of the era and how she presents herself to the world as being perfect."

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While Don and Betty's wardrobe has always been clear cut, when it came to Elisabeth Moss’s complex Peggy Olson, "We have seen her go through so many transformations." As a former secretary who has moved through the cutthroat ranks of the office, Peggy was quite literally wearing the pants around Sterling Cooper by the end of Season 6. Bryant says she's used "checks and plaids and pleats and polka dots ... a school girl quality to her costume design" to harken back to Peggy's strict upbringing, as well as the "textures and complexity of her character."

In contrast to Peggy's more demure look, there's the vivacious Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks. Bryant describes Joan as the "commanding force in the office," as well as a woman who is "very aware of her effect on men and how she is the ultimate ideal of femininity." From her iconic "wiggle dress" to "showing off the hourglass," Bryant used gem tones and strong colors to dress Joan, as well as Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren as the ideals for her overall fashion sense.

Of course, characters like Joan and Betty have since inspired fashion movements of their own. In addition to renaissance on the streets of the vintage clothing and fabrics, Bryant acknowledges the "effect that Mad Men has had on fashion and fashion designers," including Prada. Bryant noticed it after the first season when the models at a Michael Kors show "were wearing Joan and Peggy and Betty dresses ... it was really incredible."

Watch Janie Bryant's entire discussion by clicking on the video above and catch Mad Men’s Season 7 premiere on April 5 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.

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The character Don Draper. I always saw his character being very mysterious, and very masculine, also very, elusive. And, so, from there. You know, the palette has always been about grays, and every tone of gray, and browns, and even black sometimes. Depend. Depending on sort of the journey that Don Draper may be taking. And I think that also in, you know, his costumes are very understated in a way, too. He's not a flashy character. And also his suits are always, they always signify, or I should say his suits are always about being in armor, and they protect him from. Not only himself, but the outer world as well. Then Betty is all about the facade of perfection. And with her col, color palette, you know, that it's always been. Important for me to use like the whites and the, the gray blues, the ice blues, the pale yellows, the camels. I mean I always loved that, the, that color palette for her because for me that was all about really telling that story of this perfectly, beautiful woman of, of the, you know, of the era and how she really always says, and presents herself to the world as being perfect. Peggy is a character where we have seen her go through so many different transformations and I think that she's one of the most complex characters of the whole show and, you know, we've seen her from being a secretary to moving up through the agency and, you know, at the end of season six. You know, there's that glorious moment of Peggy wearing pants in the office. In my mind, that character is still rooted in coming from a very catholic strict background. And so, I always love the idea of checks and plaids and pleats and polka dots and really having that, kind of like, school girl quality to her costume design. And not only that but I also. Felt like with all these different textures it really harkens back to all the complexities of Peggy's character as well. So, you know, I do use a lot of pleats for her, polk-a-dots, checks, plaids. A lot of textures and that really is about the textures and the complexities of her character. So, Joan for me is the character that is, you know, she is the commanding force in the office. And I think that she also is a character who is very aware of her effect on men, and how she is the. Ultimate idea and ideal of femininity. And so, you know, for me, I, I felt like you know, the wiggle dress was very important. That's all about you know, showing off the hourglass and, you know, I always felt like Joan would be inspired by Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren and really. Look to those women who have very curvy bodies and aspire to dress like them. And also I love the idea of using these beautiful. Gem tones and very strong colors, because I feel like Joan is a very strong character as well. You know, it's been amazing that, Mad Men has really been able to influence, not only seeing people on the street wearing vintage clothing, but also. The effect that Mad Men has had on fashion and fashion designers. I think one of the first fashion designers who was inspired by Mad Men was Michael Kors. I mean, basically after the first season aired. The next season Michael Kors, you know, on the runway. Those girls were wearing Joan and Peggy and Betty dresses all over the place, it was really incredible, and not only that but just seeing like the, you know, vintage fabrics re-in, reinvented. I mean it, it was really amazing and and such, you know, high compliment. Also Prada. Who, you know, has been totally inspired by, by Mad Men.
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