Peggy’s style drive us crazy.
“Peggy,” we yell at the screen. “Please stop wearing that ponytail, dear. Also, can you get your Mom not to cut your bangs so short? And while you’re at it, please please please ditch the pinafores and the gingham and the home-made clothes.”
There’s something about Peggy’s wardrobe that turns us all into Aunties, the ones who pinch your cheeks and give you twenty dollars while commenting on how you’ll look just gorgeous once you lose your baby fat. (You just turned 29.) You know the kind I mean. Those Aunties are mistresses of the back-handed compliment. Well, okay, I have a couple of Uncles like this as well.
And apparently it’s not just us. From the very first episode, other women on the show freely dispensed unsolicited advice to Pegs. In The New Girl, Bobbie tells her: “No one will tell you this but you can’t be a man. Don’t even try. Be a woman.” Some viewers interpreted this as another spin on what everyone seems to be telling her: Use your feminine wiles. Be sexier. But I think that in Maidenform, Joan finally cut to the chase about what, precisely, irritates us all about Peggy: She demands that people take her seriously and yet she dresses like a little girl. And an antiquated little girl at that.
But still, so what? Who cares? Clothing is just surface and what matters is the character and ability of each individual. But is it really that shallow? I’d argue that there’s a lot of depth to the right fashion.
According to Linen Shed, clothing is a form of communication. It tells people two things: How you want them to perceive you and how you perceive yourself. And in this case, it’s very obvious that Peggy is conflicted. To add to people’s annoyance is the fact that they’re not buying it. They intuit that she’s not that sweet young thing and whether or not they disapprove, there is something, well, almost dishonest about her image of purity. It’s like the 65 year old CEO who dresses like a Hell’s Angel on weekends. You’re no rebel, dude. Be who you really are and don’t try to fool us.
On the other hand, that hapless/hypocritical CEO knows a thing or two about the totemic value of clothing: Put on leather and you actually do feel tough and defiant. Don sumptuous silk and you begin to move differently until, little by little, you FEEL like an aristocrat. It’s true. We like to think we’re very civilized but the businessman and woman in the well-tailored power suit are the modern day equivalent of the tribesmen who donned animal furs in order to tap into the lion’s courage and prowess.
If you’ve ever stepped into a genuinely well-cut suit you know what I mean. Soon as you put one on, you feel like you can take on the world. And like I’ve said in this blog before, the modern office is a battlefield. You better make use of every talisman of power.
One of the more powerful women at my workplace started out as a secretary. She worked her way up that ladder and she deserves everything she’s gotten because she knows the business inside and out. She exudes power and it’s not just her subtle take-charge demeanor or her tone of voice; she communicates this with her suits. Simply put, they’re impeccable. Elegant and feminine, too. She’s more than a little intimidating and yet she is, undeniably, a woman. And, no, you will never catch this lady in any kind of decolletage. She doesn’t have to convince you she’s an attractive woman or that she’s wicked smart. You see, she already knows it. She’s extending you the courtesy, if you will, of being upfront about it.
Peggy, dear, I was just like you. I wore the 21st Century equivalent of the little girl costume: khaki jeans, floppy sweaters, scuffed Skechers, and, yes, even the self-same ponytail. And this is what I have to say: You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be innocent and untouched and expect to come into your own. We all know you’re smart and sophisticated. You’re already tapping into it. So why are you so afraid of letting on you know it?