Mad Style: Waterloo

Posted on May 27, 2014

We have liftoff, so let’s get to it.

 

Mad-Men-Mad-Style-Season-&-Episode-7-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO (1)A brief and simple rendering of Bert’s home life before he goes. Here are things that are not at all surprising: the surroundings are spare, punctuated by astonishing works of art (Hello, Jackson Pollock) and well appointed furniture from the ’20s and ’30s, with just the slightest touches of Asian art and influence; he’s the type of man who watches television in a bowtie; his carpet is immaculate. That poor maid must spend 4 hours a day vacuuming.

More art direction and set design as characterization:

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We noted the animal skin rug in Jim Cutler’s office once before, finding it perfectly appropriate for such a predatory character, but now that the camera’s swung around in the opposite direction, we can see the animals lined up on the wall, taking the comparison even further. His office is masculine but well-appointed, from the leather couch and giant ugly executive chair to the tea service and telescope (the first of several in the episode).

Note that the skyward pointing telescope in Jim’s office is answered by the earth bound cracked-open bar globe in Ted’s. In an episode where almost every character was shown watching the greatest aerospace event in history, the actual aviator was drunkenly watching soap operas and feeling sorry for himself. Note the (no doubt Sunkist) orange juice with the vodka bottle right next to it. That’s Ted’s whole state of mind and story told almost entirely through art direction.

Alright, now we’re gonna zig-zag all over the place. First, domestic suburbia:

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Betty and Sally start off this episode dressed nothing alike. Betty’s in a pretty, mostly purple floral and Sally’s in her signature plaid, which we’ve always read as a signal of the bond she has with her father. It’s played out in several scenes and callbacks before, so every time we see Sally in plaid now, we think, “She’s Don’s daughter.”

Look at how formally Betty and Henry are dressed to receive company for a weekend in July. She’s in pearls and he’s in a suit. That’s just a tad over the top for them, but they’ve grown increasingly formal and aristocratic the longer they’ve lived in that house. The other family is dressed exactly like a family who’s been on a car trip in July would be. It’s Betty’s intention to be more dressed up than her guests. That’s both old school hostessing and just a little snobbish.

Given Betty’s brief, subtle shirtless teenage boy-ogling later in the episode, we choose to see Bobby’s shirt as hilarious.

 

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Here, have some cigarette-and-resentment-scented overcooked eggs. Mommy’s done for the day. You can bet those eggs were cooked in bacon grease.

We like the play of their blouses with each other. Betty continues to come across as if she’s dressing competitively. Her friend is in a slightly dowdy fruit print while Betty’s got the perfect little floral motif going on. And again with the pearl touches, this time in her earrings.

 

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Loved Betty’s well-timed drag and “Call me Betty” at the sight of Sean. Koo Koo Ka Choo, Mrs. Francis.

Sally’s hair seems to be pretty clearly modeled on Betty’s. We saw this as an example of a fumbling teen girl with a crush taking her cues from her movie-star pretty mother instead of following the trends. The look for most girls Sally’s age in 1969 was more along the lines of Marcia Brady than Betty Francis. There’s a reason why Betty’s so amused by this display. It flatters the hell out of her. As much as we all want Sally to put on her bell bottoms and love beads, there’s every indication that she’ll be fairly conservative in her style, like her mother. She’s a Miss Porter’s girl ,and while she loves her father, there’s a part of her that finds his poverty-stricken background and very messy personal life embarrassing.

You could argue that Sally’s dolled up to impress the younger brother here, but that wouldn’t explain why she was parroting the older brother’s lines about the moon landing being a waste of money. This is her taking the Betty route, going after the hot football player. The last time we saw Sally, she was cutting her mother down and making some rather acid comments about how Betty looks at men and how she doesn’t need one. Despite all her protestations – and even the occasional wearing of plaid – she can’t escape her mother’s influence in her life any more than she can escape her father’s.

Meanwhile:

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We joked on twitter that there was a “There’s a hot guy in my house unexpectedly” theme to this episode. Is Peggy going to get the Miranda Hobbes ending? All those advertising executives, creative directors and writers she’s gone after and she winds up with a hot handyman who doesn’t appear to read that much? Enh. We’re just hoping she gets good and laid. She deserves the fun. Pete, Duck, Abe and Ted. Was there a decent lover in that bunch? Not bloody likely.

 

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This is another in a long line of cute, crew-necked, short-sleeved dresses that Peggy’s been wearing all year. She and Julio are often shown wearing horizontal stripes in the same scene. It’s their shared subtextual bond as pseudo-mother and son rendered in their clothing.

 

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But when that subtext bubbles up into text and both characters realize simultaneously the depth of the bond they have, it stops being “pseudo” and starts being real. She is, very briefly, his mother, and she has to explain to him why sometimes mothers have to make very hard decisions that hurt their children but it’s for the best in the long run. There was a through-line in Peggy’s story this season about coming to terms with the things she’s given up for her career and tapping into that pain, Don Draper-like, to write beautiful copy. She is, as she’s said over and over again, somewhat bitterly, “the voice of moms” in this campaign. This was her getting in touch with her own voice as a mother.

