The fashion of Mad Men

 Posted by on May 26, 2010 at 8:42 am  Characters, Media-Web-News
May 262010

As previously reported, Tom and Lorenzo of Project Rungay have been writing up the fashion of our Mad Women. They’re deriving a lot of insight by placing costumes in the context of character and scene.

Trudy Campbell Part 1 and Part 2.

Midge Daniels:

There can be no more glaring example of just how far outside the mainstream Midge was for the period. To modern eyes, there’s nothing wrong with a gal in a baby tee and no bra. Put yourself in 1960. This might be a tiny bit of hyperbole, but she could have risked arrest going out like that. They didn’t even make tee shirts for women back then, let alone baby tees.

Rachel Menken, Part 2.

The Sterling Women, Part 1:

Mona always stood as a warning to Betty; a representation of what she was going to become if she stayed with Don. The message of this scene was that Don would make her rich, but he’d never make her happy.


  20 Responses to “The fashion of Mad Men”


    Just letting everyone know that Christina Hendricks will be appearing in an upcoming music video; I wish this site had a "news submission" feature that would allow us to submit it directly to the site's owners rather than to be forced to post it in the comments section.

  2. I was going to say that you could just email it to their email addresses found in the About section at the top of the screen. However, the addresses are no longer there because of their server problems. So here's one:

  3. Eh, until there's something set up I'll keep on posting things here.

    Here's a really neat look at the Emmy campaign box AMC sent out this week to the people who will be voting. The 6 Mad Men episodes that they selected aren't surprising at all; I personally would have switched "My Old Kentucky Home" with "The Arrangements," but the other 5 are pretty much the strongest episodes of the season.

  4. Mona seems happy, though. Maybe not in particular, re: her marriage, but overall, because she finds her own enjoyment. Unlike Betty who is a cup that constantly wants to be filled by others.

  5. Unlike Betty who is a cup that constantly wants to be filled by others.

    Damn. I wish I'd written that. 🙂

  6. Gosh, guys, can't we give Betty a tiny, tiny break, here? I'm holding out hope that there is a lot more substance there, ala "Shoot." or how about "Shut the Door and Have a Seat" when she finally stands up for herself with Don and replys, "That's right" to his accusation that he's just not good enough for her. I know M. Weiner has more to reveal on Betty.

    Bobbie's outfits would have fit right in with this post, as well as Joan and Peggy.

  7. The Midge analysis was great and really made me think about aspects of the character that never crossed my mind. Without a doubt, one of the most interesting people to be on the show…although I kind of think she may have been a rich girl on the run from a stuffy patrician family, not a "party girl" like they suggest.

  8. I take issue with the baby tee on Midge, as with her hair in the kimono scene: having been alive in all the decades, I can safely say, nope, neither was era appropriate, even for a beatnik gal.

    But they never did settle on a hairdo for Midge, which remained as unfocused as the character, in my opinion.

    A man's shirt and black capris, kimono, peasant blouse, silver mexican jewelry, the fisherman's swearter: right on the mark. I'll even give you the little black dress.

    Loved the fez on the beatnik guy in Midge's last scenes.

    For more reference, here are the 1959 contenders for Miss Beatnik, in Venice Beach, CA:

    I think the screen captures of Mona show how more relaxed and glamorous, rather than dowdy and bemused, are both Mona's attitude and style, AFTER she is divorced from Roger.

  9. Thanks for reminding me to update the About with our email.

    If I knew how to set up a news submission feature I'd do it. It would be easier than handling the email. I'm all for easier.

  10. #7, JS, yes.

    I'd been wondering how someone like Don ever managed to meet Midge in the first place (how would their worlds have intersected? I can see how he'd choose her, but how she'd continue to choose him …). But in the analysis of the "party girl" outfit, for the first time, I began to see an outline of a story.

    Of course, if we ever did see the beginning … it'd probably be something else.

    I'd love to see a scene where Don encounters Midge in a professional capacity. And chooses to pretend not to know her — because he would have no good explanation of how he would.

    Great work, T.Lo. 🙂

  11. Midge is a commercial illustrator: in the '60s illustration was still as important, if not more so, than photography in advertising.

    That's how Don would have met her, as an illustrator who supplied art work for one (or more) of Sterling Cooper's ads.

