WSJ on the clothes of Mad Men

The Wall Street Journal has an article about Janie Bryant, the "costume czarina" of Mad Men. She also designed the costumes for Deadwood. What a talent!

 Public Resources Images Ob-Is079 Madmen Dv 20100602124700 [Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner:] "Because Janie grew up in Tennessee, she is very attuned to formality and the way that things stay pretty much the same the further you get from Los Angeles or New York. People don’t always change with the times. Part of the story that we are trying to tell is about the loosening of all this stuff–the crudening of manners and style as the period changes. Janie and I talk about that all the time and try to signal it in little ways, like with a character taking off his hat in the elevator. It’s unusual for a costume designer to stay on this long, and that means so much since here continuity really matters."

‘Mad Men’: Threads of the Story


  1. As someone who is from Tennessee, I have no idea what Weiner (heh) is trying to say here. Attuned to formality? Doesn’t change with the times?

    We’re lucky if people put on pants to go to the NASCAR track.

    1. Perhaps he’s referring to Tennesseans who live in fixed-foundation abodes and work in occupations that don’t require chainsaws. Presumably there are some urbanites in Tennessee.

      1. As a former Tennessee “urbanite” (lived in Memphis for several years), um… not really. The older and/or more socially conservative you are, the less likely you are to change your style, but that’s true everywhere.

  2. I utterly love Mad Men. If it weren’t for it and Breaking Bad I’d cut down to Basic Cable.

    But I’m kind of “blind” to clothing. I know it is authentic-looking, but I’d miss all but the most blatant anachronisms.

    (I did notice one mistake that has nothing to do with the time period. Don and the wife of the obnoxious comic decide to zip off to Stony Brook. One of the characters describes loving the smell of ocean breezes. Not in Stony Brook; it is on the Sound.)

    I’m taking bets. Will little Sally Draper become a Beatles groupie, or get on a bus to Haight-Ashbury?

      1. The Mad Men clothing is great and everything, but honestly, wouldn’t it be much more interesting if Breaking Bad were setting the fashion trends?

    1. I dunno, we’ll see how well the writing fares. One of the things I kind of appreciate about this show is how square it is. What I mean is, it’s 1963, there’s a lot of cultural stuff exploding onto the scene. I haven’t seen a mention of girl groups, much of any black music or early Rn’R save Paul Kinsey’s wanna-be hipster lifestyle.

      Where it would be really easy for the writers to throw in some revivalist Beatles-y cliches, they have more important things to get into…. altough I would love to see the Ronettes or something!

      But as for Sally Draper, she must be, what 10 at the oldest in 1963. She’s not turning 18 until after Altamont, and you know, the 60s will be over by then.

  3. Mad Men is having a measurable impact on fashion. I’ve definitely noticed these styles popping up in the malls. And not just 60’s styles, mind you, but stuff very much featured in the show (a lot of Joan and Don, really). I’d always wanted a suit-vest, but it was Mad Men that pushed me into going out and getting one.

    It’s all great, because the trend helps hustle out that god-awful 80’s resurgence which has been plaguing us.

  4. Christ, I love this show.

    “Advertising is happiness. It’s a giant billboard that says, no matter what you’re doing, its OK.”

  5. Given the context, I would like to point out that “crudening” is definitely not a word.

    1. Oh, it might not be an officially sanctioned word but it’s definitely a word. I think its meaning is clear to everyone who read it. It means the process of making something more crude.

  6. There was a great bit near the end of the second season (“Hall of the Mountain King” I think) where Don, who is staying with the real Don’s widow and not in a suit for once, chats with some guys in an alley building hot rods.

    It’s a revelation of sorts: Guys about his age just having fun with cars.

    I wonder if this is foreshadowing . . . a kind of glimpse beyond the singularity of the massive cultural changes of the 60s.

  7. As someone who writes about our grandparents’ pre-crude (but still not ideal) era, I am fascinated by this new verb: crudening!

    Sigh: does it also describe what’s happening to the Gulf?

  8. The comment about “crudening of manners” seems strangely out of context, given that the show is in large part about how said “manners” provide a glib cover to an underlying culture of misogyny and of matter-of-fact cruelty to fellow humans.

  9. i love you, number 14, for your use of “cromulent”. it truly embiggened my evening.

    i, for one, would be delighted – DELIGHTED – to see far more in the way of fitted and retro/classic yet modern pieces in the shops right now, rather than the 80s flashback tights-with-everything mumbo jumbo that’s (still…) going on.

  10. No intention of the pantyhose controversy? (Actually, the use of a Death Cab for Cutie or something song in that scene was far more offensive to me than the potential inaccuracy of pantyhose in 1964.)

  11. I grew up in Nashville, and I say this sounds like a bunch of malarkey. Mr. Weiner is simply replacing one stereotype about the south (hillbillies) with another (mint-julep sipping aristocrats). The truth is, you can hang out in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, or Memphis and completely forget you are either in the north or south. In fact, if you know where to go, you can forget you are in the U.S.

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