Mad Style: Signal 30

Posted on April 18, 2012

Because this episode was dominated by men in suits, it’s a little tougher to pull out any sort of inferences or meaning from the costumes. To our amusement, we found ourselves desperately scanning all the ties, looking for something to present itself. To our surprise, something did.

This episode revealed that Ken and Peggy have the office version of a suicide pact: if one of them goes, he’s taking the other with him. This brings to the forefront something that was only hinted at in previous seasons; that they have a bond and a friendship. Ken was one of the first men (besides Don and Freddie Rumsen) to see that she really did have what it takes to do a “man’s job.”

Peggy’s “power color” has always been a golden (or mustard, if you’re being less poetic about it) yellow. Not only does that yellow in her dress call back to the same shade in his tie, but if you look at the back of her chair, her coat matches his suit.

It’s interesting that Ken still wears a hat. Young men of the time had abandoned them in droves in the wake of JFK’s hatlessness. He’s young, but he’s still a somewhat conservative country boy at heart.

There’s little to be analyzed in this scene, but it provides a nice snapshot of the different styles the SCDP men trade in. Don’s suits, like Pete’s, are almost always a solid color and both men tend toward solid-colored ties. Bert’s suits are big and loose, in the manner of old men, and he never wears a neck tie; always a bow tie. Lane sports waistcoats, plaids and tweeds. Roger is always in pinstripes or grey suits and he also favors vests, which were not considered particularly stylish at the time. In Lane’s case his vest indicates his foreign-ness and in Roger’s it indicates his early middle age. We’ve said it before: Roger has probably been going to the exact same tailor to get his suits made since he was a little boy and it’s probably where his father’s suits were made as well.

Joan, of course, stands out as she always does against a backdrop of men. Here she’s in a brilliant lipstick-pink (which not only matches her lips, but her nails as well), which calls to mind the vivid pink cocktail dress she wore to visit the office a few weeks ago.

There was some subtle signaling going on regarding roles in the office this episode. Peggy’s a female copywriter wearing a yellow, grey and white dress and here’s Megan, the other female copywriter wearing a dress in the same colors, but of course much more modern, expensive and stylish than Peggy’s, as befits her secondary role as the wife of a senior partner.

They’ve padded Allison Brie’s costume to make her look a little chunkier, which is yet another way Pete’s life is slowly resembling Don’s old life, although Betty would have never allowed herself to gain weight when she was Mrs. Draper. She even dieted while pregnant, for God’s sake. Unlike Betty’s weight gain, however, we think Trudy’s minor pudge has more to do with how happy and settled she is, rather than beingindicative of some deeper unhappiness.

It’s notable that Trudy’s silhouette here isn’t the latest in 1966 styles. Shirtwaist dresses were still being worn a good ten years from this point by housewives at home, but this kind of cupcake silhouette went out of style several years before. Contrast this with the stylish Trudy and Pete who were childless and lived in a well-appointed Manhattan apartment. She got the baby and the house in the suburbs she always wanted, so things like being up on the latest fashions no longer interest her.

Note how much pattern there is in the Campbell home (this will become more obvious during the dinner party) and how Trudy herself is dressed in a wild print. This provides a sort of visual noise which is slightly unsettling, reflecting Pete’s own feelings about his home life.

And contrast that with his crush, whose clothes couldn’t be simpler. And because they’re form-fitting and there aren’t layers of crinoline or architectural foundation garments underneath (not to mention that they’re pink), there’s a sexual component at work here as well. You can’t not notice her body under the clothes and everything about them indicates her youth in contrast to the other women in the episode. She’s almost literally dewy. She’s also, because Pete and Trudy live in an upper middle class section of Connecticut, preppy and (to use a word we’d never normally use) wholesome in a way the clothes worn by the kids outside the Stones concert a couple episodes back weren’t. Those kids were outer-borough, she’s pure New England bedroom community

In the real world, people at dinner parties don’t normally show up demonstrating their vast differences through their clothing. Not in so nakedly (pun unintended) obvious a manner, that is. But in a filmed drama, it represents a perfect opportunity for a smart costumer and things were working on several levels here. The three women are dressed in vastly different styles, indicating their own differences. Trudy is the only houswife here and she’s in something traditionally feminine, floral, and slightly out of style. Cynthia still works in the city and lives in Queens, so her style is pretty much up-to-the-minute. Megan not only works in the city, she lives in it, married to the wealthiest man in the room (check that gold metallic purse), which means her clothes are up-to-the-second stylish, not to mention bolder and louder than the other women’s clothes.

