Mad for Mad Men

LACMA guests were treated to a fashion show with some of costume designer
Janie Bryant’s favorite Mad Men styles.  Photo by Deidre Crawford.

There were no beehives to be found, but there were plenty of circle-skirt dresses, wingtip shoes, and a mahogany bar serving cocktails fitting for a night on the town with Don and Betty Draper.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Costume Council presented “Mad Men” costume designer Janie Bryant on Wednesday night, discussing her inspirations for the characters’ clothing, followed by a fashion show of favorite looks from the TV series and a reception showcasing the new Barbie Mad Men collection.

Bryant spoke with fashion writer Monica Corcoran Harel about her creative insights into the costuming choices, the research involved and how she comes up with her ideas for the show with a visual style that has influenced everything from store displays to fashion designers.  The two women have collaborated on a new book coming out this fall, dispensing fashion advice and more behind-the-scenes details of the series’ much-extolled costumes.

Before designing for “Mad Men,” Bryant worked on costume design for HBO’s “Deadwood,” and said she likes designing period productions.  She discussed making garments from scratch, as well as repurposing or renting some of the outfits.
While she did not have a favorite character to dress, Bryant said she did have certain episodes and stories she preferred and that she was flattered by the reach of the show’s aesthetic into popular culture.

In a courtyard cocktail reception following the panel, hot pink, orange, baby blue and strings of pearls were the accents for the night, as women with heels, cape coats and leather clutches chatted with men in roomy suits and boxy fedoras.  Keeping with the 60s theme, waiters kept guests full with pigs in a blanket and hamburger sliders, while they sipped on pink champagne, Manhattans and martinis.

Dolls from the new Mad Men Barbie collection were showcased at the party.
Photo by Deidre Crawford.

A new Barbie doll line modeled after the show’s characters will be launching next month for those looking to collect a small-scale Don Draper or a miniature version of Joan Holloway’s infamous silhouette.

Barbie designer Robert Best, who described himself as “addicted” to the show, said the dolls would be aimed towards collectors and adults.

“It’s for people who collect Barbie already and may not be huge ‘Mad Men’ fans, as well as for the people that are huge ‘Mad Men’ fans and may not collect Barbie,” he explained.

Show creator Matthew Weiner and cast members Rich Sommer, Michael Gladis, Christopher Stanley and Cara Buono all took part in the evening, while the rest of the cast were shooting until late that night.

The event was hosted by LACMA’s Costume Council, an organization dedicated to expanding awareness of the museum’s collection of fashion, costume and textiles.

The council planned the program for three years and selected “Mad Men” since it was “an incredible example of fashion,” said Elizabeth Matthews, one of the council chairs.

The evening was a celebration of the show’s popular aesthetic as well as to announce the Costume and Textile Department’s upcoming retrospective, ‘Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915,’ one of the first exhibitions to appear in the museum’s new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion.