While we hate to admit it, the reign of Mad Men had to come to an end some time. To soothe our heavy hearts, award-winning costume designer Janie Bryant is giving us an inside look at the wardrobes throughout the series. Before the final season kicks off this Sunday, get the scoop on her inspiring, on-point period fashions—which will live on in all the stylish collaborations spawned from the hit AMC show.
Did you approach costumes any differently for the final season? “No, I approach the season the same every year. It is about being inspired by the scripts—using them as the roadmap to everything as far as tone, mood and feel. From there, [I do] research and really dissect the script. I design and re-create a lot from scratch. I also work with vintage vendors around the country, go to vintage stores and costume houses around Los Angeles—costumes are acquired in all different places.”
What are the main themes you try to convey about the female characters? "For Joan [played by Christina Hendricks], I really envision very strong color choices to illustrate that she was this fiery, sexual, feminine creature in the office. For Betty [January Jones], [it was] having this facade of perfection. To me, she would wear whites, ivories, camel, light blue and really have this whole classic, beautiful appearance at all times, no matter what. I love and totally emphasize with Betty. She is basically dependent on her husband to financially support her and her children—I think that that is so much of her unhappiness."
Would you say she was your favorite character to design for? "She definitely is one of my favorites for sure. Betty, January and I have gone through a long journey: with Don, to being fat Betty, to being married to Henry. [However,] my favorite character has always changed depending on what’s going on in the script. For me, it’s really about storylines rather than who my favorite character is—[there are] so many great characters, and I’m terrible at picking favorites anyway."
How have the women's personal aesthetics evolved throughout the course of the series? "Peggy's [Elisabeth Moss] the character who changed the most—from being Don’s secretary to all of her promotions in the office to leaving Sterling & Cooper. Within each season, there are different changes to her costumes, from being the young secretary fresh out of school to wearing business suits and then a pantsuit at the office. She's had all these amazing character arcs.
Joan’s silhouette pretty much stayed the same until season six, when Joan becomes a partner and has more money to buy new clothes. [She] also dove more into a woman of the ‘60s in her A-line skirts and shorter hemlines as opposed to the classic late ‘50s look. I really wanted her to start being more updated. Within that, her color palette has remained the same, and her silhouette is still very sexy and provocative and feminine.
Betty really made a transformation when she divorced Don and married Henry, from being classic late ‘50s to early ‘60s housewife in her petticoats and short-waist dresses to becoming more influenced by Jackie Kennedy—I always felt like she would be looking at Kennedy’s style to see how a politician’s wife would dress. But again, still keeping this façade of perfection even though her costume design look is shifting.
And then Megan [Jessica Pare] we first see as a secretary to Don buying her clothes, dressing more like what we were seeing on the catwalks during that period. And then there’s another transformation when she becomes an actress and moves to Los Angeles. Her color palette and silhouettes changed: really that contrast from New York—high fashion, more tailored and constricting in a way—to Los Angeles, which is freer, more bohemian and relaxed."
What is the best piece of wardrobe advice you can offer our readers? “It’s about two things: wearing clothing that really fits your body, getting your clothing tailored to fit your body and wearing the right undergarments.”
Tune in to the season seven premiere of Mad Men Sunday night at 10pm EDT on AMC, and catch a sneak peek at some of the most stylish moments from the final season: