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Mad Men Costume Design and Clever Uniforms

Many years ago, our MD Debbie Leon made a bold move: after a successful career in costume design for film and TV, she decided to apply those skills to creating hotel uniforms – and as a result Fashionizer came into being.

So it’s fascinating for us to see that the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC has chosen a costume designer to create its uniforms as part of a multi-million dollar refurbishment. Janie Bryant has an impressive pedigree in designing costumes for TV, notably for Mad Men, the US series set in a 1960s advertising agency, and for which she has been critically acclaimed for her beautifully spot-on interpretation of fashion at that time.

For us the meeting of costume design and uniform design is a recipe for a very happy marriage. “In film or TV, the director is the person with the vision. It is the job of the costume designers to interpret that vision,“ says our very own Debbie. “The producer is the person who makes the programme or movie work – they have a keen eye on the finances – so they have to be satisfied too. It’s exactly the same with hotels: the uniforms need to accentuate the identity of the hotel, but at the same time they have to stay within budget. It is an integral part of our philosophy.”

Janie Bryant is of a like mind: “I have designed everything from airline to hotel and restaurant uniforms in my television work, helping to tell the story through costume, so this project was a natural fit.”

Detail is an essential part of that story. Take the clothes on Mad Men. The series progresses through the 1960s, and the costumes have to be true to the era – and that means everything from underwear outwards. So in the first series, the signs of the 50s are still there: nipped in waists, big skirts, pointy bras (whoever thought that was a flattering look?). Pencil skirts then start to creep in and by the final series, skirts have risen dramatically to the buttock-skimming, free and easy styles of the late 60s.

It’s somewhat timely, therefore that Janie’s involvement in the Watergate Hotel takes her seamlessly into the 1970s. The Watergate complex, of which the hotel is part, is iconic for its role in what became known as the Watergate scandal that ultimately brought down the then President of the United States, Richard Nixon in 1974. As political scandals go, it was a blinder: there were burglaries, bugging of conversations, cover-ups and all manner of dirty tricks. But the Watergate complex, was also (and still is) a place where the rich, glamorous and powerful met and lived, and it’s that sense of elegance and prestige that Janie will be recreating. We have trodden this path ourselves for the past 20 years: check out Fashionizer’s portfolio page

The Watergate Hotel is scheduled to open this summer. We can’t wait to see it.

 

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