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1960s Fashion: The Women of Mad Men

September 24, 2009
Peggy Olsen, Joan Holloway, and Betty Draper characters on Mad Men.

Peggy Olson, Joan Holloway, and Betty Draper characters on Mad Men.

It’s not hard to fall in love with Sunday night’s Emmy Award winner Mad Men. The show’s early 1960s set and costumes are enough to make even the most forward-thinking men and women swoon- even if you have a love/hate relationship with womanizing art director Don Draper. But gosh, isn’t he just dashing in those suits? Now that’s what we’re talking about.

Stopping by the official show’s website, we discovered a treasure trove of pictures from the seasons’ stunning costumes alongside commentary by Mad Men Costume Designer Janie Byrant. So we had to share: we’ve repurposed these pictures and comments by Janie as she describes the era, the characters, and the delights of being the Costume Designer for one of the hottest shows of the 21st century.

Janie Byrant- costume designer for Mad Men

Janie Byrant- costume designer for Mad Men

You may already be familiar with Janie’s work as Costume Designer on TV show Deadwood and while there blood-soaked scenes are rather few on Mad Men (although Season 3 does offer an unfortunate blood-spraying scene all over Joan Holloway’s lovely emerald-green dress), we think she’s doing a stellar job. Actually, we want her job: shopping for vintage clothes and designing look-alikes based on 1960s sewing patterns? Where’s the job application?

Fashion in the Early ’60s

joan-peggy-760

Costume Designer Janie Byrant on Season 2 costumes: “The year 1960 is a transitional period in women’s fashion. The hemlines are becoming shorter as opposed to the earlier fifties style of a circle skirt that has more of a flat front and that is longer and fuller. By 1960, there’s a gathering at the waist and the hem length has come up a lot: It’s right below the knee and getting shorter.”

Betty Draper

Betty Draper

betsJanie Bryant on Betty Draper, Episode 1 “Because it’s winter, I wanted her to have the cashmere sweater — it would be more traditional to do the shirt and the tie; I know my mother would kill me for using a little creative license because she rode, but I thought it was significant to use those pieces just in terms of how I see Betty Draper, like all in perfection… it’s so Grace Kelly.”

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Janie Bryant on Betty Draper, Episode 1 “Here she’s added her winter white cashmere coat. That’s a genuine piece. And of course she’s wearing her pearls and it’s almost like an Hermes style vintage scarf — it’s not Hermes, it just looks like it! That classic Betty Draper style. And the gloves, and the quilting at the cuff. It’s quite simple but so gorgeous. And you know, you still see women like this. That beautiful classic style from the period that they’ve carried on for their entire lives.”

betty9Janie Bryant on Betty Draper, Episode 3 “I love this dress! Matt and I had so many discussions about Betty and that she really, really loves Marilyn Monroe. So I found this dress at Roxy Costume and it’s a beautiful bubblegum pink silk taffeta, and I love the idea for the scene where she’s got a Marilyn Monroe halter — that character is very cool, and it’s about having that image and maintaining that sense of perfection, so it’s sort of how everyone sees her from the outside and not so much what’s on the inside.”

betty-ep208Janie Bryant on Betty Draper, Episode 8 “My favorite costume of the whole season, hands down, is Betty Draper’s dress in “A Night to Remember.” I call it her Sad Clown Dress! I love it so much. And when it gets ruined in the episode, it’s even better. You know, ruining clothes for TV, it’s just part of the process. I used to have sentimental attachment to that kind of thing, but it’s part of telling the story. And I mean, it was just wrinkled, it can be fixed! She didn’t rip it. Matt loves this dress, too.”

betty-ep207Janie Bryant on Betty Draper, Episode 7 “My other favorite costume is Betty’s dress when she goes to the formal gala. We put Don Draper in his dinner jacket when Jimmy Barrett says he’s having an affair, but I designed Betty’s dress for her, to make sure it matched the entire mood of the episode. I think it was the perfect contrast, that beautiful dress compared with the awful night she had.”