Note how much the dresses tie into the surroundings, picking up the colors of the room. This subtly reinforces the idea that the home is the woman’s purview. Trudy is in charge here and even the other women (neither of whom are housewives) know that they’re supposed to run off to the kitchen while the men talk.

The men aren’t so different from each other as the women. They all work for the same company, after all. As Megan indicated earlier, they’re spending the night “in the country,” so a plaid blazer was called for, as opposed to the staid business suits these men all favor in the city. Ken and Pete are wearing typical preppy plaids, but Don’s is more stylish and bolder, befitting a wealthy city man who’s a decade older than them. Pete and Ken are also dressed in similar shades of beige and blue, which denote both their youth in relation to Don, as well as the fact that they both do the same thing for a living. They’re accounts, and Don, in his attention-grabbing red and black plaid, is creative.

Cynthia and Ken match, more so than any other couple here.

Although Pete and Trudy’s beiges call back to each other. Pete’s the only man who didn’t take his jacket off in the heat. That’s partially because he’s so stuffy, but it’s really because, as someone keenly aware of etiquette, he knows it would be bad form for a host.

But Don and Megan’s outfits don’t call back to each other at all. We don’t think that’s an indication of the state of their marriage. After all, Pete and Trudy’s outfits match more and they have the most troubled marriage in the room. Instead, we think it reinforces Megan’s independence from Don. She doesn’t do what she’s told like other wives.

Again, note how much pattern there is in the Campbell house. It’s distracting and a bit unsettling.

Again, vast differences in shape, silhouette and style. Cynthia and Megan are more modern. Note how they’re both wearing gold metallic shoes and dangly earrings.

Wholesome, preppy, American teenagers; a dying breed in 1966. She’s not played up in a sexual way at all. He, on the other hand, is wearing fairly tight clothes for the period to show off his body and contrast it with Pete’s. He’s all youth and power and implied sexual prowess and Pete’s a middle-aged schlump, easily confused for a teacher or other form of authority figure to these kids.

No matter what, Roger’s always going to have a thing for buxom redheads.

How long did it take you to figure out they were at a whorehouse? There’s nothing particularly slutty about the clothes here, except for the fact that her cleavage is so prominent and she’s wearing some extremely large earrings, which would have been considered showy, at the very least.

And the modern leopard skin underwear is, of course, pure sex, as are the somewhat tawdry surroundings.

This was a fabulous costume. The shape and style indicate her maturity relative to the other women in the room, but it’s still flashier than the average woman’s clothes and the earrings are downright massive. Again, this wouldn’t have read as slutty or tacky, but it’s definitely showy as hell. A married or “respectable” woman her age at this time wouldn’t have dressed this way.

Account men wear grey suits. That’s all there is to it.

Not really. In fact, Pete and Ken have been known to break out the more colorful suits, which always indicated their youth. Grey has always been Roger’s signature color. Pete and Ken are nothing alike, nor are they anything like Roger, but the point is being made here that they’re all tied together and have the same goals, even if their methods of achieving them are vastly different. Pete and Ken are eventually going to become Roger, although the thought would probably appall both of them.

In an episode where his Englishness came up against his partners’ American-ness, it’s notable how Lane’s outfits all worked a red, white, and blue theme, which could refer to either country or both of them. Since he’s stuck in a limbo where he doesn’t feel as English as the English and will never be fully accepted by the Americans, it signifies his confusion about where he’s supposed to be.

Very subtle reinforcing of their roles as women in a man’s world. They’re both in shades of blue. Peggy’s worn both that skirt and that blouse several times before but Joan’s dress is new.

Note just how coordinated Joan’s outfit is; everything from the jewelry down to the shoes matches either the dress or the scarf. She’s pulled together, both in the fashion sense and in the emotional sense; a column of unity and efficiency, as opposed to Peggy’s penchant for sloppy and slightly mismatched pieces.

Pete just wants to be Don, more than anything else in the world. And he wants Don to love him and praise him. They’re both in blue suits, white shirts, and striped ties (Pete’s in yellow, a color that signifies cowardice and sickness), but they really are nothing alike. The cut of Pete’s wide-lapeled suit is more modern than Don’s (and note that Don has a hat and Pete doesn’t), but Pete is a disheveled mess and Don is, as he usually is, smooth and unruffled. Two men going in different directions. Pete’s trying to hang the entirety of his existence on his role in the office and Don’s slowly getting bored with work and the politics that come with it, preferring to get his happiness from his home life; something of which Pete is totally incapable.

 

[Photo Credit: amctv.com – Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

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