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The Mad Men Fashion File – War of the Roses

It’s a Valentine’s Day episode, and Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant has done something brilliant — she’s pulled the costumes into couples. Witness Don and Sally, who mirror each other twice: Once in their first scenes of the episode, when Don sports his blue plaid bathrobe in his empty apartment, and Sally wears her own plaid housecoat in her dorm room. You’ll notice as well that, on the bed, Sally’s friend sports a quilted night dress much like Betty’s… while Sally wears pajama pants. The father-daughter duo coordinate again in their last scene together, where the Drapers wear shades of gray — the color of both moral ambiguity and cigarette ashes.

madmen-702-don-sally-325At the office, there’s another costume comparison: Peggy and Dawn. Dawn’s navy blazer and broad Peter Pan neckline follow Peggy’s serious (yet slightly schoolgirl) take on office attire. Is Dawn doing it on purpose? We might never know, but she did get a new office this episode… Did you see how she smiled when she sat behind her new desk? It seemed like a callback to Peggy sitting in Don’s chair at the end of Season 6. Dawn also reminds me a bit of this famous Glamour College cover from 1968, which features model Katiti Kironde in a crisp white shirt and polished scarf — a very Dawn ensemble, indeed.

Anyone else cringe when Peggy had a meltdown in the hallway? She should have known those flowers belonged to Shirley… or at least, she could have known if she’d paid closer attention to the costumes. Shirley’s in a bright red floral minidress that perfectly matches her Valentine bouquet — they’re sartorially inseparable. (Shirley’s red mini was also similar to the Star Trek uniform of Nichelle Nichols, who played the show’s first African American cadette from 1966-1969.) And Peggy? Peggy’s wide necktie and brown skirt recall the Girl Scout uniform. She’s also still sporting that huge cream knit beanie, which is so similar to Sally’s red version. When Peggy chastises Shirley for acting childish, it’s not just Peggy’s behavior that undermines her. It’s her costume, too.

madmen-702-joan-200There’s one more Valentine’s Day pairing to consider: Joan and Meredith. Both wear red-hued dresses in honor of Cupid’s holiday. But while Joan’s is crimson red and cut to show off her womanly figure, Meredith’s hot pink dress shares the same A-line shape and super-short hemline as Sally’s coat and jumper. When Joan must recalibrate Meredith, Dawn, and Shirley’s office assignments, I was reminded of a Gloria Steinem essay on the parallels between the Black Power and Women’s Liberation movements, which appeared in the April 1969 edition of New York magazine: “Having one’s traditional role questioned is not a very comfortable experience,” Steinem wrote, “Perhaps especially for women who have been able to remain children.”

Finally, is anyone else rooting for Bonnie Whiteside? I love how she flat-out told Pete, “I’m in sales, too.” I adored how she demanded that he “put the sign back.” Her speech about how the world isn’t in anyone’s control was dark and haunting and, simultaneously, a reminder that we should drink and dance until dawn. (A good parallel to Ted’s “Just cash the checks. You’re going to die one day.”) As for Bonnie’s story about how someone’s cigarette set her prize house on fire, that anecdote recalls the one Megan told Don in the season premiere: “Everyone says they can tell where the fire starts.” Even so, Bonnie’s pastel yellow costume and buttery hued hair are more reminiscent of Betty than anyone else. (Except Mrs. Francis wouldn’t dare risk that hemline… would she?)

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