Dolled Up

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Ladies in vintage-style dresses, pearls, and pillbox hats came out to LACMA last week to hear Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant in conversation with fashion journalist Monica Corcoran Harel. The festivities, presented by The Costume Council, were sponsored in-part by Mattel, in honor of the new Mad Men Barbie Doll collection. Costumes from the show, and the Barbies themselves—there are Don, Betty, Joan, and Roger Sterling dolls—decorated the courtyard where the cocktail party was held after the discussion.

Joni Smith, chairwoman of the Costume Council, dressed to the nines, and opened the event by introducing show creator Matt Weiner, who gave a charming speech about his excitement over the dolls before introducing Bryant, whom he called a “Southern belle.”

The conversation between Corcoran Harel and Bryant was informative as well as entertaining (the two have also written a book together, The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men, out this fall). In her Southern drawl, Bryant talked about her method—she starts with the script, then looks at old magazines and catalogues, finds photos on the Internet, and makes trips to the library. Corcoran Harel pushed for tips on the best vintage shops in L.A., but Bryant didn’t give too much away, allowing only that she loves Playclothes.

Later, the Emmy- and CDG Award-winner told the crowd how Jon Hamm, upon first seeing the pants he’d wear as Don Draper, said they had the longest zipper he’d ever seen and how Elizabeth Moss, who plays the oft-frumpy Peggy Olson, recently said she’s grown to like wearing the color mustard. A couple other set secrets: it takes the ladies an hour-and-a-half to two hours to transform into Mad Men gals, and Bryant has never herself tried on the outdated undergarments worn on the show. After Corcoran Harel brought it up, though, she admitted she might have to next time she sees the cast.

After an upbeat fashion show of costumes worn on the show, the night ended with a cocktail reception in the courtyard, where Manhattans were shaken and appetizers were served. It was a great evening of perfect pairings; from the hot pink envelope my ticket was in and the sparking pink wine served, to Bryant and Corcoran Harel.

-Leslie Anne Wiggins