Mad Style: At the Codfish Ball

Posted on May 02, 2012

We’ll start off slow, with a couple snapshots of 1966 teen and tweenhood, upper middle class-style. This episode was the story of three daughters, and while Sally’s clothes definitely played a part and made an impact in this story, the costuming really worked its ass off telling the stories of Peggy and Megan, two young women whose choices often confound and disappoint their parents.

You wouldn’t need text to tell you that, in this scene, Abe and Peggy are a couple. Their tones of grey and black call back to each other, as do their similar necklines. And since this scene was all about the tension between Peggy’s professional life and her romantic one, as soon as she stands up, we get that flash of red kickpleat in her skirt, tying her to Stan and Ginsberg, both of whom have touches of red in their clothes.

What’s great about Peggy and Joan is that they’re clearly more comfortable and open with each other than they’ve been in the past, but their clothes still tell the story of their vast differences. Joan is, of course, wearing something streamlined and extremely body conscious. Motherhood and impending divorce (presumably) haven’t changed her personal style. This is how she’s always done things. The neckline is almost cartoonish and we tend to think that serves as an illustration that Joan isn’t really taking these tight dresses seriously anymore. It’s not about getting men to respond to her and do her bidding like it was in the past. It’s an echo and a caricature of a set of priorities she may no longer have. It’s also notable that she’s wearing purple here because in times past, she wore purple in scenes dealing with romantic heartache and disappointment. Her experience in these matters is all over her costuming.

Peggy is, as she almost always is at the office, working some form of grownup Catholic schoolgirl uniform, which is perfect for this storyline because she came smack up against her own Catholic upbringing.

And here she is, after taking Joan’s pointed advice to go shopping, wearing something that looks like it came out of Joan’s reject pile. Not that Joan would ever wear a baby doll dress, but the bright pink color, squared neckline, and bow to top it all off is right out of the Holloway playbook. When Peggy wants to be pretty and girly and flirtatious (a role that doesn’t come naturally to her) she looks to Joan for guidance.

When Peggy walks through the office in this pale blue coat, she almost becomes invisible, so much does she blend in with the surroundings. Once again, she’s wearing something that evokes menswear – a plaid coat with lapels – because she’s working in a man’s world. Joan is working there too, but as we said, she’s working with the tools she’s always used. Which isn’t to say that Joan’s outfit is somehow inappropriate; just that her brilliant blue dress is about getting noticed and Peggy’s workman-like plaid is about fitting in. Ironically, Peggy does fit in and we’re pretty sure Joan doesn’t want to be noticed right now. People don’t suddenly change their style of dressing to fit their life circumstances, after all. We’re all stuck making the same style choices over and over again. Note, however, that both ladies are in shades of blue, even if those shades are miles apart. They still have a connection, no matter their differences.

Abe can put out all the Harvey’s Bristol Cream he can find; it’s not going to save this dinner from ending badly. From good Catholic schoolgirl, to coquette, and now to wife, Peggy’s cycling through all the roles she doesn’t actually have through her clothes this episode.

This is a highly unusual dress for her. That neckline is like nothing we’ve ever seen on her and the full skirt is more than a couple years out of style. These are church clothes to be worn for visits home; demure, ladylike and chaste. The shades of blue and green tie her into her surroundings, picking up the blues and greens of the table and couch.

Katharine comes in, all “Sacred Heart of Jesus” red and pink (“It’s very delicate.”), addressing her daughter’s boyfriend in the most biblical terms possible. “Abraham.” She’s almost literally wearing her Catholicism on her sleeve.

Or around her neck. Note that it’s a celtic cross, because Katharine is of Irish descent.

Like Peggy, she’s wearing her church clothes. We doubt these are the best she has, however. This is a decent outfit, but she wouldn’t bother wearing her best for a dinner like this. She wants to get in and out of there as quickly as possible, keeping her hat on the whole time.

Not that she would have, in the context of the times, been expected to take her hat off, just that, in the context of the scene it reinforces how little she wants to be there.

The city isn’t for her and she knows what goes on in her daughter’s life. There’s a sense of conflict in the clothes; the small-scale but busy floral pattern fights with Peggy’s more modern, ethnic-inspired print; the pops of red throughout her dress signaling the anger and disapproval right under the surface.

Meanwhile, in another part of town…

Another mother and daughter in conflicting shades and styles. This was a strong bit of costuming because the story tells us that these women are related and our eyes can see the physical resemblance, but the clothes are miles apart from each other. Marie is in a very Chanel-esque suit and hat (bien sûr) in a brilliant red, which evokes anger and sex, and Megan is in the latest in groovy Manhattan wear, in colors of green and blue (like the dress Peggy wore), which in this case evoke emotional coolness, but also money.

Touches of red seem to have defined the creative team this episode, but really, this gorgeous little tapestry style skirt was about giving Megan once again that touch of the exotic; that little something that reminds us unconsciously that she’s not American.

You wouldn’t realize it at first glance, but the costumes these ladies are wearing are calling back to each other. Metallics are big in 1966, so it’s not unusual that they’ve popped up so much this season on several of the women. Megan’s gold metallic shift evokes her money, but the shine and pattern, along with the gold lace collar treatment and complicated hair all call back to the Heinz exec’s wife’s costume.

What better way to illustrate that bond than by framing it in an ornate gold mirror and then having Ken’s wife enter the frame to serve as a contrast? She’s not a player in the drama to keep Heinz from leaving SCDP.

Money, money, money.

We see a little bit of a coming together with Megan and Marie’s clothes here. They’re in totally different color schemes, but they’re both wearing plaid coats, which match their dress and skirt, along with hats. Sally’s the outsider in this family tableau, wearing horizontal stripes in opposition to the plaids.

Peggy’s predilection for menswear-inspired looks gets thrown into stark relief against this getup, which couldn’t be softer or more traditionally feminine in comparison. Peggy’s outfit says “Isn’t this job the BEST?” and Megan’s says “I guess so…”

Megan’s brilliant pink coat and gown stand out against all the white, black and silver in the rest of the party. Despite this being Don’s night, she is at the very center of this group, the only person to whom all the other people are directly connected. In other words, it’s all about her.

And while this is fabulous and adorable and totally mod-stylish, even someone as relatively forward-thinking as Don wouldn’t allow his pre-teen daughter to go out in knee-high go-go boots, which had an even stronger sexual connotation in 1966 than they do now. You can see Megan’s influence all over this, from the up ‘do to the metallic elements.

Like Megan and Sally, Marie is in an up ‘do, wearing white gloves (which she conspicuously took off before talking to Roger) and a dress with metallic elements. The dress is glamorous and expensive-looking, which makes sense for a woman who’s always in competition with her daughter. It’s not too youthful for her, but it’s definitely a showy and sexy dress and you really don’t see any other woman in the room dressed so dramatically. Except Megan, of course.

The silver and black color scheme make her a perfect visual partner for the silver and black Roger Sterling. Even before it happened, you kinda knew what was going to happen.

This Regency-style dress was all the rage in the late ’60s and you would have seen any of a number of stars making a splash in very similar looks: Barbara Streisand, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor all favored this style.

It reeked of Continental glamour, which makes it particularly appropriate for Megan, whose Frenchness is referenced constantly, no more so than in this episode. It also, like so much of what Megan wears, speaks to the money she’s spending. This is not a cheap dress by any stretch.

Different styles at a glance, but all three female characters are connected; done up in glitter, hairspray and expensive clothes, but still glumly sitting around a table, wallowing in their respective disappointments at the end of the night.


[Photo Credit: Ron Jaffe, Michael Yarish/AMC – Screencaps:]

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