She gave ad man Don Draper his sartorial style in "Mad Men."
She made Pennywise's costume Shakespearean-shriek chic in "It."
Now, costume designer Janie Bryant has branded her look on the pioneers of "1883," the prequel to Paramount's "Yellowstone" television series, a gritty, unvarnished tale of pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail.
Bryant grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee, the daughter of Dorothea and Paul Bryant. She attended Cleveland High School for two years before transferring to and graduating from Brenau Academy in Gainesville, Georgia. After graduating from the American College of Applied Arts, she studied in Paris and New York City, where she met a costume designer and began to work on movies and commercials.
Her costuming on "Deadwood," an HBO American Western series, won an Emmy Award. And that led to being hired by creator Matthew Weiner to clothe the cast of "Mad Men," for which she earned four Emmy nominations. Since then, her career has expanded to include clothing partnerships with Banana Republic, Maidenform and Shoes of Prey; she is a brand ambassador for Downy and Hartmann Luggage and has created her own lines of clothing in addition to continuing to design costumes for television and movies.
"Yellowstone" is a modern-day American drama created by Taylor Sheridan. In the series, actor Kevin Costner stars as John Dutton, patriarch of the Montana family fighting to protect their ranch land. The drama was a recent Screen Actors Guild nominee for best ensemble. Its season 4 finale ranked as the highest new series rating, according to Deadline.com, helping the show become the No. 1 series of 2021 across broadcast, cable and premium channels.
In December, Sheridan launched "1883" on Paramount+, a prequel to "Yellowstone," which told the story of how the Duttons came to Montana. It had an immediate fanbase, and its premiere doubled the numbers of any previous premiere in streaming history. The show became the breakout TV hit of the season.
The cast of "1883" is led by actor Sam Elliott, who plays wagon train guide Shea Brennan, and country singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, playing Tennesseans James and Margaret Dutton, great-grandparents of Costner's "Yellowstone" character, who are heading to Oregon.
The episodes are narrated by actor Isabel May, playing Elsa Dutton, James and Margaret's daughter.
Sheridan, the show's creator, is known for being a stickler on authenticity — he made the cast of "1883" attend a cowboy camp in which they all learned to ride horses, drive a wagon team and cook over a campfire, as well as other skills pioneers would have relied upon. Even though the story was historic fiction, its look would be factual.
Costuming would be instrumental in achieving that authenticity Sheridan expected. So he reached out to Bryant.
Bryant had just over two months to research nineteenth-century attire and build nearly 1,000 costumes for everyone in the drama — from the main cast to the extras who played townspeople, horse thieves, immigrants, Civil War soldiers and Native Americans. Her work is so detailed that she even made sure the immigrants from Germany and Romania wore appropriate looks.
In a recent phone interview with Chatter Magazine, Bryant discussed her work on the celebrated show alongside country music royalty, as well as the impact of her research on the American Indian tribes. Below is a condensed and edited version of the conversation.
Chatter Magazine: Did creator Taylor Sheridan have specific ideas for costuming that he expressed to you?
Janie Bryant: He was very specific about wanting [character and narrator] Elsa's color palette to be blue because he saw her as the hopeful character, who finds freedom in the journey. I presented variations from light blue to navy, and he loved them. The fabric I chose was a combination of the two colors because I liked that light blue represents the color of the sky and openness.
One note he gave me was that he wanted [character] Margaret Dutton's costume to become darker as the story progressed, which mirrors the trauma and sorrows she endures. He wanted [character] James Dutton to have that leading-man quality. Taylor was very specific about that. Sam Elliott and Tim McGraw's characters were to have very specific hats. Tim looks great in a hat, but it could not be a cowboy hat. He was supposed to be a farmer from Tennessee.
Chatter: How many costumes did you and your team have to build, and how much lead time did you have?
Janie: I had nine weeks. First, I did a lot of research. I designed all costumes for the main cast, then there was designing for the immigrants on the trail – as well as Native Americans, townspeople, bandits and Civil War soldiers — most of which, we built from scratch. Every character in the main cast had multiple outfits — anywhere from two to eight — so costumes numbered in the hundreds. Then if you count every accessory — such as hats, shoes, bonnets, shawls, fans or jewelry — it was well over a million pieces.
We had four costume trailers the entire time we filmed. Each was about 62 feet in length, and each was outfitted with hanging racks for clothing, drawers for supplies, bins for shoes and a washer and dryer. We were a traveling caravan following the actors.
Chatter: The use of color in costumes is significant in "1883" because almost everything is depicted in shades of brown and beige: the men's costumes; the covered wagons; the landscape. What are some ways you used color to emphasize a theme?
Janie: That's why [character Elsa Dutton's] light-blue traveling dress was so important because she really stands out - she narrates the story. Elsa's yellow leggings, made for her by the Comanche, are not seen anywhere else [in the show] because they were specific to the Comanche tribes of the 1880s. All beadwork is specific to that tribe.
I saw [Faith Hill's character] Margaret Dutton in dusty-rose and maroon. In Fort Worth, Texas, I had women dressed in red because it foreshadows death and blood.
Chatter: How did you research the various Native American tribes the pioneers encountered as they crossed the plains?
Janie: I worked with consultants and leaders of each tribe. It was an amazing journey of learning about Native Americans. What we learn in school is not the truth. Working with the Native Americans and hearing their stories, you can't imagine what they went through. For example, the Comanche were true warriors and did business trading bison. So to remove the Comanches, whites decided to kill buffalo so they could starve the Comanche out. Working with and learning from the Native Americans about their artistry and their connection to nature — I have such respect for them.
Elsa's vest and leggings [given to her in the show by the Comanche] were the most difficult costumes to make. On the vest, there is beading of horseshoes, which signifies the way home. The Comanche's waterbird symbolizes strong healing power. I did it in a two-tone red and yellow because red signifies blood and blue and yellow [are part of] Elsa's color palette. Elk teeth on a Comanche vest signifies wealth ... so I did elk teeth on the shoulders and back with metal because, at that time, Comanche people did metalworking and trading.
I loved the Crow tribe. They are the tribe of opulence. The men have those fabulous mohawks, and they use a lot of ermine and did a lot of painting,
Chatter: What was it like to dress country music royalty Tim McGraw and Faith Hill?
Janie: Faith nicknamed me "Tabasco;" she thought I was spicy. Faith sang in some of our fittings. Tim sang the Beatles' "You Say It's Your Birthday" to me on my birthday. I'll never forget that! Both of them are wonderful people. They are very grounded, down to earth with an amazing family life they have built.
Chatter: A New York Times article compared you to a modern Edith Head, the eight-time Academy Award winner for costume design during Hollywood's golden age.
Janie: I would love all the Oscars! But seriously, I really love my job. I love the people I work with. If I didn't love my team, I wouldn't enjoy going to work each day. From the outside, people think, "Oh, the awards! The accolades!" That means a lot, but that's the icing on the cake for my passion for what I do.
Chatter: Show creator Taylor Sheridan has already announced more episodes for "1883" as well as a second "Yellowstone" prequel called "1932." Has he talked to you about designing clothes for "1932?"
Janie: Yes. We'll see what happens.
Where You've Seen Janie Bryant's Designs
> Deadwood: The Movie (2019)
> The Romanoffs (2018)
> It (2017)
> The Last Tycoon (2016-2017)
> Mad Men (2007-2015)
> Telenovela (2015)
> The Last House on the Left (2009)
> Deadwood (2004-2006)