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Janie Bryant, The MDC Interview

With its signature style and longstanding cultural impact, Mad Men is easily one of the most fashionable shows to ever grace television. As the series’ costume designer, Janie Bryant is responsible for creating the trademark Mad Men look: a sleek take on Sixties style that has influenced everyone from Miuccia Prada to Michael Kors. Bryant creates an immersive world through her expressive creations, capturing both the feel of the time period and the personalities of each character. Fashion extends beyond the runway, and as Hollywood’s most significant style innovator, Bryant offers spectacular insight into another facet of the design world. Find out how the wardrobes of your favorite characters are crafted, how Janie creates an aura of period authenticity for each season, and the unique places she finds inspiration — all in this exclusive interview.

Interview by Janelle Okwodu
Mad Men Cast photography by Frank Ockenfels / AMC

MDC: What is your creative process like when you begin a new project?

Janie:  In the beginning it is always about the script, you’re reading about what the characters are saying to each other, the setting, the time-period, the feel of the script. How the characters are interacting with each other, and that really is about getting that visual from the script of the characters. Then I start my research process and that usually begins with tons of books, and for Mad Men specifically I watch a lot of vintage and classic movies from the period. I also do a lot of research going through magazines and catalogs. Vintage magazines and catalogs, the newspapers from the period; it’s also fun reading what was going on during the period as well, getting a feel about how the people were. Photos are also a great resource for me and I do a lot of research online!

After I do my research, I start going to fabric stores and swatching. With my sketches, I also gather all the visual information of magazines and newspapers and photos and start making a design book for each character. Then I go have my design meetings with the creator of the show.

MDC: How much input does Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men have with the design process?

Janie: We have a lot of discussions, just in terms of what the theme of these season is going to be and the arcs of the characters. He and I from the very beginning have had a great creative relationship. We’ve always gotten along so well creatively and personally; it is a great collaboration. I don’t ever feel like I’m creatively stifled, it’s a nice back and forth and I always feel thankful for that.

MDC: Do you have a favorite character to dress?

Janie: People ask me this question so much and I really think it’s because they have their character that they’re most attached to. I’m sure you have your favorite characters that you just love the most. For me I’ve always loved the variety and all the different things you can show with all the characters. It is always evolving and changing with each season – one episode it could be Roger Sterling, another it could be Peter Campbell or Megan Draper, or Harry Crane, Betty Draper-Francis. I love that the stories change all the time and that there are always new moments for the costume design – I love the variety.

MDC: What was the mood for season five?

Janie: This season has been such an incredible journey, it really probably had the biggest changes in costume design that I’ve ever done. The color palette is shifting a little bit, it has gotten brighter; this is the first time I’ve had a character in a true mini-skirt, mini-dress, and this is the first season I’ve experimented with more characters being mod. It’s really about showing the establishment and then the youth culture. That has been a big theme this year – it’s been really, really interesting and fun to experiment with what’s going on culturally, and integrating that into the characters and costume design.

Click here to see this entire interview kindly provided by Janie Bryant for


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