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LACMA's Costume Council hosts a presentation with 'Mad Men' costumer Janie Bryant

June 10, 2010 |  7:47 am

-1 No one was smoking Lucky Strikes indoors or drinking highballs, but plenty of guests turned up in "Mad Men"-inspired ensembles for a presentation featuring Janie Bryant, the show's much-lauded costume designer, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wednesday night.

The fashion presentation and live interview -- moderated by Monica Corcoran Harel, who cowrote a "Mad Men" style book with Bryant, out this November -- was hosted by the museum's Costume Council and sponsored by Mattel, which recently debuted Barbie versions of the show's main characters.

Bryant, dressed in a smart metallic brocade A-line dress that jibed with the night's '60s fashion theme, shared an avalanche of details pertaining to her work on the show -- from designing and shopping for costumes to fitting and creating color palettes for the actors.

Inspiration for each episode, she said, "starts with getting the script. It's like reading a book where images are conjured in the brain." Bryant references a litany of sources, such as old family photos and back issues of Look, Time, Elegance and Ladies' Home Journal magazines, to make sure she's staying period-specific.

The designer said the show's actors "don't really say much" when it comes to their wardrobes, though she recalled the moment actor Jon Hamm pulled up his first pair of high-waisted trousers. "He said, 'Man, Janie, that's the longest zipper I've ever seen!' "

The costume designer also revealed that the undergarments worn by the female cast members on the show, which include reproductions of "bullet" bras and girdles, are key to achieving that early 1960s silhouette. "It's essential," she said. "It helps the actors transport back into time."

As for "Mad Men's" influence on modern fashion (designers including Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors have admitted to being inspired by the show), Bryant chalks it up to a pendulum swing back to feminine dressing.

"I think that period is so flattering to a woman's body," she said. "And [the show] hearkens back to a time when people really got dressed."

The event ended with a fashion show of recognizable looks from the show -- including form-fitting wool sheaths, circle-skirted floral dresses, boxy men's suits and enough metallic brocade to light up a few stages.

-- Emili Vesilind

Photo: Janie Bryant and "Mad Men" series creator Matthew Weiner at LACMA. Credit: David Crotty/PatrickMcMullen.com.

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