5 Questions with Janie Bryant, ‘Mad Men’ Costume Designer

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Courtesy of Banana Republic

The fifth season of Mad Men has been delayed until 2012, but that hasn’t stopped the show’s costume designer, Janie Bryant, from releasing a clothing collection with Banana Republic inspired by the AMC series.

The 65-piece line, which just hit stores, features clothing for men and women as well as accessories, all inspired by 1960s fashion. As the cast and crew of Mad Men begin filming the show’s new season, TIME spoke with Bryant about the collaboration, her design influences and which designer she’d love to dress Betty Francis in down the road.

The Banana Republic collection is inspired by Mad Men–era style. Why are we seeing such nostalgia for retro and vintage fashions?
I think people love to romanticize the early 1960s. It’s the period of our American Camelot and our Kennedys. People think of that period as the most glamorous and elegant in time. Also, the silhouettes of those clothes have never really gone out of style. The early ’60s, which I call “American Iconoclasts,” are reinvented all the time. Pencil skirts, sweater sets and pearls — they never go out of style. [Simon Kneen, creative director of Banana Republic, adds, “I think women are really drawn to the femininity of the era and clothing. Just as I’m drawn to the playful and sexy nature of the time, I think women today are as well.”]

On Mad Men, how closely do you adhere to the clothing that men and women actually wore during the period? Do you take creative liberties?
I try to be as accurate as possible. But as costume designer, it’s my job to tell a story about all these characters through their costumes, so that is depicting each of the characters differently. My favorite thing is variety, and I consider what’s happening in the script.

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Are you able to find all the great prints and plaids at vintage shops, or do you design them yourself?
It’s a combination. When I’m designing for the show, it’s a combination of building things from scratch and buying vintage, and then sometimes redesigning vintage. I also do a lot of rentals from costume shops in Los Angeles. A lot of the printed silks and different plaids are vintage fabric, and other times I’ll buy contemporary fabric that was used back then as well.

Let’s assume Mad Men stays on long enough to enter the next decade. What are the characters going to wear in the 1970s and 1980s?
I would love to see Betty Draper Francis wearing Christian Lacroix. He’s always been one of my all-time favorite designers and such an inspiration. I just love his flamboyance from the ’80s — I would love to see Betty shift into that for sure.

How do you stay inspired for the show? Where do you pull ideas from?
My research process is through books and magazines, especially Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, TIME, LIFE, Look. The show’s really more about depicting characters in their everyday lives — not haute couture. And I also look at newspapers and old family photos. Another huge source of inspiration is to go fabric shopping.

Feifei Sun is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @Feifei_Sun or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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