Mad Style: Lady Lazarus

Posted on May 09, 2012

There were some interesting callbacks to earlier episodes and the ghost of Betty Draper loomed large once again. Let’s get to it.

This outfit served as a focal point because an actual story point hinged on the audience realizing that she had changed into a cocktail dress. It’s an unforgettable look, which is exactly what it was designed to be. Janie Bryant has a tendency to dress female characters in vivid or busy prints when they are in some form of emotional upheaval. This bold houndstooth serves to illustrate Megan’s mod style (mod dealt in blacks and whites extensively for a time) while also illustrating her inner turmoil.

This shift is so relatively plain in comparison that you can’t not notice that she’s changed her clothes. It’s a pretty dress, but it may just be the least showy thing she’s ever worn. She just wants to be as invisible as possible as she sneaks out. And framing her against a background the same color of the dress accomplishes that for her. Of course, the brilliant fuschia garment bag she’s sporting pretty much ruins the effect.

It’s notable that Peggy is here in her “career” color of mustard yellow. This has been her power color since the very beginning of the series and it’s consistently utilized for scenes where she either advances in her career or in scenes to illustrate how fully entrenched in it she is. So Peggy, in her mustard yellow, is all about work in this scene and Megan, in her very downplayed beige, is trying to sneak away from that world.

Man, did we ever see a lot of furniture that looked like Megan’s coat in the ’70s and ’80s. It seemed like half the living rooms in America had a couch or chair in that fabric.

Peggy and Megan are connecting on absolutely no levels here whatsoever. The color schemes and styles are wildly different.

Peggy is business-like and ever-so-slightly masculine in her brown jumper with a bow that could double as a tie. Megan is pure femininity in a far more traditional sense. Sure, she’s a copywriter and professional woman, but this entire scene was built around the fact that she is Don’s wife and she aced a campaign idea by acting like … Don’s wife. In this scene, the men all fade into the background and the two women become the focal point.

Of course people don’t dress to match or oppose each other and we wouldn’t expect either of these characters to dress like the other one, but when Janie Bryant wants to, she can forge connections through clothing without being obvious about it.

Like so. Megan is still in a very feminine and slightly frivolous dress (with that gigantic gold chain to speak to her wealth) and Peggy is still in a business-like vest and skirt, but – and this is where Janie gets subtle as hell – they’re both dressed in the same color scheme of blue and pink, with Peggy’s gold buttons calling back to Megan’s gold chain. Unlike the confrontation in the ladies room, this time, they are at least somewhat simpatico, even if Peggy can’t quite wrap her head around what Megan’s doing.

We can’t not have a certain fondness for the foppish gays of generations past, because they didn’t try to hide it, no matter how much opposition they were going to come up against. They had balls the size of Gibraltar to go along with their limp wrists and ascots.

This mod, striped double-breasted jacket and bold yellow tie look like something straight out of a Peter Max cartoon of the period.

Roger’s been sporting greys all season, so this black suit stood out to us. He is always deeply tied to his surroundings in scenes set in his office. His penchant for blacks and greys make him look like he belongs there and every other person who walks into the room – even if it’s Pete in a standard blue suit – stands out like a virus cell.

Well, it’s nice to see they got some new use out of the old Ossining Draper set. Redress it, slap a couple coats of paint on it, and put a depressed housewife in a flip ‘do standing in the middle of it and you’ve got yourself a twisted version of the show from two seasons ago. Pete is determined to live out some alternate-reality version of Don’s old life, except Trudy isn’t miserable like Betty was so Pete goes out looking for a miserable woman to fill that role.

To be fair, this isn’t a very Betty-like outfit, but it ties her tightly to her surroundings. She doesn’t just match them, she melts into them.

But with this outfit, the “Dark Betty” illusion is complete. This is EXACTLY something Betty would have worn when she was married to Don, except she tended to favor blues instead of black and dark brown.

Several episodes back, we noted that there was a rose motif being deployed in Joan’s clothing in scenes dealing with her marriage (calling back, perhaps, to the red roses she was given by her fiance just before he raped her or the vase of red roses she later smashed over his head). This is a beautiful dress and perfectly seasonal appropriate for October, but we couldn’t help noticing she’s wearing a dress of dead roses.

Another thing that jumped out at us in this scene – and this has nothing to do with style – is that Don dropped another meaningless lie into a conversation. This time, he said that Megan was “up for a part,” but she’s not. She failed to get the part. He did this before, blurting out to Roger that Betty had cancer (when he didn’t know any such thing) and telling that madame that he grew up in a whorehouse, when the truth is he grew up on a farm. We think Don’s trying so hard to be the good husband and not make the mistakes he did with Betty that his natural tendency to lie – a tendency that served him fairly well for a decade there – keeps slipping out, in relatively harmless ways.

For some reason, it makes total sense to us that Joan’s a tea drinker.

Harry, who seems to love his life (even as he constantly puts down his wife) is all pattern and color, while Pete, who clearly hates his life, is in drab and rumpled greys.

Peggy wore this dress when she pitched the Topaz pantyhose account last season, bringing in the account all on her own and breaking the ten-week streak of no new business, only to find out that her efforts were overshadowed by Megan’s ability to get Don to put a ring on her finger. Is it any surprise, then, that she’s wearing it again here, where she almost single-handedly ruined a client pitch and wound up getting into a fight with Don over Megan?

Two things about this scene: one, this shot keeps getting replicated over and over again this season. Keep your eye out for it in future episodes and then spend more time than is healthy trying to figure out what it means. Don keeps getting woken up by Megan again and again.

The second thing that’s notable about this scene is how much it calls back to an earlier scene from Season 2, when Betty, stripped of her makeup, wakes Don up on the couch to discuss the state of their marriage in light of his cheating.

Barefoot and in the kitchen. They weren’t exactly subtle about that one. What strikes us about Megan’s post-SCDP outfits is how young she looks in them. This scene almost read like a father and daughter rather than two spouses.

The kitchen is an explosion of colors and she fits right in. It’s perhaps a bit too on-the-nose (as if the bare feet weren’t enough) to have her dressed in burgundy while she’s fixing Boeuf Bourguignon.

Continuing the “daddy and little girl” motif. Except for the coat, she could be a 19-year-old college student here. Now that she’s not working in an office, we’re likely to see her in pants a lot more. She’s clearly dressed down here, but she can’t hide the quality of that coat, which inadvertently signals her wealth at a time when she’d probably like to keep it hidden. Acting students aren’t going to take well to someone who gives off the whiff of a dilettante, which is exactly what this coat tends to do for her.

And finally, this isn’t so much a style thing, but we absolutely loved the way this was shot. There was a massive incongruity between the cutting-edge mystical music and the opulent, capitalism-fueled surroundings, which the camera lovingly lingered over. There’s no way a man of Don’s age with as much invested in the status quo as Don is would ever understand the importance of “Tomorrow Never Knows” in 1966. Megan got it; which is why she directed him to play it first, but Don is absolutely incapable of understanding it.

 

[Screencaps/Collages:tomandlorenzo.com]

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