Mad Style: Field Trip

Posted on April 30, 2014

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A nice little visual pun and callback to get us started. Remember in the season opener when Don got picked up at the airport by Megan and was asked to sit in the passenger seat? Note how many times in the L.A. scenes Don’s need to take a cab (which is a very NYC and not very LA thing to do) is referenced. No matter where he is, he’s sitting in the passenger seat; this time, being driven around a cinematic L.A. instead of the real L.A. he’s trying to avoid. Sitting in the dark, looking out at the light.

And the show is definitely making a point about the darkness in New York vs. the sunniness of L.A.:

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The framing is almost exactly mirror images of each other, which only serves to heighten the contrast even more. It’s not just that the L.A. scenes are shot in a hazy yellow light (with lots and lots of natural wood, as opposed to the hard edges and unnatural materials of the Draper apartment or SC&P); it’s that people in L.A. tend to be represented by such bright colors, like Bonnie Whiteside’s bright yellow dress of last week and Megan’s eye-popping getup this week.

We want that gorgeous desk. And it’s funny how his outfit is almost 2014-trendy, in a GQ editorial kind of way. It also tends to foreshadow Megan’s outfit, tying them together in southern California shades of yellow and orange.

 

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Color, color, color. Sunlight, but no happiness. In fact,  as the scene progresses and Megan’s mood changes, the costume goes from having a groovy feel to having a manic feel. The colors are too searing, the print is too much, the top is sloppily buttoned. And Don acts as a counterpoint; a colorless blank slate, trying desperately to appear calm and in control. Instead, he comes off frustratingly detached from her emotional state. It’s all there in the clothes.

Tom’s grandmother crocheted that exact skirt and vest for his sisters in the seventies, as well as for her other granddaughters. They all have school pictures from roughly the same year, wearing the same outfit in different colors of acrylic yarn. Now show of hands: how many people can say the same thing? Because this look was ALL OVER the early to mid-seventies.

 

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This is a callback to the many, many, many, many scenes in their marriage where their power differential is manifested in their clothing. He’s in a suit, she’s in loungewear or a nightgown. While it might seem odd to cast Don in the “powerful” role in an episode like this one, from Megan’s perspective, she’s been at the mercy of his whims for their entire marriage. The only card she has to play is “stay away.”

Let’s check in on the second former Mrs. Draper before we head into all the office drama.

 

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We’re pretty sure an “OH!” escaped our lips at the sight of this tableau. What a perfect shot of moneyed suburban housewifery in 1969. If Betty has a signature color, it’s blue, which can be used to denote her icy personality or to underline her role as a mother. Here, it’s kinda doing both. She was judging Francine from head to toe for lacking in the fulfillment of her maternal duties. Of course Francine did a delicious passive-aggressive turn by deliberately calling her “Betty Draper” in response to Betty’s condescending, “Maybe I’m old-fashioned.” That was Francine’s way of saying, “Shyeah. ‘old fashioned.’ Remind me again how many husbands you’ve had, bitch?”

Janie has used strong collars or lapels for the career women in the cast. Now Francine’s sporting them, having joined their ranks. And it’s of course no coincidence that she’s wearing pants in this scene. In fact, she’s wearing a suit, which only takes her that much further away from Betty’s highly feminine look. The salmon-and-white color scheme makes a nice counterpoint to Betty’s blue-and-white dress.

Note the cottage cheese and canteloupe on Francine’s side and the completely untouched salad on Betty’s side. They ordered coffee cake at the end of the scene.

 

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I’ll show that Francine who’s a real mother around here.

Betty always reacts to things instead of taking action independently. And she’s highly influenced by the people around her; especially the women. She dyed her hair and gained weight in a mad dash to turn herself into Henry’s mother, for instance. Here, she’s impulsively signing up to chaperone so that she can feel good about her choices …

 

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But she wore a wide-lapeled, perfectly coordinated salmon-and-white suit while doing it. Sure, it’s different from Francine’s look – much more traditionally feminine, for one – but a big reason why this day failed was because Betty went into it with a self-serving agenda: not to be a good mother, but to feel like a good mother and to show other people she was one. The nagging ghost of Francine was all over this one.

