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‘Mad Men’ On Mute: The Fashion Still Talks

October 18, 2009

Published by Ozarks Unbound

By Bethany Larson
Ozarks Unbound
Imagine this: you’re watching the premiere of AMC’s “Mad Men,” and you receive a phone call. Instead of leaving the room, you mute the TV, take the call, and remain on the couch. Without being introduced to the characters, and with no sound, you would be able to point to the women on the screen and explain them as characters.
How is this possible you ask? By looking at what they wear.
The show features three types of women found in the 1960s:  Betty Draper(January Jones), the perfect housewife,  Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), the sexy office manager, and  Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss), the young career woman. Each of these women is outfitted by costume designer  Janie Bryant to fit their 1960s archetype.
Betty is perennially coiffed in her pastel sundresses, Joan wears jewel-toned dresses that accentuate her naturally accentuated curves (think Marilyn Monroe), and Peggy tends to wear drab tartan prints, little make-up, and her hair in a ponytail everyday. Suffice it to say, Peggy stands out, and not in a good way. Indeed, Joan’s one piece of workplace advice to Peggy is, “Stop dressing like a little girl.”
Although Betty and Joan’s wardrobes have been archetypically consistent during the show’s three seasons, Peggy’s has transformed. As she gains confidence both at work and in herself, she begins paying more attention to her appearance — dressing in a way that showcases her physique, wearing more make-up, and styling her hair in an adult fashion.
Peggy is the archetype of a new woman emerging in the 1960s; she is single, independent, and successful. While Betty and Joan have always strived to look their best to receive what they want– a husband–Peggy only begins to look her best once she has gained what she wants–success.
Now, if you had watched the show on mute all three seasons you would have missed some great dialogue, but you would be able to sum up all three women just by looking at their wardrobes.
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