Mad Men's Costume Designer Opens Up About Research, Influences, and Betty's Waistline
We caught up with show's talented costume designer, Janie Bryant, to soak in her awesomeness (she is the mastermind behind ALL of the clothes!) and to hear about dressing the incredible characters of one of our favorite series.
StyleList (SL): Tell us about the mentality you had when approaching Season 6?
Janie Bryant (JB): I do a lot of research for the show when I start costume designing. It's about watching the films of the period, researching magazines, catalogues, doing research on the Internet, and looking at photographs. I've always approached the show design-wise this way, and that has maintained with each season.
SL: Who is your favorite character to dress?
JB: I have so many favorites. It's such a huge cast, with the amazing scripts, and my favorite character changes episode-to-episode and season-to-season. Of course, I have an amazing fondness for Megan Draper and I love her costumes. I was really happy with the way everything turned out.
SL: Were there any specific trends you wanted to incorporate this season?
JB: I don't approach the costume design about trends. It's about maintaining the truth of the character. [For example,] Megan symbolizes the modern culture, she is fresh, has influences from being from Montreal, and I always envision her having influences being more European and French. It's more about the integrity of the character that informs me with her costume design.
SL: What challenges do you face when creating costumes for such a wide variety of characters?
JB: Costume design is about telling the story of the character through costume. With each season, it's the biggest challenge of being able to blend the seasons together seamlessly, and also having the shifts in time seem natural with out it being too obvious or unrealistic. They are all different in their costume design.
SL: Let's talk about Betty's weight – what were some wardrobe choices made to reflect that, besides just an increase in the waistline?
JB: For Betty, I love her character and it's been interesting to work with her costume design. The way that we see Betty in the first season of 'Mad Men,' it's all about portraying this façade of perfection, this advertising executive's wife. And now, I always envision her as being obsessed with Jackie Kennedy, and wanting to have that façade of being the perfect politician's wife. Betty is obsessed with her perfectly coordinated politician's wife's suits; I do a lot of suitings for her. Working with the story of her weight gain, it's almost been like working with a different character, and a different character's shape and body. But I think Betty always maintains the façade of perfection, no matter what she is trying to show the world. Of course she is trying to still look beautiful, now she just has a different figure.
SL: Sally is definitely getting sassier and more rebellious. How do you portray that with her costumes?
JB: It's been an interesting journey with Sally. When she was much younger, she tried to mimic Betty in her dressing, and often times I would have them be in costumes with the same silhouettes or pattern. At one point in Season 3, I designed matching mommy and me nightgowns. Now since Sally is getting older, and there is a bit of rebellion, I always like to have her in contrasting colors from Betty. Sally wears a lot of orange and green, and brighter blues and reds – colors that Betty would never wear. I always try to have them contrast in colors to tell that story that she is rebellious from her mother, and she's so angry towards her mother as well.
Mad Men airs on AMC, Sunday nights at 9pmEST.