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    The Women of Mad Men: A Style Retrospective with costume designer Janie Bryant

    Words by James R. Sanders

    When Mad Men premiered in 2007 the show gained instant notoriety not just because of the cutting edge concept (a show about advertising in the 60s), but also because of the costuming that was done across six seasons. Mad Men costumer Janie Bryant recently sat down to talk about the women on the show and her new ventures including Janie Bryant Leg Couture, the designer’s new legwear collection.

    In its seventh and final season, Mad Men’s female characters have come full circle having all had style evolutions with each turn and twist of the show. Here’s a look at some of their triumphs:

    Betty Draper played by January Jones

    women

    It wasn’t until the last minutes of season one episode one, that the audience learns of Don Draper’s marriage. From the outside, Betty Draper appears to be the perfect wife. Her garments are always perfectly tailored and draped. Cocktail dresses and tailored outerwear were the go-to garments for Draper even in the sixth season when the character gained weight. “She is someone who strives for perfection. Even though the character gained weight, she was true to herself. Betty is someone who strives to look beautiful, no matter what she weighs.” Bryant stuck to her aesthetic for Draper, though the designer said, “I loved working with January Jones that season because it was like designing for a whole new person.”

    Megan Draper played by Jessica Paré

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    For Bryant, Megan Draper is the most modern character. “My inspiration for Megan is the French genre of films with models from the period,” said Bryant. The character of Megan is French Canadian. Both Megan and Betty were at one point Mrs. Don Drapers, but Bryant approaches each character differently. If she could build an entire collection around one character, it would be Megan Draper. “Megan is much more modern, more European, and happier. There is a certain likeness to that character in comparison to Betty.” Megan wears a lot of whimsical prints and lose silhouettes.

    Sally Draper played by Kiernan Shipka

    Sally Draper (1)

    Bryant said that designing for Sally Draper was like working for two different people. “I guess it (style evolution) really happened when Sally walked out in her go-go boots (season 6). I love the idea of Megan having a fashion influence on Sally and that was expressed when we saw Sally with Don and Megan and how she goes back to her preppy side when with Betty.” Indeed, the young Draper wore a lot of mini dresses last season when in New York with her father and stepmother.

    Peggy Olson played by Elisabeth Moss

    Peggy Olson (1)

    Elisabeth Moss’s Peggy Olson has had the biggest style evolution. The character started as a secretary to Donald Draper. Eventually, through some witty quirks, she became the copy chief of Sterling Cooper and Partners. For Bryant, Olson’s biggest moment was at the end of season 6 when she wore a pants suit in the office. “I loved that statement because of what it meant for the character. It was the moment she came in to her own. I love that story behind that,” Bryant said of the character who wore understated basics in the first season before transitioning to bolder pieces.

     

    Joan Harris played by Christina Hendricks

    Joan Harris (1)

    Joan Harris has had the most consistent style throughout the entire series. For inspiration, Bryant looked to Hollywood sirens with curves. “Joan she is always felt to me as a character who is really strong, very sexy, she knows the power of her femininity, and she very straight forward and commanding and all of the personality traits are reflected in her costume design.” Color and embellishments have always been major parts of Harris’s costuming.

     

    What’s Next for Janie Bryant After the Show
    Having come from a family that owned textile mills, the costumer is excited about Janie Bryant Leg Couture, a collection of legwear with concepts including: Glow sheer and Matte opaque tights, crochet, crystal back seam sheer tights, and Sheer stay ups with back seam and bow.

    The designer is also collaborating with legendary bag company Koret New York. “During the 50s and 60s, if you were anyone you would carry a Koret bag including Jackie Onassis and Grace Kelly. They are rebranding the Koret label and I am designing a line of evening clutches with them,” Bryant said. The designer is also designing a line of socks for the menswear intimates brand, Mack Weldon.

    Mad Men’s new season starts on Sunday 11 May 1t 9pm on M-Net Series Showcase!

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