‘1883’ Costume Designer Janie Bryant Explains Her ‘Most Important Goal’

by Suzanne Halliburton
Greg Doherty/Getty Images for Wynn Las Vegas

Janie Bryant, the Emmy-award-winning costume designer for 1883, viewed her latest project a bit differently than some of her other work.

She needed to come up with the costumes for the likes of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Sam Elliott. Plus, there were a host of other actors who represented European immigrants in the cast. They all were moving west from Texas, 140 years ago.

Austerity comes to mind.

“My most important goal in creating costume design is to be authentic,” Bryant said in an interview posted on the 1883 Instagram account. “People across the trail can not be bogged down with so many items, which I love because I think that’s truly authentic for the period.”

Bryant was a small part of the video, which 1883 captioned: “It’s the American dream with all its beauty and ugliness.”

1883 Costume Designer Made Custom Looks for Immigrants Headed West

So this specific part of the 1883 story was about those German, Polish and Croatian immigrants who decided to join the Duttons and head West.

“Janie really did her research to really study each culture to really piece together to be custom made,” said Amanda Jarros, Alina on 1883. “So it really was impressive.”

Marc Rissman, who portrayed Josef, said: “this costume has already done a lot already … nature will do its thing to it.”

Bryant is familiar with period pieces. She worked on Mad Men from 2007-2015, making styles from the 1960s oh, so-coveted again. And she won an Emmy for costume design for Deadwood, which was set in South Dakota in the 1870s. So she does western wear, very well.

Bryant and Her Team Threw Dirt At Actors to Make Costumes Even Grittier

Bryant told the Hollywood Reporter that she was on the set of 1883 on the second day of shooting. The job was tougher than she initially thought. She explains why:

“It was all hands on deck,” Bryand said. “And we were throwing fake dirt on the actors because I was like, ‘It has to be dirtier. … We were already up to our elbows in fake dirt and distressing the material. And I turned to my team and said, ‘I didn’t think that I was ever going to be back here again. But here we are.’”

Did we mention the authenticity? Think of the type clothing people wore more than a century ago. Remember what kind of materials people used in making the clothes.

“The actresses are all in corsets,” Bryant said, “riding horses or driving wagons. And the men are all in wool with the heat and the elements. And you can really feel how taxing it was. Think about a 100-degree weather and wearing a camisole, corset, bloomers, bustle pad, petticoat and then putting a costume on top of that. I applaud them for being for going with it.

“My costume team had gotten some ice packs and other things to try to ease the pain. Sam Elliott was like, ‘I don’t need it. I want to be hot.’ They really embraced what it would be like to live in 1883.”