Let’s kick off the final Mad Style of Season six with a short, punchy, visual comparison loaded with meaning, shall we?
The Persistence of Whitmanism:
Sally’s story this season has been in large part about suffering under the weight of her family history and how she and Dick Whitman (because it gets harder and harder to refer to him as Don Draper and have it feel truthful) are more alike than either of them want to be true. Across decades and vast class differences, Janie Bryant found a way to signal that in their clothing. She isn’t Sally Draper. She isn’t even Sally Francis, or “Beth Francis,” the Betty-esque name on her fake ID. She can try on any persona or name she wants (like someone else we know), but in the end, there’s no escaping who she really is.
Ever since the new D-less company logo was unveiled, orange and yellow have been exploding all over the offices of SC&P. Granted, it’s Thanksgiving week and that does tend to make a certain amount of real-world sense. But when they were pitching Fleischmann’s margarine everyone was wearing yellow and when they were debating the merits of Sunkist vs. Ocean Spray, we saw an awful lot of reds vs. oranges. Janie does like to take whatever colors are important to the story at the moment and have them play out in the costumes.
So here’s sudden Company Man Stan, decked out in his finest, with a touch of SC&P orange in his tie. Stan’s outfit is the first outfit this season that we’d wear ourselves today. It’s one of those rare moments where 1968-stylish and 2013-stylish mean the same thing. It’s hard for a costume designer to do that.
On second thought, we don’t think we could pull off a brown shirt paired with matching brown pants.
Margaret and Roger’s outfits are heavy with black. You can tell who’s related to whom in these pictures. Also notable is that the only real colors in the exchange to be seen are blue and yellow, which have been used as a color combination all season to signal a lack of connection among characters. If you’re new to Mad Style, we encourage you to scroll through the rest of the entries for this season in order to see examples of this color-combo motif playing out. They’re far too numerous to mention.
Bob and Joan are sporting the SC&P logo colors of orange and yellow, while Roger remains a colorless figure, on the outside of this relationship, just as he’s on the outside of any relationship with his daughter and her family.
That’s pure Mary Tyler Moore, circa 1970, which makes it extremely of-the-moment. Once Megan learned not to be so timid (for an actress) in her style, her career took off. She’s by far the trendiest person who ever appeared in the story. She was dressing like Sharon Tate in 1968 and she’ll be dressing like Mary Tyler Moore in 1969. She picks the very best, most iconic representations of the period, and tailors her style to them, very wisely. Of course, this is all being decided upon by Janie Bryant, who costumed Betty like Grace Kelly at one time and Joan like Marilyn (and then later, like Liz Taylor).
Company Man Bob was sporting orange in all his ties last week and yellow in all his ties this week. Roger is working a red, white and blue theme, which came up a couple times this episode. It tends to signal establishment power, as it does here, but it’s also historically accurate. Red, white, and blue became a persistent motif in fashion and design starting right around this time and lasting all the way through the seventies, fueled in no small part by a feeling that the country was falling apart, by the election of Nixon, who positioned himself as the man who was going to take back the country from the filthy people who stole it, and by the upcoming bicentennial celebrations in 1976.
Ted is also in red, white and blue. Jim Cutler’s grey suits and silver ties are downright eerie. It’s his signature look. He floats through the office like a ghost.
Just to answer the question of how deliberate color choices are, this scene is loaded with the same autumnal tones seen in the “present” day, even though Janie had no seasonal or story reasons to do so. It’s not Thanksgiving in the Whershey Whorehouse.
All she needs is a pair of wings and a halo. To Don, Megan is eternally the angelic figure who’s going to save him from himself.
When she’s not a whore, that is.
Clara demonstrates her company pride. Pete, notably, does not.
BAM. Miss Olson’s not fooling around anymore. She’s never worn a skirt that short before and never shown that much (if any) cleavage before. We’re reminded that Peggy is now the same age Joan was when the series started.
It should be noted that these are grownup clothes, for the most part. This is not youthful like something a 20-year-old would wear. In fact, it looks more like a costume from Sweet Charity. It’s sexy, of course; and more youthful than anything, say, Joan would wear. But compare this to Megan’s mini-dresses of the past season. She and Peggy are about the same age, but Megan stepped right off a magazine cover in the trendiest clothes imaginable. The Zou Bisou dress, which is somewhat similar to this, was something Megan wore over two years ago.
