A Mad Men fashion retrospective
Betty has gone from pretty blonde model to Don's dutiful housewife and show pony to fat, ageing matron. It's almost like the writers are playing a mean-girl prank. Photo: Supplied
BETTY DRAPER FRANCIS
Oh Betty. A ’50s throwback, always adrift unless a man comes to her rescue, alternately spiteful and needy, an insecure woman and an indifferent mother. She’s Mad Men’s most maligned character – some say unfairly – and it shows in her storyline. Betty has gone from pretty blonde model to Don’s dutiful housewife and show pony to fat, ageing matron. It’s almost like the writers are playing a mean-girl prank. Betty has always been a clothes horse and her look is staunchly traditional. She started out in brightly-coloured floral numbers with wide, girlish skirts. Her evening wear, like this bright blue gown trimmed with fussy diamantes and gauze, was stiffly formal. At the end of series five, having stacked on the weight, she stumped about miserably in wide coats accessorised with pearls and scarves.
Mad Men’s everywoman hasn’t exactly been a fashion icon throughout the series. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) started in shapeless sweaters and frumpy blouses paired with secretary skirts and sensible heels. And in the first series she sometimes looked like she was wearing her old Catholic girls school uniforms to work. But the skirts got more fitted, more streamlined and the blouses gave way to no-nonsense shirtsleeves. [SPOILER ALERT] By the time she left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to be head of her own department at a rival advertising agency, she was polished and professional.
If Peggy is everywoman, then Joan is who every woman wants to be. Her distinctive look set the tone for the show, making it a fashion hit almost instantly and sparking a revival of 1960s vintage. Her signature look is the tailored sheath dresses in jewel tones, to offset that scarlet mane, and simple accessories such as the now-iconic pen necklace. The deep green dresses are particularly effective. Everything fits to Christina Hendricks’ legendary curves — whether it’s a pinup sweater with a pencil skirt or a deep blue shirt dress. Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant hasn’t strayed too far from that winning formula through the series. When Joan goes out of an evening, it’s often in dramatic midnight black.
MEGAN ‘ZOU BISOU BISOU’ DRAPER
The third Mrs Draper, played by Jessica Pare, is young and so are her mod-inspired clothes, which can be a breath of fresh air. She’s got the thigh-skimming swing dresses, the slacks and chunky sweaters, sleeveless colour blocked tops and geometric patterns. Megan’s big fashion moment in series five was the little black dress with the pleated chiffon sleeves in which she performed “Zou Bisou Bisou” to a cringing Don at his birthday party. The heavy eyeliner and blue eyeshadow are pitch perfect. Megan can also do dress ups like a pro, as shown by this beaded coral evening dress. Janie Bryant has said she likes to put Megan in coral because it’s a fresh, lovely colour that symbolises the love between Megan and Don.
It’s a good series when even the men are dressed beautifully. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is slick in French cuff shirts and crisp suits in pale grey and charcoal. Resident silver fox Roger Sterling (John Slattery) is always immaculate in three-piece suits in pinstripe or silver grey to match the hair. And the casual ’60s summer jackets in check pattern and pastel colours, such as Pete Campbell’s lemon yellow number, should not be the sole preserve of the hipster
Mad Men Season Six begins on Monday, April 8 on Showcase.