Costume Designer Janie Bryant Uses Her Family Heirlooms in 'Mad Men'
Pieces from Bryant's own mother and aunt frequently appear on screen — and she isn't the only TV costume designer raiding family closets.
There are few greater badges of fashion honor than the ability to respond to an outfit compliment with, "It was my mom's." And in a time when grandma's vintage Chanel seamlessly blends with a pair of modern day Jimmy Choos, an H&M sweater and your favorite pair of jeans, family closet raiding has become de rigueur.
Apparently stylish daughters, nieces and the like aren't the only ones who learned that "borrowing" from stylish relatives is one of the best wardrobe tricks in the book.
For each of Mad Men's two weddings, acclaimed costume designer Janie Bryant had no problem finding the perfect vintage mid '60s wedding dresses. No costume shop trawling. No vintage boutique scouring. Not even an eBay browse or a Google search. She had both gowns tucked away in her own closet of family-owned vintage clothing.
Bryant's mother's wedding gown -- a classic duchess fitted bodice satin gown with a large ruffled train -- was immortalized in the show's third season when Roger Sterling's daughter (played by Elizabeth Rice) wore it.
And in this season's premiere, Bryant was able to use yet another family nuptial heirloom.
The high-necked white satin and lace gown, with elbow length-sleeves, was worn in Hawaii by a bride marrying the serviceman who had asked Don Draper (Jon Hamm) to be in the ceremony. Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) even takes a photo of the nuptials as a memento.
"Joan's (Christina Hendricks) roommate also wore one of my mother's engagement dresses that my grandmother made for her," recalls Bryant. And several female characters -- including Betty Draper (January Jones) -- have worn aprons from Janie’s mother’s extensive apron collection.
“My grandmother made an apron to go with every dress that she made for herself. There are so many fun moments like that in the show, and it's so nice to be able to use things from my family. It makes it really special for me.”
Bryant's not the only costume designer who forages and finds inspiration in her family’s closets. The Americans designer Jenny Gering used her mother’s Bill Kaiserman’s Rafael clothes as inspiration for Keri Russell’s undercover Russian spy Elizabeth Jennings. She even put Keri in a pair of her mom’s Susan Bennis Warren Edwards boots, an early ‘80s luxury shoe brand.
The boots are a size 6, which fit Russell's petite feet perfectly. "At least someone can wear them," Gering, who wears a 7 1/2, told THR.
So next time mom gets mad that her circa 1980s Chanel bouclee jacket is "missing," just tell her that you're working toward a career in costume design.