Mad Men Fashion Recap: Janie Bryant on Betty’s Brown Dye Job, Henry’s Sweaters, and Harry’s Sideburns

Photo: Michael Yarish/AMC

Mad Men’s sixth season is finally upon us! And what a doozy of a premiere it was, both plot- and clothing-wise. We rounded up the episode’s most exciting fashion moments (Harry’s sideburns! Betty’s hair! Those Hawaiian leis!) and talked to costume designer Janie Bryant about dressing the characters for 1967 and 1968.

There were a lot of crazy costume moments in last night’s episode, but Harry Crane’s was particularly amazing.
Janie Bryant: I always loved his transformation from season one and season two, when he was in short sleeves and bow ties, to becoming Mr. Hollywood. He’s kind of douchey. I always think of his character as a wannabe, and so he’s easily influenced by fashion trends.

And Joan is the same Joan, which is a relief.
I wanted her to have an update with her clothing, because she is a partner at the office and has a new income, but I wanted to keep all of her figure-flattering silhouettes. But we modernized her quite a bit, particularly with the vest and matching skirt, which is a departure from her usual sheath dresses. The skirt was also a bit more A-line. But she’s still Joanie, and she’s still an hourglass.

How did you pick out Megan’s vacation outfits?
I looked at traditional Hawaiian printed maxi dresses, luau dresses, and caftans, that kind of thing. But I wanted Megan to have something different because she is the most fashion-forward character. I actually found a backless halter wrap maxi dress from Ranch Queen Vintage on Etsy, and that’s what she wore. She also wore a vintage bathing suit that I discovered. I wanted her to wear a lot of purple and lavender in Hawaii, because purple was a huge, huge color during this time and so it speaks to her character being very modern and fashionable.

What about those luau dancers?
I designed all of the luau costumes for the dancers and performers, and we had those built. They were all handmade for us. They’re actually belts with leaves affixed to them.

I noticed that a lot of the men wore double-breasted jackets.
Yup, this is the era of the double-breasted jackets. For Roger Sterling, it was a perfect opportunity to show all the changes he went through last season by having him wear that bright new double-breasted jacket. And for him to wear separates instead of a suit is a big step, too.

You were saying that Harry is sort of a douchey dresser, and so is Pete, but not to the same degree.
Pete’s always been a pretty elegant dresser, and his sideburns are a sign of the times. He also wore a matching tie and pocket square in this episode, which is just meant to show how meticulous he is, and how his position in the office has become more authoritative.

What kinds of materials did you research from this era when you were coming up with the costumes?
I always watch a lot of movies and look at magazines and catalogues from that time, like Sears, JC Penney, Spiegel’s, McCall’s, Good HousekeepingLadies Home JournalHoliday magazine, and Look magazine. Old issues of GQ and Esquire are good resources for menswear, also. Then of course I have many, many costume history books.

I noticed that almost all of the women wore pearl earrings.
They always have, but they’re just bigger now!

Let’s talk about Betty’s transition from blonde to brunette.
I always think of Betty as being obsessed with Jackie Kennedy, especially now that she’s the politician’s wife and looking for examples of how to build a good façade. Her new hair color will definitely affect her wardrobe. You can even see when she comes into the kitchen with her new brown hair that she’s in this beautiful jewel-tone tweed suit, which is new for her. She used to wear a lot of pastels and cool tones, so it was fun to experiment with the color change for her.

Do you like her better as a blonde or a brunette?
Oh gosh. As a blonde, I think.

We must discuss Henry Francis’s amazing sweaters.
He really does have extraordinary sweaters. I always imagine Betty buying his sweaters. He’s kind of a mama’s boy in the best way. He totally succumbs to Betty’s tastes. He’s always thinking about work, so when it comes to his clothes, he’s like, “Okay, if this makes you happy, darling, I’ll do it.” I love that about him.

I think that Betty is, in many ways, becoming more and more like Henry’s mom Pauline.
Yes! She and Betty are even wearing dueling furs when they come back from The Nutcracker. Pauline’s costumes really show that she’s stuck in an earlier time. She’s quite old-fashioned, so she’s in those silhouettes of the fifties that you can tell she’s had forever.

Has Peggy gone shopping? Her clothes look more expensive, and polished.
Well she definitely has more money now, and she is really showing more authority and more confidence in her new position. But she’s definitely not fashionable. That’s not Peggy’s priority. She wants to be taken seriously and she’s not a fashion plate — she never has been. That’s not her interest.

I loved Jane’s funeral appearance. That hat!
It’s so beautiful, right? I’d been waiting for a good moment to be able to use that hat. It’s been in her closet for a while. Jane’s costumes are always about being fashionable and having a very rich, rich sensibility. Every time we see that character on the screen, it has to be a “Wow!” moment of a costume that’s rich and beautiful. I mean, that’s what she does all day — she shops, and she’s good at it. She loves beautiful things.

Mad Men Fashion: Janie Bryant on Brunette Betty