Costume designer Janie Bryant — yes, from Mad Men — talks designing the series, which stars Lucy Liu, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste.

By Samantha Simon
Aug 14, 2019 @ 5:45 pm
Ali Goldstein/CBS

The leading ladies of Why Women Kill may have a dangerously dark side — but even when they’re feeling betrayed, you better believe they’re dressed to the nines.

Set in three different time periods, the new dramedy from Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry follows a trio of women: 1960s housewife Beth Ann (Ginnifer Goodwin), 1980s socialite Simone (Lucy Liu), and present-day Taylor (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a bisexual lawyer in an open marriage. Despite the fact that they’re living decades apart from one another, each woman is struggling with infidelity in her relationship. And despite feeling deceived, she's trying to keep up the appearance that everything is just fine

Ali Goldstein/CBS

“All three of these women are putting up different facades, so they definitely have that in common,” the show’s costume designer Janie Bryant tells InStyle. “It comes through in the costume design in the sense that we’re creating a character, and then that character is creating a character for herself. They’re all putting up a fashion front.”

RELATED: Mindy Kaling's Four Weddings and a Funeral Is Nothing Like the Original Movie, Costumes Included

For Bryant — who’s also responsible for creating the epic costumes on Mad Men — curating the wardrobes for each lead character offered a unique chance to play around in different fashion eras. “It’s like designing three different shows at one time, which I love,” she says. “It’s been a very interesting creative process, having three characters living in three different time periods. I’ve never done that consistently on a show before, only through flashbacks.”

Ali Goldstein/CBS

The result is a full-on “feast for the eyes,” says Bryant. “From the costumes to the cinematography and production design, the show is just so visually delicious.” Keep reading for her style breakdown of the main characters on Why Women Kill ahead of its premiere tomorrow, August 15, on CBS All Access.

Beth Ann Stanton

Ali Goldstein/CBS

On her signature style…

“Beth Ann is one of my favorite characters on the show. She is a very modest woman who’s stuck in the ‘50s, so her costume design is really old-fashioned. She still wears little ‘50s hats, classic double-strand pearls, and her 1950s shirt-waist dresses. It’s totally that 1950s and 1960s housewife attire. I designed a lot of her dresses, and then some of the pieces are vintage. It’s a combination.”

On her fashion struggle…

“In the beginning, we see this woman in a state of being so closed off emotionally. She starts to cry at one point in the first episode, but then she quickly gets it all together and says she’s not gonna talk about it and that everything’s fine. Her color palette really relates to her emotional state and how we see Beth Ann in this time period. She wears celery and brown and beige to signify her emotional staleness. It’s so drab. She’s really cut off from what she’s feeling, and those colors are important to show her emotional state. It’s muted, it’s pale, it’s quiet. It’s almost like she’s invisible.”

Ali Goldstein/CBS

On working with Ginnifer Goodwin…

“Ginny Goodwin is just delightful. I adore her, and she’s a sweet soul. She’s also a fellow Tennessean, so we connected very quickly from our first phone call. I love her as Beth Ann. That character’s so controlled, but everything is about to boil over. She has the perfect matching apron, she has the perfect clothes and jewelry, the perfect hair. Everything is in place. Really, there’s just so much going on emotionally with her. I love the presentation that everything is just fine.” 

Ali Goldstein/CBS

On how her ’60s look compares to Mad Men...

I do have a great love for the ‘60s and the mid-century modern period. I love the classic nature, the beautiful details, and the colors. It’s been really, really nice to be designing for the the ‘60s again, but each character is so different. I don’t think the two shows [Mad Men and Why Women Kill] are even comparable. Yes, it’s familiar in the way that I do know the the ‘60s. The period is the same, but they’re different people with different color palettes, and it’s telling a different story.” 

RELATED: Everything to Stream on Netflix This August

Simone Grove

Ali Goldstein/CBS

On her signature style...

“With Simone, I’m going for opulence, honey! Simone is my spirit animal, and we have had so much fun recreating the ‘80s. The colors, the garishness; it’s so decadent and luscious and big and bold in every way. And that’s how Simone is. Her world is all about status. She's the hostess with the mostess.” 

On her fashion inspiration…

“It was important to show the opulence and decadence of the period and to look to the fashion designers from that time, like Christian Lacroix, Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Yves Saint Laurent. A little bit of Tina Chow, but Simone is different because she’s in L.A. I looked at the fashion models of the period, too, and in terms of her jewelry, I was definitely influenced by Elizabeth Taylor in the ‘80s. Diamonds and diamonds and more diamonds! There’s definitely a little bit of the glamour of Joan Collins, too, with the jewel tones. It was an ostentatious time. The bigger the shoulder pads, the more money you had.”

Janie Bryant

On her standout looks…

“When we first meet her, she’s cascading down the stairs in a pink-and-black vintage look. Then she gets into a Mercedes convertible wearing a black hat with a pink bow and we see it overhead. It’s one my favorite shots in the first episode. It’s just so chic. I love Simone; I just think that she is the chicest thing around. The most challenging costume to create for the show actually was the black-and-white beaded dress she wears to her party in the first episode. But it's so graphic, and really just encompasses everything about Simone.” 

Ali Goldstein/CBS

On working with Lucy Liu...

“She is a firecracker and so much fun, and she loves to have fun with fashion. She really does believe ‘the bigger, the better’ for the period. She was totally into it and always like, ‘Let’s do this!’ I love actresses that are vulnerable and open to going for it, and with Lucy, it was so important for her to transform. With the hair and makeup and jewelry and clothes, she totally embraces that character.” 

Taylor Harding

Mitch Haddad/CBS

On her signature style…

“It’s really interesting, because her character does possess a lot of masculinity and femininity. She really is the one that wears the pants in the family, and so I wanted to convey that visually through her costume design. In the ‘60s and ‘80s, women dressed, you know? That culture has gone by the wayside in the 2000s, but since Taylor is a lawyer, she has to be professional. Still, she has an edge to her. In terms of costume design, it’s about incorporating that edginess. She always expresses her personality through what she wears.”

On her statement pieces…

“When we first meet her, she’s in a motorcycle jacket with snakeskin sleeves. She’s talking to a contractor [at her house] and you really see how tough she is. Her exterior is very tough. She might wear dresses and sometimes a suit to work, but it always makes a statement and shows parts of her character. One of my favorite looks she wears is a bright blue Tahari suit. It’s not as traditional as just wearing a black or a gray suit. Other standout pieces she wears include a bright yellow Karen Millen dress and some leather jackets from Carbon38.”

Ali Goldstein/CBS

On her strong accessories game…

“We portrayed Taylor’s edginess through her accessories. For her jewelry, we mixed different metals and big statement earrings and statement necklaces. In terms of shoes, she wears a lot of Jimmy Choo and Valentino. And then her bags are Strathberry. It’s a Scottish brand that I’ve loved for a while, and Meghan [Markle] carries them now, which is so cool. So Kirby carries a Strathberry bag, and she also has a Celine bag. 

On working with Kirby Howell-Baptiste…

“Kirby is great! She loved her costumes. Her favorite was definitely the blue Tahari suit. She loved that suit; she was so into it. I think she really liked all of her costumes a lot.”

Advertisement