In this instance, she’s not wearing stripes. She’s wearing a highly uncharacteristic-for-Peggy floral.; very traditionally feminine for someone who wears mostly bold plaids and stripes. This was even obliquely referenced in the dialogue as she gave a very “Mad Style” -like explanation to a disinterested Julio about her clothing choices for the upcoming Burger Chef pitch. “This one’s in gray, which is a color men wear.” The costumes in this scene – his and hers – will come into play again as this theme of Peggy’s motherhood and voice as a woman plays out. First, she wears the same robe again when she finds out she has to make the Burger Chef pitch:

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She specifically says she can’t replicate Don’s pitch. “I’m a woman! I’m ‘the voice of moms!'” You can count on one hand the number of times we’ve seen Peggy in a floral on this show.  It’s not that she needs to act or dress all girly in order to be good at her job, but this pitch specifically needed to be made in a woman’s voice and Peggy needed to tap into that in a way far beyond selling panty hose or lipstick required of her. She’s defining family from a woman’s point of view with this pitch; from her point of view. That’s tapping into way deeper stuff than “Mark Your Man.”

It’s perhaps not surprising then, that when it came time to choose the outfit for her pitch, she took her inspiration directly from Julio:

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Once again, referenced in the dialogue: “There’s a little ten-year-old boy at home in front of my TV set.” And she’s dressed exactly how he was the last time she saw him. How ironic that blue and green, which repeated itself more than any other color motif we’ve ever noted in the costuming and art direction before, used to pop up in scenes dealing with or characters committing adultery. But here it is now, representing Peggy and Julio’s new definition of family.

It’s interesting to note also that this is a pretty flirty and feminine look for a pitch. Peggy tends to dress more business-like than this for her pitches, as she herself told Julio. We’ve never seen her in that much makeup with her hair done up that much at any other time in the show. She never looked better or more grownup than she does in this scene.

Note the orange and blue Burger Chef colors. They pop up in Megan’s bikini:

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Which we wouldn’t try to impose too much deeper meaning into. Corporate colors often come up in the costuming, based on who’s being pitched and how important that pitch is to the story. The days of Heinz Baked Beans saw a lot of bean-colored ties, for instance. Megan obviously has nothing to do with Burger Chef, but it deepens the storytelling to have little callbacks like this sprinkled throughout.

It’s more interesting, however, that she’s lounging around in a bikini in the first place. She appears to be doing nothing but living a life of leisure at the moment. All she ever does in L.A. is hang around the house, go shopping, get her nails done or throw parties. We suppose we should give her some credit for breaking up with Don when she could be treating him like a meal ticket in perpetuity, but we wonder what she’s going to do with herself now. She’s almost 30 with a very spotty resume – and Don’s about to make millions of dollars. We wonder if we’re really done with Megan in this story.

Note the brown flowers of her robe. Janie Bryant did that before with Joan when her marriage ended. Note also the telescope behind her.

Okay, zig-zagging again:

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Meredith used to dress almost exactly like a little girl before she became Don’s secretary. Then she started making the attempt to dress a little more grown up, missing the mark slightly each time. The suit is really cute, but the daisy jewelry and the giant rick rack can’t help but render her in a slightly silly and naive light.

 

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We’re always impressed when Janie Bryant has the task of dressing six men in suits for a scene and managing to make each of them look entirely distinct from each other. Pete is in a blue shirt so that he and Don don’t look alike. Cutler and Roger are wildly different from each other; one in a sober black and the other in an electric blue. Bert has a bright green bow tie to differentiate him and Harry’s, as usual, off in his own little style world.

We couldn’t help thinking of Joan’s dress as some sort of reversal of her usual “red  roses of disappointment” motif. Instead of red roses on a black background, we get these stark white flowers on a red background. She’s done being disappointed. She’s furious now. It’s a relatively simple look, but the bold jewelry and the wild print make her look formidable and angry. The writing has failed to sell her anger effectively, in our opinion, but the costuming sure picked up the slack.

Back to family life:

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With unconventional families and television figuring so heavily in the Burger Chef pitch, it played out in the storytelling as well, as several families formed around the most watched television event of all time. As Peggy astutely noted in the pitch, this is what Burger Chef has to figure out how to do; how to get families away from their TVs and into their restaurants.

Just look at all that print and color. There was all kinds of tension here, with moms in competition, cranky dads, mouthy teenage boys and horny teenage girls in this group, which is why it’s such an explosion of competing prints.

Moms wear florals, of course (calling back to Peggy’s floral mom robe).

 

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It’s room service and liquor for the Sterling clan. Divorce has been good for Mona. She’s more stylish now than she was when she was married to Roger. Can’t help noticing that they’re both wearing plaids. Possible reconciliation?

