Mad Style: Far Away Places

Posted on April 25, 2012

Let’s go on a trip, shall we?

Before we get into the weeds of it all, we want to point out something that’s not strictly style-related, but since we’re all about the visual motifs here, it’s worth noting. Three parallel, overlapping stories were told this episode. Those stories were bridged through the writing, but there were also some visual cues that occurred in story order, linking each tale.

The episode opened with Peggy in her slip, embroidered with yellow roses:

And then continues with Roger’s story, where a yellow rose figured prominently in the tripping scenes with Jane.  She clutched it through almost all the LSD scenes and the bed was strewn with yellow petals the next morning.

Somewhat more obviously, Roger’s story provided a visual bridge into Don’s as he and Jane wound up on the floor, staring at the ceiling and quietly ending their relationship:

And a few hours later, Don and Megan wound up in the same position – MUCH less quietly – as they came to the realization that their relationship isn’t nearly where either of them wants it to be.

Okay, onto the clothes.

Peggy made it abundantly clear in the opening scene in her bedroom that she was stressed out over the Heinz pitch and that it meant a lot to her. It’s not at all surprising, then, that she’s wearing what looks to us like the most expensive outfit she’s worn all season. It’s definitely her “impress the client” getup, because on days where she doesn’t have to meet with them, she’s usually dressed in far less fussy clothes than these. Tones of mustard or golden yellow have been her signature “career” color since season one. Check out that blue eyeshadow. She’s all dolled up, from her perfectly flipped hair to her screw-on earrings. Bobbie Barrett once told her to make her way to the top by being a woman, and she’s applying the advice here. Six years of working alongside Joan hasn’t hurt either.

But Pegs isn’t Bobbie and she sure isn’t Joan. She’s sporting a business-like black A-line skirt, which allows her to put her hands in her pockets (just like Don does) as she delivers a typical “I’m not here to tell you about Jesus” speech (just like Don does when clients get difficult). Her mentors are visible throughout just about everything she does. Unfortunately for her, no one takes kindly to a woman who acts like a man, which is exactly what Bobbie was trying to warn her about.

We only ever see it when she’s lying down, but that top has some truly unusual detailing in it, another indication that this is an expensive outfit. The shape mimics her crossed arms and increases that sense of restriction that she’s feeling.

We didn’t think there was anything notable about the menswear in this scene until we noted with a laugh that the Heinz exec is wearing a tie the color of the label and the color of baked beans. That’s company loyalty.

Not much to note about her handie, except he’s wearing the trendiest in 1966 pants for the young 20-somethings; early signaling of the hippy styles that are about to explode. Within a year, half the kids in the country (the groovier half) will either be wearing striped pants like these or asking their parents if they can get them.

What’s most notable about Michael’s clothes is that he clearly hasn’t bought many since he took the job at SCDP. The jacket, shirt and jeans (which we still maintain would not have gone unremarked-upon in 1966) are the same he wore for his job interview and have been worn in several scenes since then. Since it’s likely he’s supporting his father (or at least responsible for contributing) he probably doesn’t have much cash to spend on himself. With Peggy in her very best work outfit, the two of them never looked further apart.

Geez, where to begin with Jane’s eye-popping moneyed mod getup? Actually, let’s take a moment to point out that Roger is not wearing his signature three-piece suit here. This less-structured jacket and bright red tie are clearly for evenings and socializing.

Jane is dressing in the most chic, most modern clothing money can buy – and she spent some serious cash on it. This is the very latest in 1966 high fashion. Everything about this look is magazine-current and extremely expensive, from the diamante trim and extremely showy jewelry, to the just-about-to-become-trendy Eastern and Indian influences, like the high collar, exposed strip of belly, and harem pants, not to mention the gigantic earrings. We noted before that the huge earrings worn by the hookers and madame a couple of episodes back were pretty showy for the time and these are no less so. The difference here is that these cost a fortune. Just like Peggy did, Jane is dressing to impress here. There’s no way she did that hairdo up herself. She sat in a salon all afternoon getting that ostentatious thing pinned to her head.

