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Before “Mad Men” became a cultural phenomenon, cited as inspiration by everyone from Michael Kors to Banana Republic, WWD shot the AMC show’s three female stars in vintage-inspired fashions. The pilot had yet to air, but the accompanying article gave a preview of the style feast in store for viewers. (See the original story here.) With “Mad Men”’s fourth season premiering on July 25, a look back at the origins of this unlikely hit seemed in order.
Costume designer Janie Bryant let WWD in on the process of working on the show, which would become notorious for its attention to historical accuracy. After looking at sources from “The Apartment” to Ann-Margret, and spending months on tasks like sourcing vintage nylons, she was able to put together the characters’ iconic looks, from Joan Holloway’s figure-hugging dresses and signature pen necklace to Don Draper’s crisp suits. Christina Hendricks, who would later be celebrated for her curves on the covers of Esquire and New York magazine, joked about the ultrafitted beige dress she wore as Joan in the pilot: “It’s so tight, it looks like it’s been spray-painted on me.” Show creator Matthew Weiner and Bryant had nicknamed it “the naked-mouse outfit.” Whenever cast members griped about the restrictive silhouettes, complete with girdles and bullet bras, Bryant retorted, “It’s nothing like wearing a corset, so consider yourself lucky.”
Bryant, who recently launched a line for QVC called Mod by Janie Bryant, gave the show’s menfolk just as much sass. When the actors found it hard to adjust to the era’s high-waisted styles, she urged them: “‘Pull your pants up!...By the end of the show, you’ll be so used to it, you won’t be able to put your Diesel jeans on.’” And she made sure to dress Jon Hamm, as Don Draper, in muted grays. “There’s a lack of color,” she explained, “because he’s a character you can’t get a real read on.”
Bryant’s biggest rule for the Sterling Cooper denizens? “No casual Fridays!” she insisted. “The downfall of American style.”