Interview Janie Bryant from MAD MEN - RAGO products

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For "Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant, undergarments have almost become an obsession.

That's because "without the foundation garments, it's not going to happen."

The "it" is the look. That perfect silhouette of the hourglass figure -- a curvy, nipped-in waist, body-hugging skirts and perfectly shaped breasts underneath clothes with an impeccably smooth fit -- never a bra or panty line in sight, no sloppy fashion, no "muffin-top" bellies hanging out.

The undergarments of that early-'60s era were true foundation garments, meant to shape and lift.

Finding such pieces capable of doing so these days has proved to be a challenge for Bryant, who sings the praises of Rago Shapewear, the only company in the United States that still makes the girdles and long-line bras of that era.

Rago Shapewear President Justin Chernoff says the appeal of these garments is simple: "They just work."

The 65-year-old company has patented various sewing techniques and ensures quality control -- everything is made in its factories in the United States.

His advice for consumers: Buy the right size. The biggest mistake women make, he explains, is choosing the wrong-size garment.

He recommends measuring before buying and selecting garments that feel as if they are firmly "hugging" you and holding you in.

Bryant says the "hugging" feeling left many actresses unsettled as they got used to the constricting garments. Everything changed: their posture, their walk -- even their breathing.

"At first, when we put the girdles on them, it was, 'How am I going to work?' Now, it's 'This girdle is not tight enough,' " she says.

But she insisted that the actresses wear such clothes and undergarments so they could experience the time frame they were portraying.

Bryant wanted each character to have a "signature shape" and credited cutter/fitter Joanna Bradley for creating a basic pattern for all of the principals' bodies.

Bryant is excited by this work. "For the younger generation, they get to see something new. Some have asked, 'Well, what do I do with it?' "
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