Mad Style: Mystery Date

Posted on April 11, 2012

It’s true in every episode, but in this one, color stories really took center stage in the costuming. Walk with us.

The staging on this scene was very smart. Don’s coughing caused Megan to move away so that when Andrea entered the elevator she had no idea they were together. The two women couldn’t have been more different-looking in this scene. It’s interesting to note that Andrea’s wearing Megan’s signature color: a bright yellow.

But as in all her scenes, Andrea stands out to an almost garish extent. She looked even more garish (to the point of looking scary) in the darkness of Don’s bedroom …

…and even in a brightly lit, colorfully decorated living room. In every scene her clothes send the message loud and clear that she doesn’t belong here. The garishness of the colors also helped sell Don’s sickness and her pushiness. She’s a beautiful but slightly nauseating force of nature in every scene and she looks it.

They really are two sides of the same coin, aren’t they?

There’s not much to mention here from a style perspective, but it is downright eerie how well she channels January Jones now. That phone conversation could have had only minor changes to it to make it a perfectly representative Betty/Don exchange.

In the episode where Joan finally throws the bum out, she wears a dress deliberately meant to evoke the first time she realized he wasn’t what she bargained for:

 

Mad+Men+Mad+Style+Season+3+Episode+3+P2Nicely done, Janie Bryant. We could say that red roses represent her marriage and note how they’ve diminished in size over time.

Joan’s mom is all dressed up and you wouldn’t think so on first glance, but these two dresses are calling back to each other. Her mother’s dress is like a more abstract version of her own, with largely the same reds and greens as Joan’s dress. Janie does this a lot; tying characters to each other through costume or to their surroundings through costume. Greg stands out in this scenario, offering an overwhelming sense that he’s the odd man out in this home situation.

In our various writeups about Joan’s costumes on the show, we often mentioned how the styles of the mod late ’60s weren’t going to be particularly friendly to Joan’s very 1950s-style body. Those A-line shifts and micro-minis weren’t ever going to be Joan’s go-to’s, so we assumed she’d wind up looking less and less stylish as time went on.

That may still be true, but there’s something – or rather, someone – we forgot about. Joan’s 35 here and Marilyn’s been dead several years. We know that she took a lot of style (and even life) cues from Marilyn, but who would inspire her during this period, now that she’s getting older but no less desirable? Of course she wouldn’t look to the Twiggys and Jean Shrimptons of the world to inspire her dressing. She’s too old to be interested in the latest trends, none of which suit her. Instead, she turned once again to one of the biggest movie stars of the period for her style inspiration: Elizabeth Taylor. HOW could we not see that one coming? We’re almost ashamed.

Sure, this is lingerie and not a dress, but the low neckline, cap sleeves and criss-cross detail in the bodice, combined with the tousled shoulder-length hair, are all pure late ’60s Liz.

There’s something we hadn’t noticed until this episode: Joan is often dressed in shades of blue when she’s home. Not always, but often enough. She wore blue when she smashed that vase over his head and also when she cut her finger and he had to stitch it up. Blues seem to tie her into the surroundings, since there’s so much blue in the decor.

Michael’s dressing only slightly better. At least he’s not wearing jeans. This appears to be the only tie he owns. The pants don’t fit him at all and the jacket isn’t much better. He’s only been on staff for at most a couple weeks here, so it would definitely stand to reason that he hasn’t yet managed a new wardrobe (if indeed, he’s even the type who would ever make the attempt). We’re thinking these are borrowed clothes or clothes picked up at a Salvation Army.

We are totally digging Stan’s gold jacket and matching tie. This is a pretty youthful standard mid-sixties college grad getup. It’s not quite as respectable as Don’s standard business-wear, but it’s appropriate for his position and signals both his youth and his creative background.

This outfit bridged several scenes and several interactions. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy as to how it’s being used here except one could point out the overwhelming green-ness in a scene that was all about her shaking down a senior partner for cash. The one thing that stands out: the shoes. Those are the showiest pair we’ve ever seen her in and we can practically guarantee they’re from the footwear (“Don’t say ‘shoe.'”) company the agency just pitched. They don’t quite look like Peggy’s style and she’s showing them off like she’s not used to them. Either the client sent over samples or she took the lead and bought a pair for herself.

Note how sad and messy her little necktie is at the end of the day.

Serving up Liz Taylor realness, from tip to toe. She never looked so good before. The trendy eye-liner and blue shadow suit her perfectly. We know we’re repeating this but we just can’t believe we didn’t see this coming. We really did think Joan was going to get more matronly and less stylish as the decade went on. But OF COURSE Joan would turn to Liz as her style inspiration after being so devastated by Marilyn’s death. Liz’s personal life may have been something of a mess, but she was never the victim that Marilyn was. She took charge of her life and owned her mistakes, but never stopped pursuing the perfect love, demonstrating a sexual aggression that few women of the period would have been comfortable showing. How does that NOT sound like Joan? Liz was the very picture of womanly sexuality in her day; remaining a superstar while younger and much skinnier woman did their best to grab the spotlight.

Joan and her mother are once again tied to each other by color; a family unit in the middle of discord.

Peggy’s outfit really worked its ass off this episode. It’s almost too on-point,but as you can see, there’s blue on one side of the couch and green on the other. The couch itself? Shades of both. A visual representation of two people attempting to make a connection.

Dawn continues to wear sturdy but not showy clothes and virtually no makeup. We’re curious about that. Is her makeup played down so much for professional reasons? Like she feels she can’t draw too much attention to herself? Because we’ve seen plenty of on-the-street pictures of African-American women during this period and we couldn’t detect any cultural shyness when it comes to makeup. She still lives at home, so maybe she’s just trying to be a very good girl. Peggy didn’t wear a lot of makeup back in the day either.

Again, drawing parallels and defining relationships through the use of color. They’re not close, but they’re bonding. The clothes reflect the same; their outfits couldn’t be more different or more indicative of their ages, but sitting side by side, they send a message of unlikely (and uneasy) unity.

And of course Pauline is evoking Betty from an episode ago, right down to the Bugles box. She was trying to warn her then: Don’t become like me. Put the Bugles box down. Pauline’s a bit on the crazy side, but for all her bitchiness, she seems to have her son’s family’s best interests at heart.

Literally bringing light and color to his world. Optimism in clothing form.

We feel a little redundant saying this because it’s just so obvious: Blue, blue, blue. This household and family are represented by it and Greg’s not wearing any.

And since she wore big red roses when she was in the full bloom of love and smaller ones when that love was being challenged, it would stand to reason that once she threw him out…

..they’d shrink to almost non-existence. But at least the blackness is gone. And she’s wearing the pants.

 

[Screencaps/Collages: tomandlorenzo.com]

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