Peggy Olson

peggy-760Costume Designer Janie Byrant on Season 2 costumes for Peggy: “On the other end of the spectrum is Peggy, who is more old-fashioned in the cut of her garments. Her clothing has a look of innocence and coming into this world, where she’s learning so much and seeing all these things happening with the men and the women in the office. So her costume reflects that.”

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Janie Bryant on Peggy Olson, Episode 2 “Peggy’s dress is this cotton floral vintage dress and keeping with that schoolgirl style that Peggy Olson has, but just a little dressier. This dress was huge, it was like, five or six sizes bigger than Elisabeth Moss. So I cut it down to fit her and added some more pleats in the skirt, and then added the petticoats and the black satin belt. She had on white petticoats underneath the dress during the party, but when they shot the scene where the camera is above her, her sheets were white and I was like, we have to do a black petticoat because I love showing the undergarments and what goes into the making of the final piece.”

peggy-ep210Janie Bryant on Peggy Olson, Episode 10 “I love this dress so much! That’s the grown up version of her blue and black check that she wore last year, which was really outdated and unfitting. This is so much more modern. I found it in the Helen Larson collection at Western Costume, and here, Peggy wears her long line bra and her girdle to make everything smooth and nice. That’s a trick she’s picked up this season.”

Joan Holloway

Joan Holloway

new_joan_fashionJanie Bryant on Joan Holloway, Episodes 4 and 5 “I think that Joan is a woman who knows exactly what her assets are, and I think she totally commands that office. And when she is on that screen, that’s all you see. Maybe she came to the office to find her husband…I think she’s probably a person who always wore form-fitting clothes.”

joan-ep210Janie Bryant on Joan Holloway, Episode 10 “People ask me a lot if Joan will ever wear a mini-skirt or a shift or something, and I say, “uh, no!” I always think of Joan as that character who knows exactly how to play it, and who works everything she has. Joan, she’s always worn fitted garments; she always will wear fitted garments, until the day she’s six feet under!”

Trudy Campbell

Velour, bold check print, vintage brooch.

Janie Bryant on Trudy Campbell, Episode 2 “Trudy’s dress is purple — you can’t believe how purple that bodice is in real life. It was like this huge size, and I cut it down to fit her. And how perfect is this, the label in the dress is called Park Lane Debs?! And my mother’s boyfriend gave the vintage brooch to me.”

Bobbie Barrett

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Janie Bryant on Bobbie Barrett, Episode 3 “I see Bobbie having some sort of glitz because she used to be a showgirl. And this is the bodice, it’s a printed silk with gold beading covering it. Being forward, that is her character; she’s a total modern woman. Matt and I had a lot of discussions about where I was going with ’60 to ’62, and the change is really minimal, because change takes time.”

Sheila

sheila-ep210Janie Bryant on Sheila, Episode 10 “Oh, I love dressing Sheila. You know, the motivation for her costume here is that she’s coming into the city, and wants to look her finest and be presentable. So the whole costume is about her dressed up to see Paul in the city. And it is 1962, so that pillbox hat is pretty mainstream! You balance that with the fact that she works at a grocery store, so it shouldn’t look like she’s around all these sophisticated city women every day. But at that time, people had access to suits and pillbox hats as normal, everyday garments. She could have gotten it anywhere.”

Rachel

donrachelCostume Designer Janie Byrant on Season 2 costumes for Rachel: “The jackets are also getting a little more square cut. They’re not the Jackie O style yet, with more asymmetrical lines and boxier cuts, but things are definitely heading in that direction.”

Secretaries of Sterling Cooper

secretariesCostume Designer Janie Byrant on Season 2 secretaries’ costumes: “We don’t want to see everybody looking like a model. The interesting thing about the characters in the show is that everybody is beautiful for being different, each looking like individual characters. With all the different body types — curvy, straight, tall, short — you can really showcase those elements through the costume design.”

