Is it any surprise AMC's "Mad Men" has sparked a hunger for 1960s sheaths and suits, with fans across the country creating sleek avatars of themselves from MadMenYourself.com?
From runways to mass retail and the virtual world, the show set in early '60s New York, which premieres its third season Sunday, has put pencil skirts and skinny ties back in full rotation.
"I always describe 'Mad Men' as the American, iconic style, because I think those silhouettes are still viable today," said the show's costume designer, Janie Bryant, at the recent Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising's party for its fourth annual exhibit, "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design."
The exhibit includes costumes from several shows and TV movies nominated for the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, which air Sept. 20 on CBS.
"Mad Men," HBO's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," set in Botswana with its zingy, graphic prints, and "Grey Gardens," which shows off '50s cocktail dresses and floor-length red velvet, are among the nominees considered to have an impact on broader fashion trends
"People still have those silhouettes they did in the early 1960s, with the sheath, the shift, pencil skirts. It's a timeless period," Bryant said.
The Cleveland, Tenn., native, who has been designing professionally for 18 years and with "Mad Men" since its second episode, said she's seen the show's influence everywhere, from collections for Old Navy and Liz Claiborne to couture's Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino.
Banana Republic even paired up with AMC to market the show in more than 400 stores throughout the United States and Canada for three weeks leading up to this season's premiere, and launched a casting call contest for a walk-on part.
A collection based on the show includes a smooth, gray pencil skirt and printed tie blouse modeled after Christina Hendricks' curvy, head-turning head secretary Joan Halloway, and a slim, belted sheath, modeled after secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss).
A plaid fedora, striped tie and dark suit is based on the show's main character Don Draper — the creative director of advertising agency Sterling Cooper — played by Jon Hamm.
"It's a good look to imitate. Beautiful lines, both for men and women," said John Slattery, who snagged a best supporting actor Emmy nod for his role as agency partner Roger Sterling. "Every suit I wear on that show, I want to take home with me."
Inspiration for the show's costumes, Bryant said, comes from thorough research, from old photographs to memories of her mother and grandmother being well-dressed hostesses. And Bryant borrows a few tricks from the classic Valentino clothes that she so admires.
"He's such a beautiful designer. It's all about the fit," said Bryant. "That is the big thing with me, and 'Mad Men.' The same with every show. The fit is the thing that tells the story of every character, whether it is slouchy, big, voluminous, to completely tailored."
Foundation garments such as bras, girdles, stockings and slips are worn by the female characters.
This season, with the show pushed forward into 1963 and Don's picture-perfect housewife Betty pregnant, played by January Jones, the characters' costumes are starting to change.
While hemlines stay the same, Betty's full, ladylike hostess skirts start to slim down.
"Her silhouette in some of the episodes is more sleek, more grown-up in a way, reflecting her experiences," said Bryant, adding that polyester blends and non-wrinkle fabrics come into play, plus flocked satin.
Peggy starts dressing a bit more seriously, in more skirt suits, but still in her standard plaids, per her new professional status at Sterling Cooper.
"I always maintain that modest schoolgirl theme for her. She's gotten a raise, she has her office," Bryant said. "We'll see some evolutions in her costumes. She has her promotion, she's with those guys."
Joan, known for a snug red dress, is described cheekily by Bryant as "a tube of lipstick from the front and a heart from the back," and continues to flaunt her hourglass shape.
"I think Joan is a person who found the style in which she feels comfortable and she will wear that style for the rest of her life," said Bryant. "She is a character that really loves to present herself in a way that she knows what her assets are."
According to hair department head Lucia Mace, who snagged an Emmy in hairstyling last year for the show, the men don't wear longer hair or sideburns yet, but use softer products and less gel.
Don's wardrobe is darker than before, said Bryant, a sign of his tortured disposition, but otherwise the palette is sunny and bright, matching the trend of the day. "I think there is more color overall," said Bryant. "Just more of the bright colors of the period. I think we'll see more of that, the pinks, the greens and the yellows."
Bright, colorful prints make "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" another nominee that is influencing real-world style.
Costume designer Jo Katsaras celebrates layering, texture and shapes on the show, based on the novels by Alexander McCall Smith about Precious Ramotswe, who opens Botswana's first female-owned detective agency.
Full-figured Precious, played by singer Jill Scott, wears dangly, bold earrings and bell-sleeved dresses with fitted waists in vibrant mixtures of blue, green and other shades.
"People tend to put big women in stuff that's not fitted, and I think it's sexy, it's beautiful, to show off those curves," said Katsaras, born in Cypress and raised in South Africa. "The African women, in Africa, definitely do that. They show their size, which is great, beautiful, strong."
Katsaras said she would receive up to 30 e-mails a day when the show debuted last year from women asking about the clothes. The enormous response prompted her to work on starting an online store with a group of designers in Africa.
"From all over America, and across the board, from different ethnic races, women contacted me. I've been overwhelmed, and quite touched by it, that the clothes have somehow touch so many different people's lives," she said.