Mad Men is a veritable smorgasbord of eye candy. From the swoon-worthy set design to the striking cinematography, Matthew Weiner’s stylish series deconstructs the 1960s with a visual grammar that rivals many movies. Perhaps one of the most obsessed about aspects of Mad Men is the fashion. The series heralded a revival of 1960’s style and even inspired several clothing lines from big brands and indie clothiers.
During the dawn of each new season, we are greeted with posters and promo stills that contain our first clues regarding the journey of Mad Men’s characters, hinting at the culture of the times and the personal evolution each figure makes. Think of Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) empowered shift from prim schoolgirl to sophisticated woman and, yes, even provocative seductress. It’s all in the clothes.
Stan Rizzo’s Midnight Cowboy-style jacket mimics the one Jon Voight’s character, a naive male prostitute who struggles to make it in New York City, wears. While it could be a reference to Rizzo’s place on the fringes of Sterling Cooper & Partners, despite his desire to head to Cali and build a west coast presence for the company, fringe fashions were indeed popular at the time.
By 1969, Youthquake culture was at its strongest (culminating at Woodstock that year), and hippie fashions expressed a newfound freedom that dominated the scene. Life explains: “By 1969, America’s youth had not only soaked in more visual and auditory stimuli in a few years than most previous generations combined, but had re-imagined virtually all of that input in the form of sartorial self-expression.” It remains to be seen if the precocious Sally Draper will be shielded from all that as her family determines her future at boarding school, but these lacy tights tell us that there could be a more daring fashion palette awaiting the rebellious Draper if she gets her way.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, which is why we don’t see Don Draper and Roger Sterling changing their style anytime soon. The oldest men’s clothier chain in the States, Brooks Brothers, stood tall and proud on Madison Avenue in 1969, with ten other stores operating in cities across America. We imagine Don and Roger practically living there. New York-born designer Ralph Lauren opened an in-store boutique at Bloomingdale’s in 1969, showcasing a set of styles inspired by the 1930s. The release of Arthur Penn’s film Bonnie and Clyde two years prior remained influential in the fashion world, but Mad Men‘s old guard are woefully out of step with anything trendy.
Megan Draper looks more and more like a Hollywood star with each passing season. Her new style pushes that blend of voluminous sex kitten hair and lashes, à la 1960’s celebs like Ursula Andress or Brigitte Bardot, with the bohemian chic tastes of singer Jane Birkin and supermodel Jean Shrimpton.
Her skirt looks shorter and her heels might be chunkier, but Joan’s style remains a throwback to the Marilyn Monroe era.
Betty Francis continues to ditch her old Suzy Homemaker style for a daring print (daring for the waspy housewife, anyway) that mirrors Megan’s love for bold patterns. Of course, prints like paisley and polka dots were fashionable for the time — as well as that Jackie Kennedy bouffant Betty is sporting. Betty’s best accessory will always be her cigarette dangling from her manicured hand. Smoking was hitting peak popularity in 1969.
A boardroom snake like Pete Campbell is always gazing greedily into the future, so it doesn’t surprise us that the conniving exec is sporting some ‘70s accents in his wardrobe. Pete’s broad ties, large lapels, wide-legged pants, and aggressive sideburns were all the rage for the young business-savvy set in 1969.
Peggy is all business, but her style remains youthful — sporting a hint of flower power with that daisy brooch. Popular pantyhose company L’eggs introduced their brand in 1969, and Peggy’s extra tanned gams suggest she’s adopted the wardrobe staple that remained popular through the ‘70s and ‘80s. We can even imagine an ad-minded brain like Peggy coming up with the campaign for a company like L’eggs, which offered low-cost hosiery to the working woman. We expect to see Peggy in more pants as she completes her rise through the ranks this season.
As styles became looser, freer, and unbuttoned, it wasn’t unusual to see men wearing something like Harry Crane’s patterned neck scarf. Harry’s new look, like Pete’s and the rest of the younger ad men, has taken on a very early ’70s vibe, but his personality has taken a nosedive. Harry’s growing self-importance lends a sleazy tone to his new style.
A few other fashions we expect to see take over Mad Men.