And look at how much Betty stands out on the farm, with all the primary colors in other people’s clothes. Not to mention that she’s almost hilariously overdressed. She does look spectacular, though. If they gave out Emmys for bitchface, we always say January Jones would have a shelf full of them.

 

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Madonna and Child. As we said, Betty is often dressed in blue when the story has to do with the relationship she has with her children. This scene calls back pretty strongly to this one, which was in many ways a total reversal of sentiment. In that earlier scene, Betty was secretly thrilled that her daughter still needed her and preferred her over her stepmother. Here, she’s resigned to the idea that all her children will hate her in the end.

 

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Janie will often dress Stan and Ginsberg in similar or matching tones, partially to make Peggy stand out more in their scenes. But we think there’s a bit more going on here than just pairing them up to make her stand out. Ever since SCDP opened its doors, their creative department has always been far more colorfully dressed than the rest of this office. Now, the dominant colors seem to be beige and gray:

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There’s virtually no color on the people in that room at all. When your creative department is dressed like they’re depressed, you know your ad agency’s in trouble. Of course Peggy stood out in her teal above, just as Don stands out in his (highly uncharacteristic) deep brown with orange accents here; they’re the ones who want the work to be good, above all else. He’s taken to sneaking his work in with Freddie Rumsen’s name on it and she’s been utterly miserable with the mediocrity and lack of creativity Lou seems to encourage.

Don was colorless when dealing with his wife but a focal point of color when sitting among his creative team.

In other news:

Mad-Men-S7-E3-Mad-Style-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO (11)Is there any question that these are two people with different outlooks who don’t like each other much? You don’t even need dialogue here.

Of course Jim Cutler would have an animal skin rug.

 

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Can we take a moment to point out how cute David James Elliott looks in period drag? It takes a special man to rock a mint green dress shirt with a dark green jacket. And like Megan’s agent’s outfit, you could do just a few slight tweaks in proportion and hue and it would be ready for a menswear runway show right now – although unlike the ’60s – which were an extreme outlier decade in fashion history – such styles are unlikely to trickle down to middle-aged businessmen. When the ’60s cultural revolution exploded, it exploded in all directions, which the show has been depicting bit by bit over the past few seasons. Look at what Roger’s become, for instance. Acid-dropping and orgies at the Algonquin Hotel.

We suppose the green could be signaling money, since they made a salary offer in this scene, and there was some question as to whether the woman was a hooker. But honestly, we can’t take it that far. He’s dressed that way because he’s simply a much showier, groovier guy than Don and works for a much hipper agency.

As for the woman in the scene, there seems to be a lot of confusion as to who she is and what she meant. We think there was meant to be. First off, she’s not Anna Draper’s niece, although both actresses resemble each other quite strongly. Second, Roger didn’t send her. When Don went to Roger’s place, it was clear he wasn’t expected. To our way of thinking, either the guys from Wells Rich Greene were lying and she was, in fact, a call girl they hired, or Don’s giving off good mojo now that he’s trying to put things in order and she’s just another lady who found it irresistible.

The point is, everyone in this scene wanted Don and talked openly about how much they wanted Don. Contrast that with his later scenes in the office where everyone talked openly about how they didn’t want Don around. Why would Don choose the latter over the former?

 

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Like Sally and Don last week, Roger and Don are dressed in matching shades to indicate their reconciliation. She’s dressed like a touring production of “Godspell.”

But there will be no more reconciliation for Don this week, unfortunately.

 

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Peggy wore this outfit the day that CGC and SCDP merged; the day that Don got Ted publicly drunk in the office and she got her first inkling that her two bosses weren’t going to play nice with each other.  It makes perfect sense for her to wear it here. She is, as we noted in our Monday review, now protecting the status quo that he created and she’s full of resentments regarding his behavior toward Ted.