Peggy wore this on a date with some guy who worked in finance, which should give you some idea of where a dress like this falls on the youth/trend scale. Picture what a 30-year-old female executive would wear today on a date to look sexy.
Harry is wearing an SC&P company tie. Jim is in establishment red, white and blue – a surprise, given his penchant for pale, ghostly looks. And Ted is wearing blue and green, which is another color combination motif this season; one very persistently applied to people cheating or people dealing with the fallout of cheating. Again, if you’re new to Mad Style, we encourage you to look through the previous entries for dozens of examples.
Look at that bright yellow car. Look at Bob, in his bright blue suit and yellow shirt. Look at all the Chevy execs, wearing either blue or yellow. Look at Pete, wearing neither of these colors. Bob is tied both to the product in the picture and to the executives of the company. Pete is quite clearly not tied to or connecting with anything here.
Women wearing pink nightgowns or bathrobes was yet another persistent motif this season (again; feel free to cycle through the Mad Styles and see the examples), and we’re fairly confident it was meant to call back to the woman who took Don’s virginity while wearing a pink teddy. Betty looks pampered and mature and even a little silly here, while Megan serves as contrast in something boldly graphic, relatively simple in shape, and much more modern.
Animal prints are an extreme rarity for Joan. She prefers sticking with florals or solids. The most notable example of her wearing an animal print was when she spoke to Pete about the terms of her prostitution. Since that act (and his apparent assent to it) pretty much ended her relationship with Roger completely, we think the use of animal print here, in a scene where her resolve is thawing, is deliberate; especially since a similar costuming move was made with Peggy this episode.
Caroline once again stands as an example of how some people simply don’t keep up with the latest styles. Or even the semi-latest. She’ll ditch the hat soon, but she could be wearing that coat for another ten years.
Dawn is in SC&P yellow and orange. Even she’s a company girl now.
She’s definitely getting more stylish. Everything about this look is current, unlike many of her other outfits, which looked several years out of style. She keeps getting visually tied with Peggy, who wore a lot of plaids and a lot of yellow over the years, so much so that they both became her signature. We don’t think Dawn and Peggy really have anything in common, but they’re both trailblazers in their own way, and they did it by sitting outside Don’s office and doing their job to the best of their abilities.
We were very proud of our Mad Style minions for picking up almost immediately on the fact that this was the dress Peggy wore for her interview with Ted, which lends its use here some meaning and irony. In other words, like Joan’s animal print, this was Peggy’s “negotiating the terms” dress. Joan’s animal print ended her relationship with Roger and her re-use of it signaled her decision to let him back in her life. Here, Peggy’s dress is doing the opposite: putting an end to the relationship that started the first time she wore it. Both this dress and Joan’s animal print negotiating happened in the same episode last season, “The Other Woman.”
Interesting to note how much more cleavage she’s showing in this dress than she was a couple years ago. Since we doubt Peggy has a sudden growth spurt in her late 20s, we’re going with the explanation that she’s deliberately dressing more provocatively. You could say that all comes down to her affair with Ted, but we think it has more to do with her self-confidence and maturity. She’s just not that little Catholic schoolgirl anymore.
It should also be noted that clothes generally got a lot sexier post-Summer of Love. Not immediately, of course; but the sexual revolution changed the way people thought about appropriate dressing (See: the entirety of 1970s fashion).
We don’t know if this indicates they have a future together, but it’s extremely notable that they match exactly, in shades of navy blue, grey, and white. Taken even further, her collar mimics his and her plaid pants mimic men’s suiting. Does this mean these two crazy kids might make it? We’ll only say this: we predicted right from the beginning of this season that not only would Peggy and Abe break up, but that they would break up over philosophical differences. And we did that solely by looking at the clothes they were wearing in their scenes together. Just looking at the pictures and tuning out the story, we see a couple here with a future together, more in tune with each other than they realize.
This is not a couple going in the same direction. Note that he’s wearing blue and yellow here; not connecting with anyone anymore. Completely free of all ties.
