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