Adultery Bathrobe, Icy Blue Dress and other Fashion Notes from Mad Men

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Season 7 of AMC's hit show Mad Men will be its last.

Mad Men, the drama about an advertising firm in 1960's Manhattan, begins its final season Sunday. And as fans of the AMC show tune in to discover what's in store for characters like Don, Peggy, Joan and Roger, some will be paying attention to what they’re wearing.

Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez run the celebrity fashion blog For the past five years, they've been cataloging almost every Mad Men outfit on their site for a series they call "Mad Style."

"I think most people, including our readers, are unaware of how much work is put into costumes," Marquez said in this interview.

Marquez put together a collage of screencaps showing the clothes and accessories in each scene. Then, based on what is happening in the scene, Fitzgerald writes about how the clothes, chosen by Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant, reveal more about the characters and the plot.

"It's more about the costume design. It's not just to say, 'oh wow, look at how fabulous Joan looks here.' It's what is Joan's costume saying. What are the semiotics of the costume in this scene and the context of this time," Fitzgerald said. 

Here are excerpts from past "Mad Style" entries: 

Love the sandals. It’s the Los Angeles version of the Zou Bisou dress. Notice how heavy her jewelry has gotten. There’s definitely a jewelry story being told this season. Costume jewelry exploded in shape and sizes by the late ’60s and Janie Bryant has typically used it either to denote prostitution or to denote wealth in women. You get to decide what’s being said about Megan here through her gigantic earrings and rings. Wealthy, accomplished woman or hooker with a sugar daddy? It seems to us that Megan herself is struggling with that one. 

Still stuck at home in that crappy Bathrobe of Shame. Last season, looking at a very similarly framed shot, we called this Don’s “adultery bathrobe” and linked it to the dress Sally wore to her interview at Miss Porter’s in the same episode. There was similar Sally-linking going on here. First, you can get really crazy and link these opening shots with the opening shots of Season 5, as Sally wakes up in the apartment for the first time. But more obviously, you can just go ahead and once again link this bathrobe to something Sally’s wearing at Miss Porter’s. 

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.

We love the detail of that sweater being passed around the commune. We saw it on one of the guys the day before. It goes with Roger’s feeling that his daughter is being passed around that commune too. He was pretty okay with what she was doing because he’s had more than his share of free love and drug taking. It wasn’t until he came face to face with the fact that his daughter is betraying her husband and son that he thought she needed to be kidnapped away from that place. In other words, he came face to face with himself and he didn’t like it at all. Old man take a look at my life; I’m a lot like you.

Notice how a literal roll in the mud has done little to change her look but it’s ruined Roger’s.

Of course Megan was pretty much demanding that she and Don check her out. Don is the only person in the room wearing plaid and it sticks out like a sore thumb, even through the haze of smoke and dim lighting. It’s impossible to lose track of him in the scene. Megan, for her part, stands out just as much. That’s a Pucci dress. She’s dressed more finely, with more jewelry, wearing more makeup and having the most done up hair of anyone in the room. In fact, she’s more than a little overdressed.

These are people from her acting class, according to her. They clearly don’t have a lot of money and/or aren’t interested in dressing in expensive clothing. She knows this about them – or she should, anyway. That she dresses like this to host a party for them tells us that either she’s deliberately rubbing her wealth in their faces or (more likely) she’s completely clueless as to the obvious differences between her and them.

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.