From ModCloth to Mad Men: A Costume PA’s Story

Each Monday morning, offices across America are buzzing about what happened on Sunday night’s Mad Men episode.  At ModCloth, our discussions usually turn to our favorite fashions and home decor. So when we learned that one of our former models, Hannah Jacobs, works in the Emmy-winning drama’s costume department, we just had to reconnect.

Hannah was one of ModCloth’s first models. She was a Costume Design major at Carnegie Mellon University before graduating and becoming a Costume Production Assistant in LA, her hometown. Here’s what she had to say about costume design and the fashions of Mad Men.

-Hannah was interviewed by ModCloth Writer, Crystal Smith.

Hannah posing at one of ModCloth’s earliest photo shoots.

The Show:

MC: We heard that Mad Men is meticulous with their costume design. Can you tell us about that?

Hannah: Attention to detail is extremely important in the world of Mad Men. As with many period shows, there is a lot of energy spent in researching the time period to really understand what people actually wore.  Since the fit of the clothes is especially important in our period, every single character, both principals and background, have individual fittings and each piece is tailored to fit perfectly!

MC: What is the process of creating the looks for Mad Men?

Hannah: Costume Design is really storytelling through creating characters.  It begins with a good script and concept, then with a lot of research and character development, we begin pulling closets for the characters. Then it’s lots of fittings, alterations, and final accessorizing! There are also meetings with the producer, director, and other designers to collaborate and create the world of Mad Men.

MC: Tell us about AMC’s costume vault.

Hannah: I’m not sure what AMC has as a part of its personal collection, but our offices are like a gigantic closet! The clothing for Mad Men comes from a mix of costume houses, vintage stores, and original designs by Janie Bryant. It’s still our office, but it is certainly a fun place to work, especially with new beautiful items coming in every day.

MC: Which character has the best style?

Hannah: I love all of the women of Mad Men, but I think I’d have to go with Joan. She has such control of the office and it really comes through in her bold, tight-fitting outfits! I think every woman can see a little of themselves in each different kind of woman portrayed on the show.

Joan Holloway (played by Christina Hendricks): Photo Copyright of AMC

The Career:

MC: When did you know that you wanted to be a costume designer?

Hannah: Ever since I was a little girl I loved playing dress-up! Living in Los Angeles, I grew up in the entertainment industry. So when I met designer Deborah Scott and more about what exactly it was to be a costume designer, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I always had a love for fashion as well as storytelling, so costume design was a perfect match for me!

MC: How did you prepare for this career?

Hannah: I was extremely lucky to have Deborah Scott, Academy-Award-winning costume designer for Titanic, as my mentor throughout high school. Once I had decided I wanted to pursue a career in Costume Design, she recommended Carnegie Mellon, knowing that many talented designers in the field were alumni. So when I was accepted, it was the obvious decision.

MC: What exactly does a Costume PA do?

Hannah: Anything and everything! It is basically an assistant job and is absolutely not glamorous. Days are spent running a lot of errands and making sure that nothing falls through the cracks, but it is a great opportunity to learn from others.

MC: How did you break into the TV/Film Costume Design Industry?

Hannah: My first job in the industry was a Costume Intern on HBO’s Deadwood. The Costume Designer, Janie Bryant, took me under her wing and I have been working with her since!

MC: What other shows/movies have you worked on?


Film: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Smart People, Dragonball, The Hills Have Eyes 2, and Timber Falls.

TV: Mad Men, Ugly Betty, Bones, and Deadwood.

Music Videos: Huecco’s Mirando al Cielo (I was the Costume Designer for this video).

MC: What are some Hollywood job perks?

Hannah: It’s always hard to answer this question. Traveling is definitely one of my favorite perks. While working on Prince Caspian, living in Prague and Slovenia, I definitely had days where I’d have to pinch myself to remind me that the beautiful location where we were shooting was actually my ‘office’ for the day. Then on Ugly Betty, the closets of each character were every girl’s dream…the shoe wall, the accessory aisle, aisle after aisle of designer clothes! I think the most exciting perk is that every project is completely different from the next, and every day is a new adventure!

The women of Mad Men: Betty Draper (January Jones),  Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss): Photo copyright of AMC

The Vintage Fashion:

MC: How has working on Mad Men affected your personal style?

Hannah: I have always loved vintage clothing, so working on a show set in the 60s has re-inspired me to integrate modern and vintage pieces into my own personal style. I am a huge fan of the pencil skirt right now, thanks to all of our secretaries!

MC: Is the vintage fashion scene different in LA?

Hannah: I’m not sure if it is necessarily different from other cities, but fashion is definitely a huge part of LA. Since LA is such a big city, we have plenty of stores to choose from. Some of my favorite vintage stores are Playclothes, Jet Rag, and Aardvarks. I think the best way to use vintage fashion is to mix it with modern pieces to create our own one-of-a-kind look.

Thanks Hannah, we couldn’t agree more!

If you’re feeling inspired to create your own Mad Men-era ensemble, start with these vintage-inspired pieces:

Holloway Dress in Black or Brown (named after Joan!) with Belvederes Black Party Pumps.

Apricot Dress with Playmaker Heels.

or even a simple pencil skirt like the Polka Dot Dancing Skirt.

Update: Check out these items, currently in stock!

To get Joan’s look, we suggest The South Pacific Dress

To capture Peggy’s more sweet and simple style, try The Gibson Girl Blouse with The Draper Skirt

Or, try adding some equestrian inspiration to your ensemble with  The Draper Equestrian Hat, the Of Course, Of Course Necklace, and the amazing Cotswolds Boots to make Betty proud!

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  1. Avatar
    Sari 09/30/2008 at 6:16 pm #

    This is great!

  2. Avatar
    Alexa 10/01/2008 at 5:46 pm #

    Oh man, I can’t get enough of Mad Men fashion! That show continues to blow my mind. I love Joan!

  3. Avatar
    Sara 10/02/2008 at 11:28 pm #

    Good interview; that is an awesome job!

  4. Avatar
    Dan 08/17/2009 at 12:29 pm #

    Fantastic, I <3 Mad Men

  5. Avatar
    Monica 08/17/2009 at 12:41 pm #

    I love Mod cloth and I love Mad Men.

  6. Avatar
    Registry Cleaner 06/11/2010 at 2:33 pm #

    These are great articles, I really appriciate your work.

  7. Avatar
    Bernie @ Ranger Costume 09/19/2010 at 9:08 pm #

    What fun! Mad Men are the best 🙂


  1. ModLife » Blog Archive » Top Ten TV Shows With Style - 04/21/2009

    […] Men. Sure, we’re a little biased since former ModCloth model, Hannah, works on the set, but we think the gorgeous and precise costuming of this compelling A&E series makes it a […]

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