 

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But of all the people watching this event in front of us, it’s Don and Peggy who look almost directly at us. It’s unnerving and it’s a bold choice from Matthew Weiner and a hard thing to do for the actors, but it placed Don and Peggy above everyone else watching this event. They are the leads of this story, after all, and while we’re watching them, they are, in turn, watching us back. Look at how Harry, who is all about unrestrained outbursts and reactions, can’t control himself. Contrast that with Peggy, who takes this moment to look around and see how everyone else is reacting. That’s the essence of Peggy; in the middle of things, but observing them at the same time.

She’s wearing yet another horizontal Julio stripe, just as she has throughout this episode, with the exception of her mom robe. Julio is never really far from her mind.

 

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And in Bert’s impromptu family, his maid is allowed to stop vacuuming for a moment and get some leisurely knitting done while he quietly dies next to her in his dressing gown. How aristocratic.

 


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Things of note: They’re all rendered in bland neutral shades. Roger and Jim are neat reversals of each other; one in a blue shirt with a tan coat over it, the other in a tan shirt with a blue jacket over it. Oppositional. Joan is wearing pants in the office, continuing Peggy’s tradition of wearing them in the office after hours. Although to be fair, Joan got there first: the last time she wore pants in the office is when they formed the new agency by robbing the old one, in “Shut the Door, Have a Seat,” which this episode called back to over and over again.

Joan’s wearing a polka dot coat over a striped shirt, which we assume she’d never do if she wasn’t so distraught. Joan doesn’t do pattern-mixing.

 

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This is easily the most grownup thing Sally’s ever worn. The mini-skirt and lace-up top is just a tiny bit racy; just enough to let you know she’s maturing sexually without being something that Betty wouldn’t approve of. And speaking of which, as we said, this is some Betty hair, but she’s making an un-Betty-like choice here; choosing the smart, shy guy over the football player. Betty at 15 would have made fun of this guy. After Don reprimanded her for sounding so cynical, she stomped off, leaving the Don Draper-like alpha male older brother alone and forging her own path. If there’s any meaning to his plaid shirt, it’s as ironic as her Betty hair. He’s no more Don than she is Betty. For her first kiss, Sally made a choice to not be like her parents. That’s why we think she’s going to be fine – and why she looks so damn satisfied with herself at the end. Like we said, pure Betty in affect, but totally unlike Betty in her thinking.

 

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Jim Hobart is very casually dressed while Roger is all business. He’s not fooling around here.

He’s also no fool, as he clearly asked Jim to meet him at his go-to place for meetings that he doesn’t want anyone to know about. This is the same place he took Joan to talk about paying for her abortion:

hands and knees

Of course Roger would have hideaways like this. He probably has half a dozen spots in Manhattan where he can take potential clients or mistresses without anyone knowing about them.

 

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In the wake of the moon landing, there’s a subtle explosion of patriotic pride in the clothing, as red, white, and blue runs through the outfits here, even Ted’s. Joan is wearing another Peggy-like dress, done up Joan-style, with a scarf. Roger’s in mourning, wearing the most sober outfit we’ve seen on him all year. All the men have striped or patterned ties except Harry, who’s not a partner and doesn’t belong there.

 

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Orange and Blue. “We did it. We got Burger Chef.” Well of course you did. You’re wearing their colors.  And she’s still wearing her Julio stripes – now with attached pseudo-nipples, for the pseudo-mom on the go!

And finally – and we do mean finally:

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We’re not saying anything new here when we note that this is clearly calling back to the aesthetic of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” many examples of which you can find in our Musical Monday entry on the film. Janie Bryant had a little fun with the dream secretaries here, bumping up their outfits just enough to make them seem a little more colorful and vivid than the secretarial wear in the real world. The boots and kneesocks, the bright colors and simple shapes, the way each woman brings a different color into the scene – it’s all out of the movie musical playbook, and looks quite a bit like the “A Secretary is Not a Toy” number in a lot of ways.

Major kudos to Robert Morse, who’s clearly still got the moves. He was known for his exuberantly boyish performing style and it’s a delight to see, when he leans over for a kiss or offers that jaunty shrug as he starts his (quite literal) soft shoe routine, that it hasn’t diminished a bit. A wonderful sendoff for the actor and the character, even if it’s the height of irony to have Bert Cooper sing that the best things in life are free.

We don’t think this scene is evidence of the DTs or a stroke on Don’s part. He’s had several visions of dead people before after all, from his parents, to Anna Draper, to his brother Adam. This is kind of what Don does with the dead people in his life We don’t even think it’s as ominous as it might seem by the end, when he’s crying and slumping on a desk. We think he’s probably questioning whether signing that contract is going to work for him, but he’s learned the lesson that his friends – in this case, Roger and Peggy – are important  to him in ways he never realized. It’s not quite as optimistic as we originally took it to be, but it does leave the future wide open and tips its hat to the lessons Don’s learned this half-season. If the best things in life are free, than perhaps his contract won’t matter at all.

We’ll see, won’t we? Eleven long months from now.

 

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC – Stills: tomandlorenzo.com]

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