All images and quotations from Janie Byrant are provided courtesy of the official website for the AMCTV show Mad Men.

37 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2009 1:59 pm

    vintage clothing is on demand again. Love this blog
    menfashionstyle.com

  2. October 9, 2009 8:47 am

    Dear Ben, Thank you so much for your comment. I’m thrilled that you wrote!
    You must have fond memories of these frocks- hopefully you saw them worn at parties and have them in pictures. The ’60s is a fascinating time for so many reasons- many more than just the stunning fashion. It must be delightful to see these familiar garments come to life on TV; they are truly lovely and a very generous gift to all of us who appreciate fashion, art, and watch the show for all that and more.
    Hope to stay in touch! I’m sure exquisite taste runs in the family and we’d love to hear from you again.
    Warm regards,
    Johanne
    P.S. I can’t help but wonder if your family has held onto special pieces that aren’t on the show…. Or if you have a trove of handsome ’60s furniture or art- what a happy discovery that would be!

  3. Mark permalink
    November 9, 2009 3:38 am

    What I love about the “Mad Men” fashions (and set decor also) is that it looks realistic, and not too overly perfect or idealized version of the fashions of the day. Too many times, period movies and TV shows set in the ’50s and ’60s show their characters all looking like immaculately dressed Cary Grants and Grace Kellys, but in real life — then, as well as now — people come from all different kinds of backgrounds, and (even though wearing items that are “in style” for the day), might not have the means to purchase top-of-the-line items. And the clothes on “Mad Men” seem to oftentimes reflect this. (Some of the secretaries’ dresses, blouses and skirts, for instance, look like they might have been purchased at a 1960s equivalent to, say, Marshall’s — whatever that may have been — which seems accurate. Not everyone could (or can) afford to shop at Sak’s, particularly single women supporting themselves on a meager secretarial salary.

    In the early ’60s, when my parents were dating and were first married, my mother wore Jackie Kennedy-looking skirt-and-jacket sets (with the obligatory gloves), but being of modest means, her outfits most likely came from Montgomery Ward’s, J.C. Penney’s, and the like, and while influenced by Mrs. Kennedy’s clothes, obviously would never have been mistaken for the actual original design items that she actually wore.

    • November 10, 2009 3:43 pm

      Hi Mark! Thank you for your comment; your mom has fantastic taste! It must be great to see those pictures of her and your father from the ’60s.
      Did you enjoy the season finale this week?
      I agree that it’s refreshing to see a variety of clothes on the show that brings to life a variety of social means and illustrates them in a thoughtful and realistic manner. I find the show completely mesmerizing and it makes me feel like time travel is possible! What a fascinating time it was to be alive- the show does so much more than parade the fashions of the day. Bring on the next season- I can hardly wait!
      -J.

  4. Lauren permalink
    January 29, 2010 3:12 pm

    What a great article. If you’re looking for a really special vintage dress try http://www.junosayshello.com – it’s amazing. The online boutique is based in London but delivers worldwide.

    • January 29, 2010 5:06 pm

      Thank you for your comment and compliment! It was an easy piece to write since I was basically transcribing and the pictures speak for themselves :) Gotta love MadMen!

      Thank you for the Juno Say Hello tip! What a fab find- I love the classic shapes that we find in vintage wear. The Burberry Prorsum metallic cocktail dress looks like so much fun!

      -J-

  5. February 17, 2010 2:05 pm

    What a great roundup! I’m heading to a conference in Houston called Mom 2.0 tomorrow and there’s a Mad Men party. I have to look my Joan foxiest, so I needed a little costume inspiration, thank you!

    • February 17, 2010 3:23 pm

      Hi! Thank you so much for your comment and compliment! I love Mad Men- and yes, that Joan is red hot! Sounds like it will be a fun party!!

