Janie Bryant turned a lifelong obsession into the most incredible career. It all started in Cleveland, Tennessee where as a girl Janie was fixated on designing clothes for her Barbies and dolls and playing dress-up. As a young adult, Janie became an avid movie fan. Watching the vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and memorable costumes of classic films like The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, Gone with the Wind and Funny Face was the inspiration for what would become her future vocation.
Today, the now LA based, Emmy Award Winning costume designer is best known as the mastermind behind the signature look and historically accurate style of the ensemble cast of characters on AMC’s hit TV series, Mad Men. Janie’s inspired, period wardrobe design for the 1960s set drama captivates viewers just as much as the provocative story lines do… and it’s even influencing current, mainstream fashion – what designers are putting out, what retailers are selling and what consumers are buying.
As the name Janie Bryant nears household status and the woman behind it quickly evolves into both fashion icon and power house brand, Women You Should Know had the rare opportunity to chat with her from the set of the long-awaited Season 5 of Mad Men. We asked the designing woman you should know about her work, the show and style. She had lots to share with us.
10 Questions with Janie Bryant
WYSK: Where do you get your inspiration from for the Mad Men wardrobe?
JB: Watching old movies has always been a passion of mine! I use it as a foundation of research when designing Mad Men. Magazines also provide a wealth of information, so I pour over 1960s editions of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Life, Time, and don’t forget your everyday favorites like Montgomery Ward and Sears – they are jewels of inspiration!
WYSK: What resources do you use for historical accuracy on the clothing and accessories from that era?
JB: Research! Research! Research!
WYSK: Who is your favorite Mad Men character to wardrobe and why?
JB: I get this question a lot. I think it is because the audience likes to identify with their favorite characters. For me, variety is the spice of life! If I had to choose, it would be like picking my favorite child!
WYSK: What fashion brands would the Betty Draper character favor in this day and age?
JB: It is only the best for Betty! Today she would shop from all the classic designers: Brooks Brothers, Hermés, Oscar de la Renta, Ferragamo, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, and of course, don’t forget Mr. Valentino.
WYSK: If you could go back in time, which decade would you want to visit, just so you could experience the style of that period, first hand?
JB: The Antebellum period. Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind remains one of my all time favorite style icons!
WYSK: We know you love lingerie… what is it about “unmentionables” that makes them so alluring to you?
JB: Lingerie is all about femininity and romance and plays a unique part of a woman’s life. It also incorporates influences from the past, which I love.
WYSK: What are some fashion labels from the 1960s that are no longer around that you wish could be resurrected?
WYSK: When you signed on to do Mad Men, did you anticipate the impact your wardrobe choices/creations would have on the fashion world?
JB: Of course it was a surprise! However, season after season we have continually seen fashion designers being influenced by the costume design of the show!
WYSK: What one article of clothing should every woman have in her closet/fashion arsenal?
WYSK: What advice can you give to modern women who want the same refined, ladylike look as the characters on the show, but may not have the time to go to such lengths as setting their hair every morning, etc.?
JB: Play up your own assets and feel free to experiment a bit and develop your own style. And of course, be confident, because it shows. In my book The Fashion File, I give tips and advice for how to use these tricks to become your own leading lady!
For those of you who have never seen Mad Men, take our advice… you are missing out! The sexy, stylized and provocative drama is set in 1960s New York and follows the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising. The series revolves around the conflicted world of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the biggest ad man (and ladies man) in the business, and his colleagues at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Advertising Agency. This past September, AMC’s Mad Men picked up its fourth consecutive Primetime Emmy win for Outstanding Drama Series, an award record the show now shares with Hill Street Blues and The West Wing. Season 5 of Mad Men is set to premiere in March 2012, so you still have plenty of time to catch up on the past four seasons and all of Janie’s design brilliance!
More of Janie’s Genius
Compliments of her attention grabbing, award winning and stylishly inspired work on Mad Men, Janie has been able to quickly expand her reach to lots of new partnerships and projects over the last year. Here are just some of the things she has been up to.
- In late August 2011, Janie was announced as the new Brand Spokesperson for Downy Wrinkle Releaser. In this new role, she’ll give advice on fabric care and wear for vintage and contemporary fashions and she’ll provide tips on looking good on the go. Janie will also be part of a series of promotions this year that will include a live blog, in-store demonstrations and a satellite media tour.
- Janie embarked on a design collaboration with Simon Kneen for the Banana Republic/Mad Men Collection, which hit stores on August 9, 2011 to great media and consumer response. The line included 65-pieces for men and women, inspired by the unique style of Mad Men.
- With the growing popularity of the costume design on Mad Men and curiosity about her design process, Janie launched her own website JanieBryant.com in July 2011. It’s a place for Janie to share her inspirations with the hope of inspiring everyone else who loves unique style as much as she does.
- Janie’s book, The Fashion File, was released in October 2010. It offers readers a peek into the dressing room of Mad Men, revealing the design process behind the various characters’ looks and showing every woman how to find her own leading lady style – whether it’s vintage, modern, or bohemian.
- Janie has been Brand Ambassador for Maidenform’s intimate apparel and shapewear lines since August 2010.
- Janie has collaborated twice with Nailtini on creating limited edition collections of nail polish.
- Janie designed a Mad Men inspired lifestyle collection of apparel and accessories for QVC.
We’re sure there is much, much more to come from Janie Bryant, so you’ll just have to keep watching this designing woman you should know.