Mad Style: A Little Kiss, Part 2
Part 1 here.
There’s a lot of signalling here that says “British” even if it’s not obvious. Lane has always had a distinctive style that set him apart from the other partners and subtly reinforced a European vibe in opposition their entirely American ways of dressing. Tweed vests, pocket squares and double-breasted jackets have been his mainstays since he arrived at SC. He appears to have ditched the double-breasted jacket for now, but you can’t take Lane Pryce’s tweed waistcoat away from him.
As for Rebecca, we’re struck by how old-fashioned she appears here, especially since she did alright for herself at Don’s birthday party. But that hair, dress, and long double strand of pearls all say old-fashioned in this context. Or perhaps “Old World” would be more appropriate.
How to tell a story in color. If we showed these pictures to someone who hadn’t seen the scene and asked them, “Which of these characters doesn’t belong in this setting?” All eyes would go towards Joan’s mom. Even Paolo the plumber is tied into the surroundings better than she is and Paolo and Joan’s outfits match.
Only in the late’60s and ’70s could someone come up with a color combination of yellow, orange, grey and brown for a blouse. Like we said last time, costume designer Janie Bryant wisely avoided cliche with Joan’s mother, but look at how much costume jewelry she’s wearing with what’s essentially a housekeeping outfit. We wonder if she put all that on for Paolo’s benefit or if she just wears a lot of jewelry no matter what. Joan looks utterly adorable in her maternity top. We’re actually a little surprised at how cute she looks in it because you’d think her boobs would make any loose top look like a tent on her. We’ve said this before about maternity clothes of the period, but they were rarely anything approaching stylish and since it was so common for women to trade maternity clothes back and forth with friends and family members, you’d quite often see a pregnant woman wearing something like this, in a plaid which is clearly several years out of style. It reminds us of Betty’s plaid shirtwaist dresses of five and six years ago.
We just wanted to feature a shot of Harry’s office because we were always struck by how different it is from everyone else’s. Antiques and “early Americana” were quite popular with upwardly mobile couples of the period. We imagine that Harry’s wife decorated this office top to bottom from weekend “antiquing” trips in New England.
For all his attempts to be suave and hip, at the end of the day, Harry dresses like a dork. Note how sloppy the men look this season and picture the men of Sterling Cooper from 5 years before. They used to be impeccable and now they’re wrinkled and mismatched.
Those short-sleeved dress shirts never really did come back, did they? It’s an awful look.
We can’t underestimate how important Megan’s clothes are in the office and how much they set her apart from every other woman. She tends to wear outfits that demand attention.
Check out the rest of the women in the office in comparison.
Caroline isn’t stylishly dressed, but she’s married and an executive secretary, so it stands to reason she has a little more money to spend on clothes than the average gal in the pool. This doesn’t look chic, but it doesn’t look cheap either.
She never fails to make us laugh. The actress has flawless delivery and timing. She’s no Ida Blankenship, but she is a lot of fun. What she did last season with a line like “I do use Pond’s cold cream. I do.” was genius.
As unbelievable as Joan looks in this dress, there was something just a little sad about the whole thing. The costumes tell the story of what Joan’s feeling: everyone at SCDP has moved on and left her behind. Look at the vast differences between her outfit and Meredith’s. Like we said in the previous installment, the secretarial clothes are getting lighter and looser. Meredith looks young and fresh and Joan, as gorgeous as she is, comes off looking like her mother in comparison.
It’s notable (and brilliant on Janie Bryant’s part) that this dress doesn’t quite fit Joan as well as it should. She’s not exactly busting out of it, but you can tell she really had to work to get into it. Chances are she’s not wearing her normal pre-pregnancy foundation garments. It’s also notable just how hard she’s trying here. Joan never shows cleavage in the office. Ever. And the beading on the sleeves indicates that this really isn’t a work outfit at all. It’s a cocktail dress. She’s using the skills she’s always used in her career.
Note how all the women are in pale colors in order to make Joan stand out like a bolt of lightning.
All except one, that is:
Megan walks into the scene and suddenly Joan has to share the color spotlight; two pinks clashing. There were some hints dropped this episode and we don’t like to make too many predictions because you never know where things are going to go, but we’ll say this and let you make up your minds:
- Don walks up to Joan and loudly announces how buxom and beautiful she is to the office.
- Joan’s mother says of Megan, “Do you think that woman wants you around her husband?”
- Joan says to Lane of Don, “I can’t imagine how handsome that man must be when he blushes.”
Joan and Don have never expressed that kind of attraction to each other. Sure, Joan briefly wondered to Peggy a long time ago why Don never hit on her, but that was mostly the extent of it. Now we’ve got them both mentioning their attraction to the other and Joan and Megan are set up in a scene with these clashing pinks. No predictions, but it sure jumped out at us.
And then there’s Peggy, dressed like no other woman in the office. Janie Bryant said she chose this outfit because it represents a practicality on Peggy’s part. These clothes are easy to work in and slightly mimic menswear.
We want a turquoise desk with a white top and yellow chair now.
Like we said: using what she’s got, like she always has. Even we couldn’t take our eyes off her breasts when she started crying. They looked like they were going to pop out of that dress and fly around the room like popped balloons.
Honestly, we think the only purpose this housecoat served was as a contrast to what was underneath it. That thing sure is ugly.
We think some Mad Men fans are going to have a hard time of it going forward because while the mid-Century styles that defined the first couple seasons of the show are today considered classic, a lot of what was worn in the late ’60s and ’70s was just flat-out ugly to modern eyes.
Even though she’s Canadian, Megan represents a continental international style very much in vogue during this period, much in the same way that Lane has stood in for the British invasion. Matthew Weiner has repeatedly said that he looks at her as if she were a French film star of the period. We mention this now because no woman on the show ever wore a bra and panties that looked like that. Until now, it’s been the standard girdles, bullet bras, and architectural foundation garments that defined post-war women’s fashion. Changes in manufacturing, materials and social norms allowed woman to break free of their undergarments and Megan’s signalling that change. She’s simpler and freer than pretty much every other woman on the show at this point.
She really is giving Betty Draper a run for her money in the “Looks like a cover girl” sweepstakes, isn’t she? We can’t wait for those two to have a scene together. We’re sure their first meeting has already occurred but we’re dying to see how jealous Betty must be. She was really threatened by Bethany Van Nuys last season but that’s because she was a younger version of Betty. Megan must look like a zoo animal to her in comparison.
Anyway, this fabulous outfit – like all the fabulous outfits she wears to the office – signals her money and her power. This kind of stuff contributes to the rest of the staff resenting her and it’s not a particularly bright move on her part. When she and Peggy were having their tiff, we were struck by how difficult it must be for Peggy to act like a supervisor to someone who’s dressed so much better than she is.
And finally, a change is gonna come.
VERY wisely, Janie didn’t do anything cute with the clothes here. These are standard working class woman clothes of the period, not much different than you’d see on Peggy just a couple of years ago (or on her sister or mother). Some of the younger ones are wearing current, stylish clothes (love that hat), but the rest of them are wearing their sturdy go-to’s. That’s exactly as it should be. A lesser costumer might have tried to make a point somehow but Janie’s way is better: the point is, there IS no difference between these women and other working class women of the period. Chances are, these women, like most secretarial candidates on this level, are educated and have a fair amount of work experience but many of them haven’t had the kinds of jobs that allow them to dress in expensive clothes or up-to-the-second styles.
We would love to hear from any black women in the commentariat about the hair here. We wouldn’t try to pass ourselves off as experts on the subject, but that looks like a pretty accurate representation of African-American women’s hair in the ’60s.