Mad Men is the most stylistically engaging show on TV, thanks in no small part to the talent of the show’s costume designer Janie Bryant. From the 1950s holdovers of season one (full-skirted dresses, pointed bras, and girdle-restrained silhouettes for the women; French cuffs and suits with narrow ties and lapels for the men) to the loosened-up mod-influenced looks of season five, Mad Men continually inspires its viewers with sartorial splendor. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Bryant regarding the release of her third Banana Republic and Mad Men collaboration.
Pop Curious: As Mad Men digs deeper into the 1960s, I wonder which films, designers, and fashion you’re currently looking to for inspiration. Are there any lesser-known fashion icons of the period that you turned to for ideas?
Janie Bryant: As always, I do a lot of research to get inspiration when costume designing Mad Men. Watching movies and looking at vintage magazines, old photographs from the period, catalogs, and newspapers are always a part of my process. Some of my favorite films for inspiration are You’re a Big Boy Now, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, and Barefoot In The Park.
PC: Do you listen to music when you design? I picture you listening to ye-ye music when you devise what Megan is going to wear.
JB: During my work day, I rarely listen to music, but I love to listen to ’60s, country, and Frank Sinatra when I am driving from costume houses to vintage vendors to fabric stores and back to the studio. To get in the sixties mode, I often listen to the Mamas & the Papas, Cream, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Cake, the Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.
PC: How do you take clothes from costume to consumer? What does the creative process for creating the Banana Republic Mad Men collection look like?
JB: For our latest collection the character Megan Draper was really our muse. Simon Kneen and I were in agreement that our collection needed to be fresh, exciting, and mod! As always, Mad Men is used for inspiration but the cuts, fabrics and designs have to be modern.
PC: What are your favorite pieces from the BR Mad Men collection, and why?
JB: For the womenswear I love the blue and green mini dress as well as the orange and navy shirt dress. For the menswear I’m crazy for the light blue sport coat and the plaid sport coat, of course!
PC: What do you think about Coco Rocha in the Banana Republic Mad Men campaign images? She’s quite Megan Draper in these photos!
JB: Coco does have that look that brings the appeal of the ’60s straight off the pages of the ad campaign. She does a good job of channeling the essence of our collection for our modern consumer.
PC: Were there any styles or colors of the period that you and Simon Kneen chose not to include in the Banana Republic Mad Men collection, in spite of being period-appropriate?
JB: For us the collection was about creating a feeling and a mood, using inspiration from the costumes of the show. I see that modern consumers want the Mad Men look and are embracing the patterns and colors that represent this era, allowing us the freedom to be bold in our design choices, whether that is in color, cut, or pattern.
PC: Which character do you enjoy dressing the most? Megan is not my favorite character overall but in terms of style, she was my favorite of season five.
JB: People ask me this question all the time and I suspect it’s because the audience always has their favorite character. For me it’s about variety and it changes from script to script. Needless to say I’ve had LOTS of favorites through the years! For the latest Banana Republic+Mad Men collection, Megan was very inspirational – she is really the muse behind this mod inspired collection.