Mad Style: The Other Woman

Posted on May 30, 2012

There were other aspects to the story, but for us (and we think, for just about every other viewer), this episode was entirely about Peggy and Joan. Megan had an arc in this episode as well, but it was the weakest of the three and the costuming tended to reflect it.

This is Peggy’s “hard at work” sweater, making it a particularly good choice for this scene, which demonstrates that she’s working her ass off but not getting the kind of perqs normally thrown at male creatives on a big account. Golden yellow has always been her “career” color, going all the way back to Season One, and she wore this sweater in several scenes this season depicting how hard she works, most notably when she stayed late in the office while Megan went off to an audition.

Catholic schoolgirl on acid. Did you catch that every color Peggy’s wearing, with the exception of the orange, can also be found in Ken’s outfit? Blue, green, brown, and, of course, a golden yellow. It’s beautifully subtle and you really have to look to take note of it.

They’ve had a connection all season and their clothes have been backing that up. Unfortunately, Peggy’s not nearly as sentimental as the man who wrote “The Gold Violin,” and she winds up being quite cruel to Ken in this scene. His timing was bad. This was not a moment when Peggy wanted to hear a man tell her he’d take care of her. She knows that when she relies on men to guide her and mentor her, there are going to be strings attached. In Don’s case, those strings manifest in a stream of abuse and she’s just about hit the wall on that.

But Ken never looked so cute as when he stood up and silently applauded her genius.

Another golden yellow sweater; another workmanlike outfit that has practically no style to it at all. A lot of people have been complaining about Peggy’s wardrobe this season. After watching her struggle through some highly questionable outfits in the past, it seems many of us assumed that success would bring a style revolution to Peggy’s closet. In fact, it had the opposite effect. She’s not a secretary and thus, her looks and how she presents herself in work are of lesser importance than they once were. She only really makes the effort when a client is coming in, but otherwise, she’s been wearing one drab work outfit after another, and most of them either referenced menswear (lots of blouses that looked like men’s dress shirts; lots of plaid) or referenced Catholic school uniforms. She’s been in a career rut all season and her clothes have reflected that; hard at work, but no lobster for her.

But Peggy’s taking control of her career and she must have realized on some level she needed to start showing some style in order to do it. This is easily the trendiest thing Peggy has ever worn on the show; pure 1967 mod. Ted Chaough is a pretty groovy guy (as evidenced by his uber-groovy turtleneck, not to mention his Peggy-esqye golden yellow plaid sports coat); much trendier than the skinny-tied Don Draper. It makes sense that she would try and doll herself up in something stylish for this meeting. What’s shocking about this outfit is that she actually managed to pull it off. Usually, when Peggy dresses outside her comfort zone, she looks pretty silly. But it’s clearly a whole new Peggy from this point on and we may just have seen the end of the drab Catholic schoolgirl uniforms.

Note that as feminine and stylish as this dress is, it still mimics a man’s suit. Also: Ted’s such a dick that he had to cross out the SCDP banner before writing down his offer.

Definitely the death knell for the school uniform. She went from her trendiest outfit to one that’s probably among the more grownup-looking outfits she’s ever worn. Joan once famously told her that if Peggy wanted men to take her seriously, she needed to stop dressing like a little girl. It’s advice that never really stuck with Peggy until now. This is mature in shape and in color. For once, she doesn’t look like Don’s subordinate in a scene. She’s walking out of there as Don’s equal in a lot of ways. We can’t wait to see what her wardrobe will look like when she’s working at CGC and making major bank.

You didn’t really think we’d seen the last of her, did you?

Joan’s story was, of course, a lot less triumphant than Peggy’s. Janie Bryant has been playing around with Joan’s floral dresses all season and we’ve had enormous fun applying meanings to red rose dresses and brown rose dresses. Taking that just a little bit further, we see Joan in this blue floral, listening to that grimy little pimp reduce her to a prostitute and we see someone who’s trying to come out of the dark (these flowers aren’t brown, after all) but still feeling (you’ll pardon the pun) a little blue. She comes across weary and closed-off in this scene and this dress, while beautiful on her, tends to reinforce that.

Interesting to note the grimy little pimp is dressed in an ominous black suit. Pete rarely wears black.