 

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Janie will often signal a character’s rise up the career ladder by subtly upscaling their clothing almost immediately and putting it in a few embellishments here and there (like brooches, pleats and oversized buttons) to show that it cost more. She did this with Peggy after she became a copywriter, and again after she became copy chief. She also did it to Joan when she went from office manager to partner and now to account rep (she’s wearing the most expensive ensembles we’ve ever seen her in this season).  Dawn got two new outfits this episode and they both look a little more expensive than her usual wear. She’s worn a lot of gingham in the past, but between this look and last week’s she seems to be transitioning into a Peggy-like plaid motif in her clothing. The tailoring and colors of this dress give it a slightly more business-like feel than the church-going clothes she tended to favor in the past.

 

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Her hair looks a little more “done” than usual too. Janie also did this with Peggy as she rose up the ladder.

That’s not cheap or home sewn. She smartly invested in some attire that separates her slightly from the secretarial pool. There’s a seriousness to this look, which made it work really well as a way to point out what an ass Don is for still treating her like a secretary. It’s obvious by looking at her that she’s not one.

It’s funny, because we’ve watched both Peggy and Joan struggle their way up the corporate ladder and make several changes in their personal attire, but it took Dawn to discover what would pretty much become the executive lady uniform for the next 15 years or so. Although eventually most secretaries will wind up adopting it as well. Half the cast of “9 to 5” will be dressed exactly like this when the movie comes out eleven years from now. Peggy never nailed the executive look because she’s not someone who knows how to express herself through her clothing (i.e., a bad dresser) and Joan is probably incapable of not dressing for her looks primarily, which she admitted to Don was something her mother drilled into her.

Which isn’t to say that Joan dresses inappropriately; just that this is pretty showy for an account representative at a breakfast meeting:

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Note the coordinated coat and gloves. This is the third expensive-looking coat we’ve seen on Joan since the season started. She’s not hurting for money (showy jewelry like that pendant is one way Janie tends to depict that). There’s a reason she wants to protect the new status quo so fiercely.

We gasped when we saw this dress; not just because she looks spectacular but because it’s a look loaded with meaning. If you’ve read previous Mad Style entries, you might remember that Joan has quite the history with red roses, both in her story and in her clothing. Red roses became a symbol of her marriage; first when they were featured prominently in the scenes leading up to her rape (and then poignantly left forgotten on her desk). Later they were used as props (and weapons) in makeup scenes and fight scenes with her husband. She wore red roses on a black background in the scene where it became clear his career wasn’t going well and in the episode where she found out he re-upped for a tour of Vietnam and wound up kicking him out.

So what’s the deal here? We admit, it took us a while to sort of recalibrate our settings on this one, since this has nothing to do with her marriage, but here’s what we think: Her marriage is long behind her; well and truly over. She’s moved on. We kinda thought that’s why her yellow roses were featured so prominently as she moved into her new office.  But she is once again dealing with a square-jawed, handsome, good-on-paper alpha male who’s secretly a mess of insecurities and who makes rash decisions that deeply affect the people around him without ever asking for their input. Don is the office version of her husband and she’s already put up with that shit once in her life. She’s not about to let another handsome, privileged man screw up her life because of his own issues. Hence the red rose dress, which is now a symbol not just of her husband, but of the ways in which the men around her have disappointed her and how she no longer puts up with it anymore. This costume actually underlines and helps to explain her anger in her scenes.

 

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Joan’s eye-popping dress kind of throws the balance off a little here, but notice how much Don’s suit stands out against the other male partners; his brown a discordant note in all that business-like grey and navy blue.  He’s the turd in their toilet bowl.

Okay, that was gross. Allow us to make it up to you with this:

scooby gang

All they need is a van and a Great Dane with a speech impediment to complete the picture.

 

 

 

[Stills: tomandlorenzo.com – Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC]

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