Award-winning Hollywood costume designer Janie Bryant returned to her hometown to speak with theater and film students about her journey in the business of costume design.
Bryant has designed costumes for TV and film hits like “Mad Men,” “Deadwood” and “It,” but she said she found her start in her childhood playroom.
Bryant began designing and sewing clothes at six years old when she made outfits for her dolls. At eight years old, Bryant made her first dress for herself and wore it to her third grade classroom. She said no one in her class believed she sewed it all on her own.
Bryant originally pursued a fashion career, not realizing jobs solely for costume design existed. She graduated from a design school and spent time living in Paris and New York.
While in New York, she went to film sets and met many people in the industry. One night, while at a Christmas party, she talked with a costume designer for two hours and felt immediately inspired.
“I woke up the next morning and was like, ‘I want to be a costume designer,’” said Bryant. “I started making a lot of phone calls to everyone I knew in the film business and everyone that they told me to call that I didn’t know. I started networking and got a job on a film in the costume department as the assistant costume designer.”
Bryant said her favorite show to design for was “Mad Men,” which ran from 2007 to 2015. Bryant credits this job with her current success.
“I designed the show for eight years, and we just became such a family. I still have a lot of close friends from designing that show,” said Bryant. “It was really the show that changed my career. Mad Men was such a creative journey for such a long time.”
Recently, Bryant designed for the 2017 movie “It.” She said the Pennywise costume was one of her favorites to design because it came with numerous mixed reactions from fans.
“I loved that [the costume] caused such a stir,” said Bryant. “It was the first time that I had ever gotten hate tweets and hate mail on Facebook. It was really interesting because there is a huge following of the original 'It' that came out in 1990 and Tim Curry played Pennywise. The fans were really upset about my Pennywise design.”
Lee University alumna Khristina Scoggins is a costume designer at Lee’s costume workshop. She specializes in costume construction, alterations and pattern drafting. In this role, Scoggins also mentors students who are designing for productions.
Scoggins explained that a lot of work goes into the design process before the sewing even begins.
“As a designer, I read the script several times, research the time period and place the play is set in, develop a design concept and present my designs to the production team,” said Scoggins. “I work with the director to make sure my designs also translate [or] fit his or her vision for the show through costume.”
Junior theater major Sonad James is one of the students who works with Scoggins as an actor and aspiring costumer designer. He recently designed for the production of “This Random World.”
“I love the idea of using costumes and color to bring the underlying themes of the story to the surface while also making sure each piece accurately reflects the director’s vision for each individual character,” said James. “I love the challenge of designing little details in the costumes that you’ll only pick up on if you pay close attention.”
For designers like James and Scoggins, Bryant encourages them to stay the course and never give up on their dreams of being designers.
“Focus on what you want and not what you don’t,” Bryant said.
For additional information about Janie Bryant, visit her website. To keep up with Bryant, follow her on Instagram @JanieBryant.