It’s about time, right? I talk incessantly about my love for the fashions and drama of AMC’s Mad Men, I even interviewed one of its stars, but I’ve been remiss in doing an actual post about the show itself. Well, that’s about to change. Mad Men is an amazing show for so many reasons: the awe-inspiringly fastidious ‘60s decorum and setting, the rivetingly troubled characters, and the intelligent writing and directing. It is no wonder that the show has won the Emmy for Best Drama Series 4 years in a row and has inspired numerous copycats, not to mention a clothing line. One wonderfully subtle thing I love about the series is the way in which it depicts fashion. The gorgeous clothing is a backdrop and narrative device to help us better understand the characters who, at their roots, are all about appearance. Thanks to costume designer Janie Bryant, the costumes are never over-the-top or unnecessarily nostalgic, lending an even more fragrant air of authenticity to the show. Here is a closer look at the characters and the magnificent sixties garments that make them even more fascinating.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm)
As the main character and (ambiguously) moral center of the show, Don is an advertising exec, womanizer, and the idolization of women and men alike. With a shady past and a deep, all-encompassing silent streak, Don expresses himself mainly through short sentences uttered between sips of scotch and drags of nicotine. However, while his inner turmoil is buried deep, it is hidden under layers of expensive dark suits, crisp button-downs, and narrow ties. Throughout the series, we see how Don became the man he is, and it required an immense amount of costuming, both physical and emotional.
Shop It: Striped Silk Skinny Tie
Betty Francis (January Jones)
Now divorced and re-married, Betty was introduced to the audience as the cold but effortlessly glamorous wife of Don Draper. Her perfectly coiffed blonde hair is always styled, and her ensembles (even casual loungewear) are nothing short of exquisite. As the prototypical sixties housewife, Betty wears dresses to serve dinner (or to tell her servant to), stays silent when men are speaking, and tries to mold her daughter in her image. None of these things has ever fulfilled her, however, and Betty has only become a more disturbingly caustic character as the series has gone on. Luckily, though, her wardrobe hasn’t suffered the same fate.
Shop It: Fuschia & Navy Printed Dress
Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks)
The secretary of every workingman’s dreams, Joan is equal parts feminine curves and masculine authority. She takes her job seriously, and will never fail to remind anyone of her position in the SCDP office. In more recent seasons, we have seen hints at Joan’s fragility, but her tough exterior has yet to break. This is perhaps best shown by her work outfit choices, which include tight, form-fitting dresses in bright colors. Her flame red hair is often pulled into a sophisticated updo, and she makes the other women in the office look both dowdy and meek in comparison. In a world of men, Joan never forgets her gender and the power that it can hold over the opposite sex.
Shop It: Black Slip Tulip Dress
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss)
While not my personal favorite character, Peggy has become a symbol of the changing dynamic of femininity that took place in the sixties. The opposite of Joan, Peggy is not satisfied being a woman in a man’s world, thinking herself their intellectual equal. She has worked her way up in SCDP, and in the social and political world as well. Amidst all of this experimentation, Peggy’s fashion choices have also changed with the times. In the office, her outfits are more serious and dark, to show that she means business. Yet, out in the world, she is beginning to favor more trendy and youthful choices, perhaps remembering that there is more to life than work.
Shop It: Courreges Yellow and Cream Dress
Roger Sterling (John Slattery)
As Don’s older and (perhaps) wiser mentor, Roger has had his share of breakdowns, health conditions, and infidelity (most notably with Joan). Yet, he has retained his innate sense of sophisticated style. With more personality and pizazz than Don, Roger isn’t afraid to throw a colored tie or vest into his look. He brings a much-needed touch of humor to SCDP, and his offbeat style reflects his character perfectly.
Shop It: Simplicity Shirt Vest Pattern