Janie Bryant knows legs. The Hollywood costume designer, recognized for her work on hit TV shows such as “Mad Men” and “Deadwood,” has put hosiery on characters ranging from Victorian widows to starlets of the swinging 1960s. Legwear is also in the designer’s genes. Both Bryant’s father and maternal grandfather ran textile mills that focused on socks and yarns.
“I have a true passion for legs,” said the Emmy Award winner. “They are a statement, and you can build a whole outfit around legwear.”
It’s only natural that the designer’s next career move is an eponymous hosiery label. Janie Bryant Leg Couture, launching for fall ’14, combines her penchant for gams, love of all things vintage and quest for the perfect pair of tights.
“Leg Couture is for the modern woman, even though [the line includes] some vintage-inspired styles like the seam-back stay-up and the sun-kissed stay-up,” the designer said. Each pair retails for $18 to $35, and the line is targeted to major retailers such as Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Dillard’s. “I wanted to fill the place in the market for women to be able to buy legwear that is beautifully designed with amazing details, but also at an amazing price. It’s definitely about affordable luxury,” Bryant added.
It’s also about sex appeal. Although the tights, primarily in black and nude, are classic styles, details such as lace bands on thighs and a lookbook shot with a boudoir vibe hint at a more provocative side. Modern technology such as Lycra’s Living Lights fabric blends with fashion-focused looks on stockings ranging from crochet to opaque.
Up next, the designer, who is in her seventh and final year creating costumes for “Mad Men,” aims to expand Janie Bryant Leg Couture, as well as move into shapewear and lingerie. “I like to create that amazing look with what you’re wearing underneath your clothes,” she said. But she also dreams of adding an entirely different element to her label — a menswear apparel line.
And Bryant has never shied away from a challenge. She designed and sewed her first dress when she was 8 years old and dove into the film industry nine months after starting her career in fashion. “I just loved the idea of costume design,” Bryant said. “It was about clothing and design but also about the psychology and intention of creating a character through [wardrobe].”
After graduating from college, Janie Bryant did freelance costume design for movies and commercials. She soon got a big break, creating looks for the series “Big Apple,” followed by “Deadwood,” for which she won an Emmy Award in 2005. Bryant joined “Mad Men” in 2007 and has since collaborated with Banana Republic and Maidenform.
Classic films bring a hint of old-school style to the modern Janie Bryant Leg Couture line. “My mother loved old movies and got us into the tradition of watching them at home and going to the theater,” Bryant said. “If I had to pick one [favorite], it would be ‘Gone with the Wind.’ That film teaches you all the lessons of life that you ever need to know.”
Bryant’s hosiery has yet to hit retail, but label is already amassing a celebrity following, thanks to the designer’s Hollywood connections. “I can’t wait to wear the Janie Bryant Leg Couture tights,” said Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan on “Mad Men.” “Janie is such an amazing designer and really knows how to fit a woman’s body to flatter all shapes.”