'Mad Men' Costume Designer Janie Bryant Addresses the Sharon Tate T-Shirt Conspiracy Theory
Sometimes a T-shirt is just... a T-shirt.
Looking for clues revealing potential plot twists has become a pastime for TV watchers who can't get enough of their favorite dramas — something "Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant knows all too well. Last season, a T-shirt she outfitted Jessica Paré's Megan in, which was identical to one Sharon Tate wore in 1967, led to an online conspiracy theory that Don Draper's actress wife was about to meet her demise.
"It wasn't about Sharon Tate," Bryant, who oversees all of "Mad Men's" fab fashions, told Yahoo TV when we caught up with her in New York City. "It was about Megan just being political. That T-shirt [features] the Vietnam star, and in past shows you know Megan has made reference to not really supporting the Vietnam war."
Bryant said showrunner Matthew Weiner had asked her to come up with "something political" for the brunette to wear during Season 6's "The Better Half" episode. In doing research, she knew T-shirts weren't as popular as they are today — the patented silk-screening we are familiar with started around 1969, a year later then when the show was set — so she was on the hunt for something true to the times.
"I wanted to make sure that if Megan was going to wear a T-shirt, it had to be something authentic and a piece that was actually worn [during that era]," said Bryant. "I came across a 1967 Esquire — Sharon Tate was in that magazine photographed in the Vietnam star T-shirt — so I took that photograph to Matthew and was like, 'This would look amazing.' He was like, 'This is perfect. Let's do it.' I made it and she wore it."
Then... the Internet blew up. With a theory comparing Megan to the murdered pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski (in other episodes, Megan and Don went to see "Rosemary's Baby" and Sally was seen reading the book, adding fuel to the fire), a tweet Bryant posted made the conspiracy grow larger.
"One of my Twitter followers wrote to me and said, 'My father was the photographer of that photo shoot. Was that your inspiration?' And I just wrote back, 'Yes, it was my inspiration' — because it was. I wasn't trying to be cagey about it and the episode already aired." However, "There was no other bigger story behind it, but it turned into this whole [to-do]."