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Costume designer Janie Bryant talks about making a dress for Oprah, Joan's "sexy asparagus" ensemble, and how she got the blood stains right.
Q: So the big news of the week. You dressed Oprah!
A: I was told Oprah was doing a show all about the '60s, and they asked if I wanted to style her. I was like, "No, I want to design a dress for her." It ended up being dresses for both Oprah and Gayle King. So I sat down, started drawing, and sent my sketches off to Oprah's people. Oprah's assistant wrote back, "Oprah said the dress was divine!" And then for Gayle, I designed a dress that was half Joan and half Peggy to have that "new office girl" kind of feeling. But Gayle said, "No. I just want to be Joan!" So we re-cut the skirt so it was really tight. She looked incredible; we had so much fun.
Q: Did you fit Oprah yourself?
A: Yes, I went up to Montecito to see her. I spent about 25 minutes with her in her house, and she loves the dress -- it's raspberry pink silk; it's so gorgeous! She was totally game to do the girdle and the bra, and the stockings with it. She was game for the whole look... And the day before the Creative Emmys, I got a signed picture of Oprah in her dress. She looks so beautiful! I couldn't be in Chicago for the taping; Matt was just beginning his episode so I didn't want to leave him. But January was texting me backstage, saying "Oprah looks amazing!"
Q: Now about Episode 6. Did you have a field day with the fake blood on Joan's dress?
A: Yes. But it was also hard because I love that dress. I actually built three of those dresses; I designed them myself for Joan. I put blood on two of them and one we kept clean.
Q: Why were two of them bloody?
A: Matt didn't like the first one because he wanted more blood! So the second one, I just added more and more.
Q: Did you have someone wear the dress while you got it bloody?
A: Yes! Me! Allison, my assistant costume designer, and Le Dawson, our supervisor -- we're master distressers because we worked on Deadwood together. So they wrapped me in dry cleaning plastic bags and then they put the dress over those. I wanted the placement of the blood to be just right, so I went down on the floor like Joan would have, and pretended to be cleaning up the blood. I used rubber gloves and then wiped them on my thighs when they were covered in blood to make it look real.
Q: That's very method of you.
A: Yes, see? I'm an actress too!
Q: What did you use for the blood?
A: Something all TV professionals use, pretty much. It's called "Real Blood - Aged." They also have "Real Blood - New." But I prefer Aged and how it photographs because it has much more of a brown tint. I think also when it dries, it's more realistic.
Q: This must have been an unorthodox episode for you.
A: It was really fun! I mean, we hardly get to do anything bloody on Mad Men! Besides the dress, Guy's shoes had to be bloodied up. I had to get three pairs of shoes and six pairs of socks. And I had Tom, the special effects guy, roll over the shoes and socks with the lawnmower, and then we shredded the sock, and the makeup department put in fake toes, and then we got some more blood in there -- it was good, really good.
Q: Was that the best part?
A: No, Joan's dress was definitely the highlight. That whole episode is summertime, and I think you really feel the season of that episode, because Joan has that summer green dress -- we called it the "Sexy Asparagus Dress." But it was so unique in each setting -- I loved how it popped in the office.
Q: Was it the first costume you made for Episode 6?
A: No. At first Matt and I talked about it, and when I said,
"I'm doing a green dress," Matt said, "Why can't it be red, white, and
blue?" I'm like, "No, because the blood has to hit something totally
different than a red fabric." But then I got to do Olive in the red,
white, and blue and Peggy in the polka dots. So the master plan all