We think Ken Cosgrove and Bert Cooper are the only characters to not wear a turtleneck yet. It was the 1968 version of a pair of jeans; something that any man of any age and shape could wear in a casual setting.
As we noted in our initial review, this scene calls back directly to the scene in the pilot, when Don came home to Betty and the kids. Trudy’s looking pretty 1968-stylish, in that married-lady kind of way. She’s always been a bright, good-girl in her style; perkier than Betty ever was. Betty was the sorority girl who looked like a princess and waited for boys to fall at her feet. Trudy was the sorority girl who cheered at football games and everyone wanted to know because she was so much fun.
This look, with her hair pulled back and softly curled, the pussy bow, the heavier eye-liner, it’s all very much of the period for the stylish, upper-middle class housewife. A sunnier, 1968 version of the dolled-up housewife drag Betty wore in Ossining. Once again, as in almost all her domestic scenes with Pete, she is in a print that fights with the prints and patterns around her; an illustration of how Pete sees this irritating suburban-married world for which he was never suited.
Jim Cutler’s groovy Thanksgiving day turtleneck is a thing to behold. Interesting to note that Roger and Bert look more like father and son here; they’re dressed to match each other. Joan is wearing her “executive realness” suit, which we first saw her wear after the debacle with Scarlet and Harry, when she realized she had to put her secretarial mindset behind her and move forward. What makes this funny to us is that OF COURSE Joan would have an office-specific Thanksgiving brooch.
Note that she doesn’t wear it later:
Because she has a different Thanksgiving brooch for home. In fact, she changes her whole outfit, unlike Roger. She’s been working in product advertising for 15 years, which means she’s probably worked every Thanksgiving day in that period (because the following day is one of the biggest advertising and shopping days of the year). It makes perfect sense that she has a special “office brooch” for the holiday. That’s just so Joan.
Just as Peggy’s Polyester Pantsuit of POWER signaled a new day dawning for her, we tend to look at Joan’s dress here the same way. Granted, this is a hostess dress or a holiday dress, which she would consider to be something entirely different from a work dress. But everything’s so much more relaxed here, from her hair to her breasts to her entire body, freed from the restricting foundation garments she still tends to wear in the office, signaling the ways in which that look was going to be cast aside by entire generations of women in just a few years. She’s come fully into her own, both as an executive and in her relationship with Roger. Remember: Roger once gave her a caged bird to tell her just what he thought of her, back in the days when they only met in hotel rooms. The power has shifted completely, and now she’s the one setting the terms of when and how they meet.
But what about Bob?
Ah, Bob. What would this season have been without you? Matthew Weiner is still quite coyly claiming that he “doesn’t know” if Bob is gay (which is pure horseshit; as if we’re supposed to believe he doesn’t have all the characters completely mapped out), but they sure keep signaling it in various ways in the story.
There’s this; a man in a frilly apron. Does that make him gay? Of course not. Then there are the famous tiny little shorts. Do they make him gay? Again; of course not. Men wore much smaller shorts back then. Then there’s the time he rescued Joan and took her to the emergency room. In that episode, there was a repeating motif of women trapped in rooms (Dorothy in Pete’s apartment, Sylvia in the kinky hotel room; Joan in her office, too embarrassed to let anyone know she was in pain). The women were all dressed in shades of yellow, except Joan. In her story, it was BOB who was dressed in yellow. Does that make him gay? Again; of course not. But there’s some very subtle costuming choices made with him that upend gender expectations or tend to make a modern audience think “gay” subconsciously (as with the shorts).
Additionally, there’s Roger’s open disbelief that Joan would ever be “buddies” with a man in the office, which is honestly a quite reasonable thing for Roger to question. The fact is, she doesn‘t have platonic friendships with men that involve spending holidays together or taking the family to the beach. And we’d find it impossible to believe that she’d invite Roger to Thanksgiving dinner with a man from the office that she’s sleeping with. No, she and Bob are purely platonic, which serves as its own example that he’s not straight. She can’t allay Roger’s jealousy by telling him that Bob is gay (because Roger would probably fire him on the spot), which explains why she’s so evasive when she talks about him.
