Mad Men Costume Designer Janie Bryant Can’t Live Without Her Skinny Jeans

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Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway; Janie Bryant. Photo: Courtesy of Mad Men; Courtesy of Janie Bryant

Before costume designer Janie Bryant became part of Mad Men, she earned an Emmy for her work on another highly stylized period piece, Deadwood. But it's her dead-on eye for the buttoned-up subversiveness of the early sixties that’s earned her raves from the fashion world. We caught up with the designer to talk all things Mad Men, why she can’t let go of her skinny jeans, and that pesky rumor about starting her own line.

Why do you think the late fifties/early sixties look is having such a fashion moment right now?
I think it’s a few different things: I think there used to be a real pride in dressing appropriately. And that’s something, not quite that we’ve lost, but that’s evolved with our more casual society. But if you talk to people and they’re dressed up, there’s a different stride in their step. I think also the colors, the fabrics, everything about the period is really beautiful.

What are some of your inspirations?
For every project — it doesn’t matter whether it’s contemporary or period — there’s so much research that goes on, because I really like to get into the heads of all the different characters. But for Mad Men, specifically, I collected a lot of magazines, like Ladies' Home Journal to European Vogue to American Vogue and Time and Look.

How about for specific characters?
Well, Betty Draper (January Jones) is so Grace Kelly to me. She really embodies that style. Don Draper (Jon Hamm), he’s sort of like a combination of Cary Grant to Gregory Peck, and Joan I think is Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, and Jayne Mansfield.

What are your favorite places to shop?
When I lived in New York, I would always find the best stuff at the Salvation Army on 46th St. And I was obsessed with going to their fur and leather sales that they had two or three times a year. I have whole collections from them. And The Garage in Chelsea, that was another favorite, plus vintage stores on the Lower East Side, like Fab 208.

What are some tips for dressing in a Mad Men–inspired way?
I think for the women, it’s all about the waist. Pencil skirts are great, even a sheath, plus pumps, brooches, and pearls. For men, so many of the designers are making the skinny suits now, like Paul Smith, Black Fleece, who we love, and John Varvatos, and Marc Jacobs did the skinny ties.

We heard a rumor that you're launching your own line. Can you tell us more?
Well, I’m in the beginning stages of doing something, and hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later. That’s all I can say! I’m not quite ready to share it yet.

What items are you lusting after right now?
Well, I still love skinny jeans, the more high-waisted, the better. And I’m also obsessed with my Lycra leggings with a gold side zip from American Apparel — people stop me on the street and ask me about them. I'll wear them with booties and like a longer, gauzy shirt.

Who are your favorite designers?
My favorite designer has been the same for twenty years – Christian Lacroix. I love his sense of freedom and his use of color. There’s always such drama and femininity and inspiration from the past.

What do you never leave home without?
Grapeseed oil. It’s like my moisturizer — I would die without it.

What’s something every woman should have in her closet?
A great-fitting bra; it’s very, very important.