Since Mad Men launched in 2007 the cultural impact of the AMC hit show has influenced runways, sparked gender debate over the rehashing of the treatment of women of that time and re-introduced a wave of 1960s nostalgia into popular culture. Beyond the brilliant writing and directing, the characters are brought to life through the costume design of Janie Bryant. As the show enters its final season, audiences have watched the show transition from the early still-1950s infused early 1960s to the later years of great societal unrest at the tail end of the decade.
Bryant dresses the cast in vintage, designs from scratch, re-sews vintage and uses vintage fabrics to create the culturally influential Mad Men aesthetic.
(L) The fountain pen necklace Joan is seen sporting in the show is a vintage piece Bryant purchased at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena as told to Lucky Magazine. (R) 2007 Betty Draper (January Jones) in vintage fur and dress, season one.
Mad Men, Season One.
Mad Men, Season One.
Bryant said that she looks to vintage magazines, newspapers, photos and old films for inspiration. The designer told the American Television Archive that she doesn’t invest too much time seeking inspiration from fashion magazines as she is more invested in depicting the style how it was actually worn at the time, seeking inspiration from real life secretaries, ad men and housewives.
Bryant said she took inspiration from vintage publications like Ladies’ Home Journal and Good Housekeeping for Betty Draper Francis (January Jones). In 2012, the designer told InStyle she took inspiration from Grace Kelly for Betty’s costume. In the fifth season, she fashioned Betty after Jackie Kennedy Onassis to reflect the changes in the times and the character’s storyline.
(L) Grace Kelly, 1950s. (R) Betty Draper, Mad Men, Season One.
Betty Draper, Mad Men, Season One.
(L) Grace Kelly, 1950s. (R) Ladies Home Journal, April 1955.
Ladies Home Journal, 1960s.
Sears Catalog, 1960s.
(L) Jackie O. (R) Betty Draper, Mad Men, Season 5 Promo Shot.
While Bryant has talked about how the silhouettes of each character have changed several times throughout the years based off of what was happening socially at the time or in the characters’ life, Don Draper’s attire has remained very much the same. In an interview with the American Television Archive, Bryant shares that North by Northwest has always been a relevant source of inspiration for Don Draper (Jon Hamm), particularly in season one. Through the seasons, Draper’s silhouette got skinnier. The lapels and pants became narrower but a lot has remained true to the character. An exception to this was the plaid blazer worn by Jon Hamm in the premiere episode of season 5. The uncharacteristic coat was designed by Bryant and made of vintage fabric. In this same season, Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) wore an incredible black vintage dress now infamous for her French song and dance number Zou Bisou Bisou. The rendition was even released on iTunes and sold in vinyl format in very limited quantity on the AMC website.
Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, 1959.
Don Draper, Mad Men, Season One.
Don Draper, Mad Men, Season Two (L) and Season Three (R).
Don Draper, Mad Men, Season Five.
Mad Men, Season 6.
(L) 2012 Season 5 Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in a plaid sports coat designed by Bryant. (R) 2012 Season 5 Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) perfoming Zou Bisou Bisou in a vintage dress.
Megan Draper arrived on the scene in the fourth season. A breath of fresh air, she served as the young fresh voice of a modern women at a time when mid-century glamour was on its way out.
Megan Draper, Mad Men, Season Five.
Megan Draper, Mad Men, Season Six.
While Bryant has been nominated for her designs on Mad Men multiple times, she has never been awarded the Primetime Emmy for her work on the show. In 2005 she won the Primetime Emmy for her costume design on the HBO show Deadwood, a western set in the 1800s. Bryant told the ATA that the 1971 Western McCabe and Mrs. Miller was the inspiration for her work on the show.
The fashion seen on the show has influenced Michael Kors and Prada collections, and spawned multiple collaborations with Banana Republic. Through the show audiences have watched characters react to the death of Marilyn Monroe, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and JFK.
Michael Kors, F/W 2008.
Prada, F/W 2011.
Banana Republic Mad Men Collections. (L) 2012. (R) 2013.
In the last season, the online world was abuzz with show conspiracy theories after Megan Draper was shown in a white t-shirt emblazoned with the Vietnam star, the same shirt worn by Sharon Tate in a 1967 Esquire shoot. Megan’s character is an actress in the show and online fans are speculating a story that parallels the tragic demise of Tate at the hands of Charles Manson’s followers. As radical as this speculation is, it’s possible that the show will take on the topic.
In its seventh and final season Mad Men takes on 1969. The promo doesn’t give much away so we’ll just have to see what outcomes – and fashion- are in store for the end of an era.
(L) Megan Draper, Mad Men, Season Six. (R) Sharon Tate for a spread in Esquire Magazine, in a t-shirt printed with the Vietnam Star, photographed by William Helburn, 1967.
Mad Men, Final Season Promo Shots.