And of course, stylistically (and emotionally) these two are aren’t just worlds apart; they’re galaxies apart. To be fair, they don’t look all that unusual put in the context of a wealthy second-married man and a much younger trophy wife of the period; a point which is illustrated by the costuming of the other characters.

There was an interesting visual motif of mirror and split imagery in this scene (and yes, that’s Ted Knight, who would start appearing in The Mary Tyler Moore show as Ted Baxter four years from “now”).

Which was reflected in the couple on the opposite side of Roger and Jane; a grey-haired older man in a typically Roger Sterling three-piece suit and a much younger, attractive, and glamorous woman in a trendy, glittery, expensive outfit. That these two seemed to be very much in love marks a distinct contrast to the Sterlings, however.

Jane’s therapist and her husband were pretentious as hell, but one look at the large and expensively appointed apartment, with its African and Eastern influences and artifacts (also reflected in her clothing) and you can see both why Jane wanted to impress them and why she hilariously interpreted these ethnic styles by looking to I Dream of Jeannie for inspiration.

The tension in this episode was sky high by the time it got to the Drapers’ story and that feeling was enhanced by Megan’s outfit. She wore this outfit once before, the Monday after she threw Don his surprise party, when they entered the office and walked down that hallway, tense and barely speaking or looking at each other (a moment and shot which will be replicated later in the episode).

Back in the day, Betty had her “sad marriage” coat, a striking royal blue coat that popped up over and over again in scenes dealing with her domestic disappointment. After this episode, we think we can safely call this Megan’s equivalent, although we’d be surprised if she ever wore it again, like Jackie and her famous pink dress.

This look also helps to visually raise the tension in the scene. In the loud and colorful surroundings of Howard Johnson’s she’s a buzzing, angular focal point, demanding to be noticed over the din.

And when she steps outside and you place the camera at a low angle, you get a beautifully represented visual motif of angularity and conflict, reflecting back and forth between the chevrons of her coat and the chevrons of the roof. She’s stuck here; literally and visually.

Unlike the previous time she was seen wearing this look, she is, like all the women in this episode, seriously decked out; in her case with some big pieces of jewelry and stylish sunglasses. Contrast this with how she looked in Don’s flashback, when her only official role in his life was as his secretary and part-time nanny:

Here, she’s fresh-faced, sunburned, and somewhat modestly dressed, in pieces that look sturdy, but not particularly stylish. This is notable because really, Megan never dressed this way, not even when she was his secretary. From the minute she appeared on the scene at SCDP, she was always brightly and stylishly dressed in the latest in 1964/5 styles. They weren’t as expensive as the clothes she wears as his wife, but they sure didn’t look like this. Either a mistake was made in the costuming (which is extraordinarily  unlikely) or we can take this as a visual cue that Don’s memory of her isn’t reliable. Megan was always glamorous, but he’s playing a memory of her as simpler and more maternal than she ever really was.

This whole blowup started over a cruel remark about his mother and it’s clear that on some level, he sees her as a maternal figure for himself; someone angelic and perfect to save him and to be to him what Betty and his own mother and stepmother never were:

Like so.

The irony of this Pieta-like staging becomes apparent with that flash of her child-like butterfly slip.

Because the costuming here is the most juvenile look she’s ever worn.

It was a quirk of mid- late 1960s women’s styles – and you could have a field day postulating as to why; many others already have – that they were largely infantilized; like this schoolgirl dress, sporting naive detailing like bold sash details and big buttons.  She could add some brightly colored hosiery and a pair of Mary Janes and be wearing something perfectly fashionable for an 8-year-old and a 25-year-old at the same time. That she’s standing there crying with a pink hairbrush in her hand only completes the little girl picture. Betty could often be astonishingly child-like in her marriage, but we never saw it represented so forcefully as it is here.

Making that somber post-fight walk down that hallway once again. And after wearing nothing but bold and brightly colored outfits to the office all season she’s in a more dour and serious-looking brown. Things have changed; possibly permanently.

 

[Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC –  Screencaps/Collages: tomandlorenzo.com]

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