    In the art department as she dropped them off for Sal, at the Sterling Coo Christmas Party, whenever.

    It's obvious Midge is a freelance illustrator (as most were, and still are), she's also working for greeting card companies and what not.

    I have a number of friends who worked as commercial illustrators for magazines, newspapers, and advertising. through the '70s and '80s when the business was a holdover from the '60s.

    And they lived and worked in lofts downtownish (like Midge) and lived bohemian lives for the time and place, and wore bohemian clothing (compared to the yuppie threads, then current) — and interacted with the staffs, art and editorial, of the magazines, advertising agencies, etc.

    For instance, in New York in the 1970s magazines and newspapers put together an informal softball league, which meant that some staff of the New York Times came up to bat against Screw Magazine, for instance. And either side could have brought in a freelance ringer like Midge.

    In fact, editorial and art department staff moved freely through the print publishing world: I know those who went from art department at Screw to the New York Times, and the Ethics columnist for Esquire, who once wrote pornography for Knave magazine.

    So, Don may have been a suit, but the suits could and did slum with the more bohemian freelancers, in my experience.

  12. Midge is a copywriter, so I always imagined there were a number of ways she and Don could have crossed paths.

  13. No, I believe Midge is an illustrator.

    If memory serves, Midge tells Don she's been up that night drawing puppies for greeting cards. And she's sitting at a drawing board, rather than a desk.

    Usually, copywriters are on staff at advertising agencies (hence Harry and Peggy) and the "art department" are those who wrangle the illlustrative parts of an ad, rather than those who create the illustrations or take photographs.

    There might be freelance copywriters, but they are rare compared to those on staff; and it would be extremely unusual to hire an illustrator for fulltime staff. At least, not full time as illustrators.

    Illustrators may take jobs on staff at art departments, if freelance work isn't going well. But once there, they'd be, at best, doing mockups of the ads, rather than the illustrations themselves.

    Occasionally, they might get to do illustrations, but that would be in addition to their normal art direction work.

    And, in general, it is the freelance illustrators, who would be more likely to live the bohemian life (like Midge) than those on staff at an agency.

  14. I stand corrected.

  15. Take a look at the first set of screen captures (where Midge wears the white man's shirt) and you'll find several shots of her drawing board.

    Then, in the kimono shots, not only paintings on the wall, but a painting leaning up against a wall.

    In shots withthe baby tee shirt (which I do NOT agree is contemporary with the era) we find Midge working at her tilted drawing board, pencil in hand.

    (Copywriters wrote on typewriters. And no one in their right mind, would have placed one of those monster IBM selectric typewriters on a tilted anything, no less the more flimsy-in-comparison drawing board.)

    Finally, in the middle peasant blouse shot, you'll see a pile-up of canvases leaning against another piece of furniture. More usual to find in the loft/apartment of an illustrator/artist than a copywriter.

    Midge is a beatnik girl illustrator, not copywriter.

  16. So maybe they met before Sal joined Sterling Cooper? Or even when Don was with Teddy the Greek? … Yikes.

    I remember Midge's drawing table. Not her drawings, though.

  17. For more insight into Midge style, contestants in the "Miss Beatnik 1959" contest.

  18. I think the screen captures of Mona show how more relaxed and glamorous, rather than dowdy and bemused, are both Mona’s attitude and style, AFTER she is divorced from Roger.

    I wonder how long that will last, considering that as of "The Grown Ups", she was seriously involved with another man.

  19. Re: Mona. Yes, she was involved with another man after Roger. But she had the wisdom of experience on her side. As well as a very good financial settlement. I don't see her committing herself to another man unless she really wants to.

    Re: Midge. Her "look" was more Bohemian than Beatnik Chick. Sure, she lived in the Village, smoked grass & didn't work 9 to 5. But she actually supported herself with her art & probably felt no need to limit herself to the look adopted by teenyboppers coming over from New Jersey to hang out in the coffeehouses. (Tom & Lorenzo's wonderful screen shots show her in a variety of outfits.)

    Concerning Modern Freelance Commercial Artists: What about The Amazing Dyna Moe? She certainly doesn't follow anybody's Dress Code!

  20. […] Here’s what’s gone up since we last posted about it: […]

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