It’s not easy to recreate period costumes on screen—let alone do it convincingly for almost a decade—but Janie Bryant, costume designer for Mad Men, has managed to take us on a sartorial ride for the past seven seasons thanks to her impressive designs. Ahead of Sunday’s premiere, DuJour talked to Bryant about her process and what makes Joan Holloway (played by Christina Hendricks) special.
The show spans almost a decade—what has been the most challenging part of creating wardrobes to match that?
For me, the script is always the starting point. That’s were the initial inspiration comes from— time period, tone, dialog, etc. From there, I’ll start my visual research by watching movies of the period, looking at catalogs, photographs, newspapers and magazines. Once I have that I can begin my design board for each outfit.
Do you create most outfits from scratch or do you also source vintage wardrobes?
A little bit of both actually. It depends on how much time I have. Usually it’s a combination of designing from scratch, renting vintage pieces or redesigning my own vintage finds.
Joan’s wardrobe seems to evolve as her character does on the show.
My ideas for how I’m seeing Joan shift in costume design change as the story changes—maybe there’s a certain mood that I can help illustrate by changing the color of her dress. For example, the pink silk cocktail dress with black flowers that she wears to the office when she’s just had her baby. When Matthew Weiner and I were discussing the scene, he wanted her to seem like everything was going great at home; he wanted her to be overdressed. I loved the idea of pink because it symbolizes pride and it’s a happy, fresh color but it’s all façade, because she’s in fact feeling terrible.
Do you have a favorite Joan outfit?
Oh I have so many! I love Joan’s Christmas dress, the one with the red bows. When I showed Matthew my fitting photos he loved the dress so much that he wrote a part in the script where Roger Sterling remarks that it looks like she’s a wrapped present. I felt so honored that he wanted to write a line about the dress.
Each character’s wardrobe seems to have a signature touch—was that a conscious choice or was it written in the scripts?
I just decided on that. For Joan it’s her broaches and signature pen necklace—it’s like her sword to fend off all those men in the office.
What would Joan’s style be like today?
She’d be in her eighties, so probably a bejeweled sweatsuit!
Click through the gallery to see pictures of Joan’s outfits go from sketch to screen.