Further, there’s some subtle signalling in the dialogue that sounds like purely “culturally gay” conversation, from mentioning that Gail got her hair done to the good-natured teasing between him and Joan about how he’s so skinny and she can’t believe he’s complaining that he gained weight; pure “Gay and his “Fruit Fly;” so much so, that Matthew Weiner’s either full of shit or there’s a deliberate attempt to throw the audience off and get us to believe he’s gay when he’s not.
We find that latter possibility extremely hard to swallow. Anything’s possible with this show, but if they reveal that Bob only pretended to be attracted to Pete for some hidden reason, we’re going to call foul on that in a loud, obnoxious way. It’s so NOT 1968 for a man to pretend to be gay. It’s not even 2013, for that matter.
Of course Bob’s tie is SC&P yellow and orange.
The Polyester Pantsuit of Power. A couple years ago, we were doing some hardcore research into the styles of the late ’60s, because we knew big changes were coming on the Mad Men front once they passed 1966 and we needed to refresh our memories. Early ’60s clothing is easier for us to discuss, but late ’60s clothing requires some fairly precise knowledge of the time and the culture in order to understand how revolutionary it was and to place the sometimes difficult-to-look-at (in the modern day) styles in context. Our point is, we stumbled across a page filled with pictures of this suit and its many variants and immediately thought, “That’s how Peggy will dress in the ’70s.” We didn’t honestly think we’d ever see her dress this way in the office, in the ’60s.
As hard as this is to accept or believe, this is the trendiest thing Peggy’s ever worn. Not only that, it’s the most declarative, important thing she’s ever worn. We cannot stress just how seismic it is for a woman to come into an office in 1968 wearing pants. It’s only slightly less seismic than a man walking into his office job wearing a dress in 2013. She’s actually a little ahead of her time here, and anyone who went through grade school in the 1970s has countless class pictures with smiling teachers wearing this exact outfit. It’s HIDEOUS to most modern eyes, but it did become something of a standard for working women through to about 1975 or so.
Bear in mind that it’s Thanksgiving Day and the office is mostly empty. She’s not likely to get to keep this corner office and she’s not likely to continue to wear pants during work. But it is a HUGE signal of the world to come; the world that she alone, among all the characters, is perfectly primed to not only inhabit, but to rule. This is her world and we’re all just living in it. You want proof? Here; check out the eerie ways in which Peggy Olson’s ad campaigns are starting to come true:
Her ad campaigns are bleeding into the real world, people. SHE’S AFFECTING REALITY WITH HER SUPERNATURAL CREATIVITY.
Or it just made some cool visual callbacks and solidified the point that she’s rising while everyone else seems to be falling. We’ll go with that. But a super-powered, reality-altering Peggy in polyester pantsuits would be kind of fun for the final season.
And finally, a family portrait:
Honest to God, we can’t even look at that shot of them all looking up at the house, looking so small and confused. For all the complaints of wheel spinning and bad pacing this season (many of which we still hold to be valid), we can’t deny that it all led up to one hell of an emotional sucker punch at the end. There’s no story quite like a child coming to an understanding of who their parents really are for pulling the heartstrings. “The child is father to the man,” as Peggy pointed out in her Chevy creative rap session, once again proving her creepy psychic Peggy power.
Okay, costuming: Can we just say that we know dozens of grown men who would kill for Bobby Draper’s entire outfit here? Should we admit that we’re two of them? Seriously, the skinny green pants? The little Chuck Taylors? The cable knit sweater? It’s as 2013-trendy as Stan Rizzo’s outfit.
What’s interesting to note here is how the kids are all heavily tied together with the color red, but Don stands apart from them, a dark figure, consumed by his shadows and demons. The kid with the popsicle actually has more to do visually with the Draper kids than Don does. Of course the kid with the popsicle (which references motherhood, as per Peggy Olson) is really a Dick Whitman stand-in. Don isn’t just saying “I grew up here.” He’s saying, “See that poor little black kid over there, my children of privilege, living in your mansion and going to private schools and wearing pretty matching outfits? That’s me. That’s where you came from.”
So yes, Bobby Draper. It’s true. You’re a negro.
Because Clara really deserves a bonus after working for Pete all these years. And because her outfits are eye-popping.
[Photo Credit: AMC - Stills: tomandlorenzo.com]