Last night’s season premiere of Mad Men took the show into the future: November 1964, to be exact. So, how much has changed since 1963? A lot. From the newer, brighter offices to Peggy’s peppy hairstyle and pearls, the look of the show has changed dramatically.
Let’s start with Don, Mad Men’s troubled hero. Last season he was the poster boy for success, perfect suits, perfect hair, perfect bone structure. That last bit may remain the same, but his style is in the dumps. Don’s opening look, the suit to define a season, was dark blue with a coordinating, diagonally striped tie in blue tones. Next to Roger’s gray three piece and Pete’s black suit, Don’s blue number read a little weak. And the tie read kooky. Not the luxe look we’ve come to expect from Mr. Draper.
Don spends the rest of the episode changing between similar suits and some red and blue long sleeved polo shirts that leave him looking haggard. Perhaps it’s the worry in Don’s face that is killing his glamor. (Or the darkness of his West Village apartment that creates a literal five o’clock shadow over everything.) We’re hoping that Don gets himself back together, no more hookers or yelling at clients; though “So well built, we can’t show you the second floor,” is among the greatest tag lines of all time.
But on to the ladies.
Peggy’s got a new haircut and a wardrobe revolving around the tie neck blouse. She completes her looks with pearl studs in each ear. Wearing mostly navy, yellow, and white, Peggy isn’t afraid to stand out anymore in the Sterling Cooper Draper Price offices. She talks back to Don, schemes with Pete, and has a fiancé? She’s in a position of power this season, having a real office and a cute assistant, alias “Jooohhn,” who looks like a cast off from Ugly Betty. If he wasn’t so darn cute, I’d mark him frivolous and wait for him to be fired in a tragic Prismacolor accident. But he can stay for now, faux hawk, vests, and all.
Unfortunately for Joan lovers everywhere, she only wore two outfits the episode. In keeping with the “everybody must wear blue to show SCDP as a ‘scrappy upstart’” mandate, Joan’s opening look was a navy dress, with white, flat ruffles around the collar and sleeves. The white ruffles looked a little clown-like, but Joan somehow managed to pull it off. Later she wears a solid pink dress with a skinny floral scarf that is magnificent. She even has a sparkly pen necklace.
Now onto “Other Joan,” Don’s escort. She has a distinctly Joan vibe, from the red hair to the slinky black dress to the giant…brazier. Does Don have a Joan fetish? With no mention of Mr. Harris in this episode, this could mean a Don/Joan tryst is a possibility. Please, Matthew Weiner, make that happen.
Last but certainly not least is Betty Francis. We first see Betty sitting at Henry’s Thanksgiving table in a red floral dress, playing the stoic wife part. She’s beautiful and excruciatingly fake. She later changes into a floral nightgown that gets her no luck in the bedroom with Henry. Her other outfits are two suits, one lilac–the other sky blue–that are distinctly more politician’s wife than businessman’s wife. Betty’s style reflects her change from frivolous, melodramatic housewife to a lady stuck in a corner between two men, neither of which really satisfies her. She’s ditched her poufy dresses for slim suits, and her hair seems decidedly shorter. We’ll see what will come of Betty this season.
Overall the tone of the episode, style-wise, was that of “real people.” In seasons past, Mad Men‘s characters, while having real problems, seemed to live in fantasy world where everything was painfully beautiful and homes appeared to never have been lived in. This season reality has set in. From SCDP’s new offices that look like an Ikea catalogue (the lamp in Roger’s office) to the shifting looks of its main characters, Mad Men is leaving the highbrow sixties style and adding a more mod touch.