In our interview, Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant discussed each of the main characters in great detail. We talked about everything from her love of pinky rings to her rules for formalwear.
Bertram CooperAs played by the amazing Robert Morse, his design is more old school, fifties-style suiting. I sort of think of Cooper as a purist with all his heavy woolens, those great tweeds which were still very contemporary in the fifties.
I’ve mixed them with his eccentricities, in particular his love for Japan, playing with the colors and patterns in his bow ties to include that Asian influence. I’ll have him fold his pocket square in four or five points. It reminds me of an origami swan.
To set him apart, he wears tattersall and pinstripe shirts, which were more prevalent in the fifties. I’ve chosen to dress everyone else in more minimal, simple white shirts.
He always wears the brogues, which I associate with the forties. It’s a bigger shoe, not as clean as the narrower oxfords and bluchers of the sixties.
At day’s end, he’s a man who wears things he’s worn forever. Robert loved everything, but he did say “Please don’t put me in a vest. I’m over the top enough, I don’t need a vest.”
Roger Sterling“Janie I just can’t wear this collar pin. I can’t! I can’t!”
“Yes, you have to wear it. You have to.”
John Slattery’s my one actor, we fight in a fun, fun way, because we really do have great respect for one another. That’s just his personality, and it totally cracks me up. It’s a little more combative in a fun way. As my assistant designer says, “Janie, you have the Jedi mind trick,” because they do seem to come over to my way of thinking and seeing.
I love actors. I totally understand where they’re coming from. I love their process. They always crack me up. I’m always open to them because they’ve been living with the character a lot longer than I have and it’s way more specific. Because I have all the characters in my head, I’m not obsessing about one person all the time. It’s always interesting to get their feedback.
Sterling always wears a three-piece or a double-breasted, which goes back to an earlier era. He and Bertram Cooper are the older men in the office, and I really wanted to show that. I wanted Sterling to look old school, but John wanted him to look more new school. Now, he really does love it. He’s able to bridge the gap really well.
Roger Sterling’s cuffs are monogrammed with RSH. My grandfather did that. It’s an homage to my grandfather. Don’t you just love the monogram? I’m obsessed with it. I’m southern. Everything is monogrammed!
Don DraperThe main thing to me in designing for him: the mystery of that guy. Always dissecting. I find myself asking, “Why is he doing these things?” I wanted there to be a real lack of color, but he can’t just be a palette of the grey zone. So I lean on grey-blue, grey with a hint of brown. Cool tones. A great look for him is his grey, slightly sharkskin suit with his black and white repp tie. In choosing his ties, it’s always about that bold, strong, manly choice, because he’s not an ostentatious character. He’s not flamboyant. That’s his character; he’s very reserved. His two flourishes are his cufflinks and his monogrammed plaque belt buckle: DDF.“The Father of Advertising,” David Ogilvy was the inspiration for Don.
Harry CraneI wanted some variety in the office. And bow ties were so popular at the time, especially clip-ons. Yes, clip-ons! I love them; I think they’re awesome – not contemporarily-speaking. Harry wears both clip-ons and banded bow ties. I mix it up. For me it’s about the pattern.For two seasons, Rich S0mmer, who plays Harry, could not tie that damned bow tie, but finally, he knows. A true gentleman knows how to tie a bow tie.
I arranged all the tuxedoes for the awards’ season, and I made them all learn how to tie a bow tie. Still, there’s always the emergency phone call, “Janie, I don’t think I’m going to be able to tie the bow tie. Meet me there, and tie it for me!”
I see him as the one who runs a little bit hotter. He wears short-sleeves. He’s the guy who wants more comfort than the others. The short-sleeve business shirt is such a classic piece of menswear. It totally cracks me up, but I would never suggest wearing one today. No matter how hot you run, I’d say, “Just roll your sleeves up, buddy!”
Ken CosgroveKen’s the Aryan kid. He’s my prepster. Buttondown collar. Three button suits. And even though they’re on the darker side, they’re usually in the cool tones. Don wears them as well, but for Don, I roll the lapel back. The three-button is more youthful. It creates a clean line. His ties have a lot of gold and red, classic American colors.
Paul KinseyPaul’s clothes are manly but earthy. I guess those two things go together.Paul wears the tab collar. I keep him in what I call “the bear tones.” Cosy; Earthtones, browns. He has a mustard-colored sharkskin. He has some really cool suits in his closet. He has this tie, I call it the “bumblebee tie.” It’s yellow, brown, and black.
Salvatore RomanoHe’s gay but cannot really express himself in that way. A little bit of flamboyance comes out in his costume. He has a great flair for dressing. I use all the elements in dressing him; double-breasted jacket with a red sweater vest; light blue shirts with French cuffs; tie clips with matching cufflinks; a three-piece worn as suit separates. Suit separates are a very big thing for him. I see that as something that normally would be difficult to mix and match, but for Salvatore it’s a natural thing. It was also quite popular for the period. He’s a very smart dresser.
The pinky ring was inspired by Truman Capote. I have this picture of him in close-up with a pinky ring on my inspiration board for Salvatore.
I love a man in a pinky ring. I think it’s so sexy. I can’t take it! It shouldn’t have big diamonds, just a simple stone or a signet. If I see a guy in a pinky ring, I’m like, “Ah! I’ll marry you.”
Pete CampbellPete is the youthful, stylish up-and-comer. He seems himself as the next Don. I put him in suits I call the “Pete Campbell Blues,” that classic teal blue that Pete wears a lot.Trudie, his wife, shares that palette. In season two, as his character matured, I did introduce a grey-blue sharkskin and a blue-green glen plaid shark skin.
Tuesday night, Janie is nominated for “Outstanding Period or Fantasy Costuming” at the Costume Designers Guild Awards. Best of luck, Janie!