With an enthrallment in textures and colors, costume designer Janie Bryant began her career at a young age. Raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, Bryant spent most of her time as a young adult watching classic films where she found inspiration. The “vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and memorable costumes” from iconic films became the foundation for her future career. Bryant has been nominated for numerous awards such as the Costume Designers Guild Award for “Outstanding Costume Design for Television Series-Period/Fantasy”, in which she won in 2009 and 2010. She has also been nominated for an Emmy for “Outstanding Costumes for a Series”, in which she took the award home in 2005. Bryant is currently receiving national and international recognition for her work on the series, “Mad Men”, inspiring fashion designers to create collections similar to the clothing from the show.
You began designing at a very young age. Where did you get this passion for fashion and style?
I think that I was born that way. I literally started with barbie dolls and have always had such a great love for colors, fabrics, and playing dress up. People who influenced me include my grandmother, my mother’s mother, who made the best paper dolls, clothes, and my mom made clothes for us. I always loved sitting down with my Great Aunt Kate to draw. Playing with barbie dolls allowed me to go into my fantasy world, it was my refuge and escape. I was always playing dress up and making clothes for my dolls.
You started out as a fashion designer, but what made you focus on costume design?
I met film people in New York City and I met a costume designer at a party where we talked for hours and I wanted to know everything about her job. Costume design resonated with my love for old movies and costumes. I wanted to switch because of the merit of having a background in fashion design and being a costume designer. Telling a story through what characters are wearing and creating a story through their costumes really goes back to playing dress up and playing different people and characters. I love the aspect of getting into different psychological ideas from all of the characters.
How did you land the job as the costume designer for “Mad Men”?
I was recommended through the executive producer and director of the pilot, Alan Taylor. They were looking for a costume designer in Los Angeles and I was recommended. Afterwards, I met with the creator of the show and we just ended up getting along and having compatible ideas.
Where do you go to find vintage pieces? Do you sketch your ideas on paper and look for the clothing at a store, or do you mostly create the costumes yourself?
My inspiration and findings are done through my research. I love to see the old periods through newspapers, photographs, magazines, and from the internet. When creating costumes, I design the sketches for characters and then build things from scratch. I also use rentals from costume shops and go to vintage stores to buy vintage pieces, as well as working with vendors from all around the country to buy items. It all comes down to telling a story about the characters.
Can you describe what the process is like when you are determining looks for each new episode?
It all begins with getting the script, imagining what the characters look like, and then I start with the designing of the costumes. It also entails with going through the process of finding the pieces or buying vintage items and redesigning them.
How do you alter the styles of each character as they evolve in the show?
The styles of each character depends on the story and how I personally view them, as well as how each piece reflects the character.
What element is most important when dressing such a high-powered executive such as Don Draper?
The most important elements would have to be Don Draper having well-tailored items and the color palette of the character. It’s about the thought of having a minimal and masculine palette for his ostentatious character. Draper is always a character of mystery and it comes down to implementing all of those elements.
Who do you find to be the most challenging and most interesting characters to style for in the show?
It changes every week and I’ve just always had different favorites throughout all five seasons.
Is your personal style modern or classic like the films you were inspired from?
My personal style reflects the character that I want to be that day. I used to wear vintage jewelry but now I’ve stopped (paused to laugh).