She gave publicity man Don Draper her dressing style in “Mad Men.”
She made Pennywise’s costume a chic Shakespearian shoutout in “It.”
Today, costume designer Janie Bryant scored her take on the pioneers of “1883,” the prequel to Paramount’s “Yellowstone” TV series, a gritty, unvarnished tale of pioneers walking 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, where she met a costume designer and began working on films and commercials.
His costume in “Deadwood”, an American western series from HBO, won an Emmy Award. And that led to her being hired by creator Matthew Weiner to dress 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 Downy and Hartmann brand ambassador and has created her own clothing lines in addition to continuing to design costumes for television and film.
“Yellowstone” is a modern American drama created by Taylor Sheridan. In the series, actor Kevin Costner plays the role of John Dutton, patriarch of the Montana family who fights to protect the lands of his ranch. The drama was recently nominated by the Screen Actors Guild 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 on broadcast, cable and premium channels.
In December, Sheridan released “1883” on Paramount+, a prequel to “Yellowstone,” which told the story of the Duttons’ arrival in Montana. It had an immediate fanbase, and its premiere doubled the number of all previous premieres in streaming history. The show became the TV hit of the season.
The cast of “1883” is led by actor Sam Elliott, who plays wagon guide Shea Brennan, and country singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, playing Tennesseans James and Margaret Dutton, great-grandparents of the character from “Yellowstone” by Costner, who direct in Oregon.
The episodes are narrated by actor Isabel May, playing Elsa Dutton, James and Margaret’s daughter.
Sheridan, the series’ creator, is known for being a fan of authenticity – he took the cast of “1883” to cowboy camp where they all learned to ride horses, drive a wagon team and cooking over a campfire, along with other skills the pioneers would have relied on. Even if the story were historical fiction, its appearance would be factual.
Costumes would be instrumental in achieving the authenticity Sheridan expected. So he contacted Bryant.
Bryant had just over two months to research 19th-century clothing and build nearly 1,000 costumes for everyone in the drama — from lead actors to extras who played townspeople, horse thieves, immigrants, Civil War soldiers and Native Americans. Her work is so detailed that she even made sure immigrants from Germany and Romania wore appropriate looks.
In a recent phone interview with Chatter Magazine, Bryant discussed his work on the famed show alongside country music royalty, as well as the impact of his research on Native American tribes. Below is a condensed and edited version of the conversation.
Meet the Cleveland, Tennessee Woman Who Dressed the TV Hit “1883”
Chatter Magazine: Did designer Taylor Sheridan have any specific costume ideas he pitched to you?
Janie Bryant: He was very specific about wanting [character and narrator] Elsa’s color scheme was blue because he saw her as the hopeful character, who finds freedom in the journey. I presented variations from light blue to navy blue, and he loved them. The fabric I chose was a combination of both colors because I liked that the light blue represented the color of the sky and the opening.
A note he gave me was that he wanted [character] Margaret Dutton’s costume becomes darker as the story progresses, reflecting the trauma and heartbreak she endures. He wanted [character] James Dutton for having this leadership quality. Taylor was very specific about this. The characters of Sam Elliott and Tim McGraw had to have very specific hats. Tim looks great with a hat, but it couldn’t be a cowboy hat. He was supposed to be a farmer from Tennessee.
Chatter: How many costumes did you and your team have to create and how much time did you have?
Jane: I was nine weeks old. First, I did a lot of research. I designed all the costumes for the main cast, and then there was the design for the immigrants on the runway – as well as the Native Americans, townspeople, bandits and Civil War soldiers – most of which we built from zero. Each main cast character had multiple outfits — anywhere from two to eight — so the costumes numbered in the hundreds. Then if you count every accessory – like hats, shoes, beanies, shawls, fans or jewelry – it was well over a million pieces.
We had four costume trailers throughout filming. Each was about 62 feet long, and each was equipped with hanging racks for clothes, 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 the costumes is important in “1883” because almost everything is depicted in shades of brown and beige: the men’s costumes; covered wagons; the landscape. In what ways have you used color to emphasize a theme?
Jane: that’s why [character Elsa Dutton’s] light blue travel dress was so important because it really stands out – it tells the story. Elsa’s yellow leggings, made for her by the Comanches, can’t be seen anywhere else [in the show] as they were specific to the Comanche tribes of the 1880s. All beadwork is specific to this tribe.
I saw [Faith Hill’s character] Margaret Dutton in dusty pink and brown. In Fort Worth, Texas, I had women dressed in red because it foreshadowed death and blood.
Chatter: How did you research the different Native American tribes encountered by the pioneers as they crossed the plains?
Jane: I worked with consultants and chiefs from each tribe. It was an amazing journey of learning about Native Americans. What we learn in school is not the truth. Working with Native Americans and listening to their stories, you cannot imagine what they went through. For example, the Comanches were true warriors and traded in bison. So to eliminate the Comanches, the whites decided to kill buffaloes so they could starve the Comanches. Working with Native Americans and learning from them about their artistry and connection to nature – I have such respect for them.
Elsa’s cardigan and leggings [given to her in the show by the Comanche] were the most difficult costumes to make. On the vest there are beads of horseshoes, which means the way back. The Comanche water bird symbolizes strong healing power. I made it in a two-tone red and yellow because red means blood and blue and yellow [are part of] Elsa’s color palette. The elk teeth on a Comanche vest means wealth…so I made elk teeth on the shoulders and back out of metal because at that time the Comanches worked and traded metals .
I loved the Crow tribe. They are the tribe of opulence. The men have these fabulous mohawks, and they use a lot of ermine and have painted a lot,
Chatter: What was it like dressing country music royalty Tim McGraw and Faith Hill?
Jane: Faith nicknamed me “Tabasco”; she thought i was spicy. Faith sang in some of our fittings. Tim sang “You Say It’s Your Birthday” by The Beatles to me on my birthday. I will never forget that! They are both great people. They are very grounded, down to earth with an amazing family life that they have built.
Chatter: A New York Times article compared you to a modern Edith Head, an eight-time Oscar winner for costume design in Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Jane: I would love all the Oscars! But seriously, I really like my job. I like the people I work with. If I didn’t like my team, I wouldn’t want to go to work every day. From the outside, people think, “Oh, the rewards! The accolades! It means a lot, but it’s the icing on the cake of 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.” Did he talk to you about creating clothes for “1932?”
Jane: Yes. We’ll see what happens.
Where have you seen Janie Bryant designs
> Deadwood: The Movie (2019)
> The Romanovs (2018)
> It (2017)
> The Last Tycoon (2016-2017)
> Crazy (2007-2015)
> Telenovela (2015)
> The last house on the left (2009)
> Deadwood (2004-2006)