Mad Men Fashion and Style
For AMC’s Mad Men fashion is an incredibly important element of the show. From the start the show has had a wonderful look, and on an aesthetic level alone the characters each look absolutely fabulous in their suits or dresses. It is no surprise that the main costume designer, Katherine Jane Bryant has been nominated for 3 Emmys for her outstanding work in Mad Men. Retro fashions have been a popular part of current designs for a good few years now which goes some way to explain how Mad Men fashion has been such a welcome addition to many viewers own wardrobe, bringing back old classics like the spaghetti-strap party dress. Many a husband has reluctantly agreed that perhaps looking a little more tailored may not be such a bad thing.
Aside from how handsome and/or sexy the clothes make the characters, in Mad Men fashion is also used to give clues or to reflect elements of those characters’ personalities. For example, Joan might wear a low cut, figure-hugging dress, with her hair up and a strong red lipstick on – the viewer can tell right away that she is a confident, self-assured woman, and isn’t gonna take no nonsense from anyone. Whereas perhaps some of the other secretaries around the office would weary mousey cardigans and long skirts, all in drab shades. It’s not hard to tell from a quick glance just who the boss is. We see this more directly with Peggy, who starts off in dull, long skirts and cardigans, but her fashion sense matures into more colourful and shapely dresses as her confidence grows with each promotion.
Bryant has applied the same attention to detail for the male characters. Don projects confidence but also a sense of mystery – in many ways he is all surface, or at least is trying his best to be. His choice of suits reflect this (in the early seasons especially), often being well fitted, dark and straightforward. Even his pocket square a simple straight line of white cotton.
Mad Men fashion has changed and matured as the years have rolled on in those New York offices. Whereas Season 1 had the women in full skirts and the men in well cut suits, we see subtle (and not so subtle) changes as we move to Seasons 2 and 3. Most notably, the hemlines on the ladies skirts began to creep a little further up, with slimmer skirts and a little more glamour here and there. As the show has gone through the mid 60s into the latter half of the decade, we have seen brighter colours, florals and mod patterns come into play. For formal occasions too, we see the ladies in high necklines and empire waists. For the non-partners and the creative we see a more relaxed, counter-cultural style at work: cardigans, high-waisted pants and polo sweaters.
So next time you decide to watch Mad Men, as well as noticing how good the clothes look, take a little time to appreciate what they tell you about the culture and the character. There’s always more than meets the eye.
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