1. As an award-winning costume designer for television series Mad Men and Deadwood, what’s the design process like for a television series? How does this differ from designing for your newly launched contemporary clothing line Mod by Janie Bryant for QVC?
As a costume designer it’s all about creating a character through costume, so I ask the following questions when designing a show: What is the character’s intention? What is their occupation? What’s their income? What are their interests? What is their background? What is their dialogue? What images come to mind when reading a script? Designing for retail for me is about creating clothes and accessories that I love. It’s about my intention that I want to bring to the customer. For the QVC line, it was all about glamour, elegance and feeling beautiful while having a feel for vintage.
2. What’s the difference between designing for television series and designing for a film?
For me it’s the same creative process but designing for a film you usually have more time. Also, for film, the costume designer would have creative conversations with the director and for TV, the costume designer would have creative conversations with the executive producer.
3. Mad Men’s plot is set in an ad agency in New York City in the 1960s. Designing for such a series requires a lot of research considering the details and specific silhouettes of that time period. Can you explain your research process? How long does this part of the process take for each season?
Yes, a lot of research is done! I love to research magazines, catalogues, family photographs, books, and search the Internet for visual references. Also, reading costume history books and different articles on apparel is also important to understand how garments were worn and to learn about specifics of the period. Every season is different regarding research but it takes between one to two weeks initially, though we continue researching throughout the season.
4. Do you work with a design team that helps you sketch and produce the clothing for the show? Where are the garments produced?
I do all my own sketching. I have a crew of nine people. My Costume Supervisor, Le Dawson, has worked with me for ten years. My Cutter/Fitter, Joanna Bradley, has also worked with me since Deadwood. Additional crew includes: one assistant costume designer, one key costumer, two set costumers for principles and day players, two costumers for background talent, one costume production assistant, then on heavy background days I will bring in additional costumers and people to stitch.
5. Do you like the fact that you design for a show that takes place in a different decade? What’s your favorite decade?
Yes! I love designing a period show. I have three favorites: the baroque period, the romantic period and the 1950s.
6. Who is your favorite Mad Men lady to dress?
My favorite Mad Men lady changes all the time. It really depends on the script.
7. A lot of critics in the fashion industry have cited Mad Men as the inspiration to many designers adopting a curvier silhouette; do you care to comment?
I would have to agree. One of the reasons the show is beautiful is because we see so many different body shapes.
8. Congratulations on your new line! Costume designers and stylists creating their own clothing line is becoming almost ubiquitous, which is great! How was the experience of designing your own line?
I love it! It’s great to be able to bring glamour to so many women. More to come!
For more about Janie Bryant follow @JanieBryant.
By Taisa Veras