From Peggy to Joan: What Every Woman Can Learn From Mad Men About Evolving Style

As brilliant as the stories it told, Mad Men will be remembered for it’s place in costume design history above all else, from its meticulous attention to detail to its affect on modern day style. At the helm of that tremendous undertaking was and is Emmy-winning costume designer Janie Bryant. In celebration of the series final bow, we met up with Bryan to discuss how our favorite leading ladies style has changed over the years, and how you can incorporate the their looks now, whether you’re a Megan or a Peggy.

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Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson
“Peggy’s costume design has changed over the seasons. Her silhouettes have changed with her storyline. As her character has changed and grown her costumes have been helping to tell the story of this amazing character’s journey.

Peggy was basically fresh off the secretarial boat when she landed her job at Sterling Cooper in 1960. I wanted her costume design to reflect the innocence and youth of her character, so to me that was all about plaids, polka dots, pleats, and Peter Pan collars with bows. Peggy is also a character who is old fashioned so her costume design is never about being avant garde or high fashion in any kind of way. One of my favorite costumes of Peggy’s is her pant suit that she wears at the end of season six. By Peggy wearing pants in the office we can see how far she has come professionally and that time has passed.”

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January Jones as Betty Draper
“Betty is all about the facade of perfection. My inspiration in terms of costume design for Betty is Grace Kelly and my grandmother. I envisioned Betty in refined muted colors of pale blues and grays, pastel pinks and yellows and ivories. In season one, Betty’s silhouette was all about the full skirt and all the layers of petticoats and foundation garments—typical of a suburban housewife during that time. Her silhouette transitioned as her character’s story changed. When she divorced Don and married Henry, I imagined that Betty would turn to Jackie Kennedy for inspiration. I personally adore the designs of the 60’s which inspired my collection with Shoes of Prey and had Betty in mind when designing a particular pair of patent leather white stacked heeled sandals, pure perfection! Betty always presents herself as the perfect politician’s wife, she dressed in smart suits and two-piece dress and coat ensembles.”

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Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris
“Joan is a true force of nature at Sterling Cooper and her costume design needs to reflect her feminine attributes. The sheath or wiggle dress of the early 1960’s was also Joan’s mainstay silhouette. As Joan moved up in the office and acquired more money, Joan had a shift in her costume design—skirts were more A-line and there was a shorter hem line. She could afford to be more fashionable but I only designed costumes for her that had a nipped or fitted waist. Joan is not a character to follow trends if those trends are not flattering to her beautiful figure. Jewel tones are also very important for Joan. The jewel tones illustrate her strength and sassiness. If Joan were to walk into an office today in 2015, she would definitely be dressed in one of my Janie Bryant for Black Halo designs that would accentuate her figure, which were inspired by the wiggle dress; the collection is all an updated modern version of the sexy silhouette.”
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Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper
“Sally went from little girl to young lady and her costume design reflected that. In season one, Sally was dressed by Betty so Sally’s costume design reflected more of Betty’s clothes than Sally’s. As Sally got older and she rebelled from Betty, I changed Sally’s color palette from pastels to oranges, greens, and reds—colors that Betty would never wear. Sally was also influenced by Megan and you can see Megan’s influence when Sally comes out wearing a sparkly mini-dress and gogo boots in season five. Sally also wears mini-skirts, ponchos and peasant blouses as she becomes a teenager of the late 60’s.”

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Jessica Pare as Megan Draper
“I always envisioned Megan signifying being the young, fresh, modern, and chic character in Don’s life. Megan also is the character who contrasts vastly from the icy mood of Betty’s demeanor. Megan therefore could be more modern and current with her costume design because of these characteristics.

In season four, she was the young modern secretary of the 60’s in dropped waist dresses and red and black checked mod coats. After Megan and Don were married she had more of an allowance for her clothing so I loved the idea of her looking more sophisticated and chic. As she shifted into her pursuit of her acting career her costume design became more casual at home in jeans, plaid pants and cable knit sweaters. And when she went out with Don she was more glamorous than ever in metallic mini-dresses and two-piece brocade ensembles. When Megan made her move out west there was another opportunity for her costume design to shift into a more bohemian design. I wanted Megan to be influenced by her California environment which led way to maxi dresses, crochet vests and matching mini-skirts, and suede. A lot of times I will go and peruse ebay. They are an amazing resource for vintage designs, especially when it comes to coats, bags and shoes.”

To find out more about costume designer Janie Bryant, visit her website here. For more on Mad Men style, check out Leah’s post on the actors’ first red carpet looks and Sophia’s story on how Mad Men trends are right on for Spring 2015.

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