"Fashion is always going to be a reflection of what's going on in the world," remarked fashion designer Peter Som. Consider his words, as we look at the fashion that appears on Mad Men in the early 1960s as compared to now.
"The rise of the cold war led to a fearful atmosphere in America and at the same time you had a booming economy so the result for fashion was a look that was conservative but also highly consumerist," observed Valerie Steele in a Mad Men season two DVD extra. She noted Anne Fogerty invented the term "Wife Dressing," which was defined by complete femininity, and was about dressing to please your husband and to help boost his career (personally I find that all hooey; the clothes were just fabulous). It also involved "going back to strict gender rules, so women were supposed to dress like women and men were supposed to be like men."
Jonathan Kanarek observed, "It represents a time when optimism was high and anything can be accomplished." Men donned the classic gray suit and white shirt. "In order to be taken seriously you wore a suit. That still holds true today." Does it? That's debatable. Have you seen The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, a novel about a WW2 veteran that became a film with Gregory Peck? It's now on my to-watch list.
President Kennedy, it was observed, single handedly killed the hat when he took it off for his inauguration, and from that day on, hat sales declined. It's a testament how we take our fashion queues from others and how impressionable the public is.
Are you as enamored at the fashion on the show as I am? Everyone looked like, well, grown-ups, where today in offices in New York City, it seems to be "anything goes" even if it's jeans and a baggy sweatshirt more suitable for a day of grocery shopping. I adore the more modest skirt lengths, the smart looking dresses, the scarves, the hair and makeup - just the glamour, period. Even Betty Draper's night gowns are feminine and flirty. And the men? There's nothing more attractive than a man in a nice suit, if you ask me.
I love the age-appopriateness dressing on the show. When Peggy wanted to advance in her career as a copy-writer, someone suggested she started looking the part instead of dressing like a younger girl. How much of fashion today is more targeted toward youth, which is so coveted by our society? Does age-appropriate dressing exist anymore?
What era of fashion do you look back longingly on? This era aside, I also love the flapper style of the 1920s and the glamour in all of those Busby Berkeley films of the 1930s. As a young girl, I loved Lucille Ball's style on I Love Lucy.
Looking at fashion today, I absolutely agree it does reflect what's going on. We're an even more consumerist society with cheap fashion at the ready and increasingly shorter attention spans and an obsession with labels. I don't find anything fashionable at all about all the cheap knockoff handbags (I am always amazed when I've traveled in Barcelona, Florence, or Paris, or walking in New York City, vendors are selling completely gaudy, cheap handbags, and women are buying them in droves). Even for the real deal, I don't think slapping a label on something and charging a lot of money makes something "stylish." Style isn't about a label, it's about a look.
It seems no one dresses up for anything anymore. At church, many of the older parishioners, some of whom have various health problems, come dressed to the nines, while the youngest ones look like they just rolled out of bed. I spot people on a regular basis walking around in pajama pants. So much for Sunday's best. Have we become a nation of slobs? At the risk of offending anyone, I kind of think so.We're definitely not dressing for optimism and anything is possible, quite the opposite, it's a bit of "I don't care."
What do you think? Do you long for more glamorous days? Should we dress more the part? Or do you embrace our fashion culture, which seems to emphasize comfort?
For women, are you an aspiring Betty, Joan, or Peggy, or men, do you love Don Draper's style?
For more Mad Men fashion, visit the Fashion File series of the AMC Man Men blog.