There’s an Unlikely Source for the Costumes on Mad Men

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Photo: Jordin Althaus/AMC

Elisabeth Moss recently told Vulture that of all the things she's worn as Peggy Olson on Mad Men over the years, her favorite is the purple long-sleeved dress she wore when she left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for Cutler Gleason and Chaough — and, with it, said good-bye to Don Draper. Olson said she kept that dress after Mad Men wrapped, but she may be surprised to learn how it came to be in the wardrobe department in the first place. 

“That dress actually has a very special story, which Lizzie may not know about,” the series’ costume designer, Janie Bryant, said on Thursday, at Maybelline New York’s 100th-anniversary party in New York. “There was a woman who had contacted me about wanting to give me a few of her dresses that she had worn in the ‘60s. And I was, like, ‘Yes, of course, I would love to have those dresses!’ And I ended up having Lizzie wear that dress that was donated to me from this woman from Queens, for that episode.” 

In fact, Bryant says that people have donated their clothes to the show before. “I always loved donations to the show. I’ve had people contact me from all over the United States wanting to donate things to me: fabric, patterns, vintage clothing, accessories. I became friends with this woman, named Mrs. Jean Bell, from this teeny little town in South Carolina. She sent me, like, all of her old clothes. And her peignoirs, and her hats, and her bags, and her husband’s ties." She continued that vintage donations were, for her, "more special to me, in a way, than buying vintage — or even designing my own pieces for the show.”

When the Cut told her we’d never heard of people donating garments to a TV series before, Bryant says it is the first time she’s experienced the phenomenon. “You know what? I think people have this amazing love for the show, for the costume design, and I think that they just want to feel like they’re a part of it.”