This week I had the pleasure of interviewing a woman I admire greatly for X-Press Magazine – Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant. One of the hardest working costume designers operating in LA today, Janie designs, sources and hires hundreds of 50s and 60s threads for the many amazing characters on Mad Men. Twenty of Janie’s favourite costumes from the show are currently on display at enex100 in an exhibition called Mad For Fashion. I thoroughly suggest you check it out! See below for my chat with the lovely Janie…
Janie Bryant has one of the most coveted jobs in costume design this side of the Milky Way. As the head costume designer for Mad Men, Bryant is knee deep in beautiful vintage garments all day everyday, designing, sourcing and re-styling vintage threads that complement the show’s ’60s setting. This month Perth based Mad Men devotees will be able to get up close and personal with 20 of the show’s most recognisable costumes thanks to Mad For Fashion, an exhibition curated by Bryant, on show at enex 100.
Having started life as a fashion designer, Bryant moved into costuming after relocating to Los Angeles, where she got a taste for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
“I started meeting a lot of people in the film industry as soon as I arrived and I was very curious about the industry, I’ve always been such a huge huge fan of old movies,” Bryant explains down the line from the US of A, where she’s currently working on season five of Mad Men.
“My mother, when I was a little girl, always took us to see old movies. We were basically required to see Gone With The Wind once every year and The Sound Of Music, it was a family requirement. I was so interested in working in the film industry and I had met a costume designer at a party and I was fascinated by her job and talked to her all night and the very next day I woke up and just thought to the universe ‘I want to be a costume designer’. I knew about pattern making and draping and sewing but I knew nothing about the film industry, except what I’d learned from talking to my friends.”
Determined to design garments for characters on film and TV, Bryant set about learning everything she could about costuming, and it wasn’t long until she scored her dream job at Mad Men HQ.
“You know what I love about it? That it’s creating a character through costume and it’s also about telling a story. For period costume design it’s all about the fantasy of being immersed in different time period and a different world. I love fashion design too, I’m still doing that. I’m working with Banana Republic on a Mad Men for Banana Republic line here in the States. I’m doing a lot of other design collaborations as well.
“I love costume design because there’s such a variety and it’s not based on trends or how many pieces the buyer is going to buy or how many units you’re going to be selling, which can be very stressful. It’s also amazing to be able to see my work on film, that’s really cool,” the talented designer gushes.
Boasting designs hand picked by Bryant herself, Mad For Fashion is on display at enex 100 until Sunday, October 30, and features a variety of the designer’s favourite costumes from the show’s multiple season.
“I love Betty’s ‘sad clown’ dress, which is the one with the polka dots,” Bryant begins when asked which items are her favourites. “That dress has such a significant meaning to tell her story and it’s always been a very special piece to me. I also love Betty’s blue Chinese brocade gown with the silk organza with the details of the pearl and rhinestones; that was also such a significant dress for telling the story of what was going on with Betty Draper at that point as well. It’s the first time she’s in acknowledgement that her husband is cheating on her and I wanted her to have a very strong colour for that scene.”
A fan of Hollywood’s golden era, Bryant looks to the past for most of her inspiration, and hopes contemporary women start taking hints from their classic counterparts.
“Sofia Loren, Jayne Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe, those women knew how to dress for their perfect hourglass figure. Looking to those women you can learn a lot of lessons. I don’t know about in Australia but in America women are taught to hide their curves and I think that’s a crying shame. Women should be proud of their bodies and be happy for all the curves, there’s nothing more beautiful.”
Not just a pretty face and talented costumier, Bryant is also an author, having recently penned The Fashion File, which provides a behind the scenes look into life in the Mad Men dressing room. During October, visitors to enex 100 who spend $200 or more will receive a free copy of Bryant’s book.