Joan’s weariness continues in this scene, where she continues to wear the same outfit and once again stands in her living room dressed in blue. It’s something that’s been done with her character countless times before. She wore blue when she smashed a vase over Greg’s head, when she cut her finger and he stitched it up for her, and of course, when she threw him out.

Her mother, on the other hand, is a buzzing annoyance in clothing form. She’s also in a floral design, but it’s loud and doesn’t quite integrate with the surroundings the way Joan’s clothes do.

The next day, she’s made her decision and she’s dressed accordingly. After wearing florals all season to illustrate the state of her life, here she is in a highly uncharacteristic animal print. She’s gone from the heartbroken wife to the prostitute; from roses to leopard skin. The brown does a nice job of reflecting her dead-inside mental state at the moment.

And there it is: the outfit that caused us to gasp out loud. That is, of course, the fur that Roger gave her back in 1954; the one that caused her to coo “When I wear it, I’ll always remember the night I got it.” Well, fuck you, Roger Sterling. That’s EXACTLY what this outfit is saying. “You ruined what we had by letting me do this, so I’m ruining what you gave me.” We’d be surprised if she ever wore it again. It’s one of those beautiful costuming moments that takes a sad, horrifying scene and makes it even more so once you realize what she’s wearing.

This scene mimics the scene when she got the mink. She’s in a hotel room, in a tight black dress showing a lot of cleavage, wearing a mink and accepting a gift from a man; in this case, that sad emerald necklace.

Note that she’s wearing uncharacteristically large, dangly earrings, which we’ve noted before have been used to signal prostitution, such as in the whorehouse scene with the Jaguar exec. Lots of prostitution surrounding this one account.

The script fooled most of us on the timing, but Janie slipped in a little nod and wink with this bathrobe. The emerald green calls back perfectly to the emerald necklace she received as “payment.”

The next day: reserved and business-like, as if nothing at all had happened. She’s worn this outfit several times before. It’s simply a good work dress, which is all she wanted for this day: to get up and get on as if nothing had happened. It’s also one of her more demure work outfits.

And finally, standing with – and standing out from – the partners. You will never see Joan Harris in a menswear-inspired dress, nor are you likely to see her wearing grey. It’s bright colors most of the time (when she’s not depressed) and this dress is almost defiantly bright. Head held high, she’s not going to become a wallflower of a partner. She will proudly stand next to these men and even draw attention to herself because she knows whatever she did to become partner pales in comparison to the many things she witnessed these men do to get where they are. This is totally an “I’m HERE, dammit” outfit; a declaration that she will not be ashamed by what she did.

It’s also EXTREMELY notable that she wore this dress when Lane called Pete a “grimy little pimp” and beat the crap out of him. It was, after all, the machinations of Lane and Pete that got her to this point.

As for Megan, it’s a little hard to hang any sort of triumphant feminist argument on her because, unlike Peggy and Joan, she’s not independent at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s her dependency on Don that allows her to pursue an acting career at her leisure. She’s not depicted working hard like Joan and Peggy are. In most of her scenes since she left SCDP, she’s portrayed sitting around her penthouse, wearing casual, slightly juvenile clothes. In fact, we noted with this episode just how much of a power imbalance is depicted whenever she interacts with Don now. He’s always in an authoritarian suit and she’s usually barefoot and/or underdressed in some way.

Like so.

Megan’s worn her “audition dress” before and we noted then that it made her practically invisible because she’s always shot wearing it against neutral backgrounds. Even here, she’s overshadowed by her friend, who’s in wild patterns…

And other such attention-seeking items. This is the friend who all but accused Megan of being a dilettante and we think the clothing here is making a point. This gal’s working that room like it owes her rent. She’s a typical hungry actress who’ll jump on a conference room table and make an ass of herself if she thinks it’ll get her a Jaguar commercial. Megan would never, in a million years, do something like this, nor would she ever have to, because unlike her friend, Megan doesn’t worry about making rent.

If this is her best dress to wear to auditions, then she’s inadvertently telling the casting director that she’s bland and invisible, instead of colorful and hungry for the part. We fear that at some point, Megan’s going to come to the conclusion that her wealth and comfort (i.e., her marriage) are holding her back.

 

 

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

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