Mad Men’s Janie Bryant Talks Season Five’s Costumes

Janie Bryant, photographed by Palma Kolansky. Photo: Palma Kolansky

We’ve been breathlessly recapping Janie Bryant’s brilliant costume choices throughout this season of Mad Men, from Sally’s go-go boots to Trudy’s endless peignoir collection. We caught up with Bryant yesterday in the wake of Sunday’s finale to pick her brain about the symbolism behind her wardrobe selections (Joan’s floral prints: What do they mean?). Read our Q&A here, and see her comments on each character in our slideshow.

This season had a much brighter color palette. Why was that?
They have been a little bit brighter this season. One of the biggest challenges is to merge the seasons together seamlessly but also show the passage of time. And it’s always about making sure the costume design shows that naturally and is done in a realistic way. This season, we’ve moved forward in time, and as the sixties progress, the colors have gotten brighter.

We didn’t get to see Betty last night, but she’s gotten a lot of attention this season because of her weight gain. How did that affect her wardrobe?
I’ve really loved Betty this year. I think there were only two of her costumes that I didn’t design and build from scratch, so it’s been a great season for that. I’ve always had so much compassion for her character. I think the audience may not care for her, but I always feel like she’s just so unhappy. The costume design for her is always about her façade of perfection, and there is always an element of the classic lady. But this year, it’s been so different because she has a different figure now, and she’s struggling with her weight gain, and that affects her in how she wears her clothes.

There was a big shift in Megan’s wardrobe this season when she left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to pursue acting. Was it disappointing that you couldn’t dress her in those great office outfits anymore?
I know a lot of people really miss seeing the office Megan and all of the beautiful costumes she’d wear out to dinner, but it’s important to tell that story of the change that she makes during the season when she decides to become an actress. Also, I want her costumes to tell the story of the age difference between her and Don. It’s almost like she and Sally are more compatible in the way they dress than she and Don are.

It’s interesting that Megan dresses so differently from all the other female characters when they’re at home. Joan, Trudy, and Betty all wear these very ornate house robes instead of just casual pants and a sweater.
Well, Trudy wears peignoirs because she’s going to bed early, and she’s taking care of the baby. Also, we want to show that she’s not waiting for Pete to come home, and she’s already getting ready for bed. But I love the peignoir moments. And Megan does have her own pajama moments, too, like last night, we saw her stumbling around drunk in the same robe that she wore in the first episode when she’s cleaning the house after Don’s birthday party. She’s more modern, and she’s not in the lacy, quilted, pastel peignoir — she’s in her hip, 1960s floral nylon robe with a sexy little chemise underneath. 

Mad Men’s Janie Bryant Talks Season 5’s Costumes