      Your conference sounds like fun- enjoy & if you want to send us outfit pics we wouldn’t refuse ;)

      xo,
      Johanne

  6. July 17, 2010 5:13 pm

    I love your blog. The info here from Bryant on each of the pieces is wonderful. What memorable costumes. They really make the characters come to life.

    If you’re looking for more info on Mad Men fashion, readers of this blog might like this: http://whitebison.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/mad-men-countdown-betty-drapers-fashion-past-and-future/

    Thanks again! I’m a big fan of your blog.

    • July 19, 2010 10:53 am

      Hi! Thank you so much for your comment and compliments! I’m so happy to be nearing our blog’s 2nd anniversary and I’m sure you’ll get there too with your fun site, Good Taste!

      I love the Mad Men posts you featured- so great to see what’s out there to duplicate the looks. Of course I adore the show like you do and I cannot wait for the season’s premiere next weekend!

      Great to see you’re writing about food; I’m a huge foodie and I’ve often wondered if I should start a blog about my foodlove. Nice to see you’re doing a fine job of mixing fashion & food!

      Happy to connect with you,
      -Johanne

  7. Kostas Fountikira permalink
    July 30, 2010 3:10 pm

    I really like this article and I like Mad Men fashion because it was the time when JFK became president and Jackie Kenedy became the first lady with her straight suit and the pillbox hat and dont forget the bouffant hairstyle that she wore. My grandmother got married in 1960 and she can remember well the gathered full skirts that many women used to wear back in the early 60s

  8. February 16, 2011 1:47 am

    I have been searching for Trudy’s adorable blue cashmere sweater in Season 3..JFK gets shot.
    The colour is amazing!

  9. April 4, 2011 1:08 pm

    Great blog. You can find great 1960s costumes, wigs and accessories at
    http://thestageplace.com/1960s.php

  10. Jessica permalink
    April 15, 2011 9:58 am

    This website is FAB!!

    • April 15, 2011 11:15 am

      Thank you!! :)

      So happy to hear that you like our little corner of the web :)

      -Johanne

  11. May 19, 2011 9:43 pm

    I love Mad Men and so do my Customers.

  12. Janice permalink
    August 14, 2011 10:23 am

    The costumes are fabulous! Wow, what a period of transition in American fashion from 1960 to 1970 when you think about it. I would love to see some of these looks come back into the American wardrobe.

  13. Heather permalink
    January 17, 2012 12:07 am

    I am addicted to the fashion, and the unveiling story of these women finding their way in such a transitional time. From the Bombshell Joan, to brainy Peggy’s study of seduction, to the flighty Jane, to the class of Betty, they all make a statement! Your work is inspiring!

    • January 17, 2012 11:02 am

      I know!! I’m so addicted to that show- it’s better than cake!
      -J

  14. March 8, 2012 7:08 pm

    Thanx a bunch1 I needed help on the 60s fashion for a homework assignment and I got my answer. Style is much better now. :)

    • March 8, 2012 7:11 pm

      But I do LOOOVE Betty’s “sad clown dress” classy

    • March 9, 2012 8:59 am

      Hi Bethany!
      I’m really happy that you found our post helpful- we’re huge fans of Mad Men and we can’t wait for the next season to air again!

      Good luck with your course- 60s fashion is very fascinating and changed so much from year to year. Sounds like you had a really fun project to do!
      – :)

  15. March 18, 2012 10:45 am

    You need to be a part of a contest for one of the highest quality blogs on the internet. I will recommend this website!

  16. elizabethkeene permalink
    May 15, 2012 8:46 pm

    This is such a great post! I’m obsessed with 1960’s fashion and Mad Men.

    http://www.akeenesenseofstyle.com

  17. Martine permalink
    June 1, 2012 5:40 pm

    Joan would look awful in a mini skirt. She is far too curvy. She may be sexy, but I sure would hate to look like her. Its so unathletic and unhealthy looking.

  18. Jackie permalink
    April 30, 2013 11:53 am

    Petticoats rock!

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