It’s Christmas on Mad Men, and as this episode’s title proclaims, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year.” You’d expect everyone to be jolly with seasonal cheer, but this is Mad Men, so, naturally, everything takes a darker turn. Don spirals deeper into his alcoholism and depression, the former Draper residence gets egged, and the rest of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce works to deal with clients’ requests and each other.
The fashion on Mad Men is changing, and fast; women are leaving behind their New Look silhouettes for slimmer, shorter options, and men are experimenting more with suiting. Hair is higher and shorter, and large, statement jewelry plays a starring role. Everything is modernizing inside Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Everything except Don.
Don is still showing his unwavering commitment to diagonally striped, monochrome ties. There are clearly other neckwear options, as seen on Roger (white and black dots) or Lane (shocking red), but Don is too bedraggled to even care, at this point, what he looks like. This episode shows Don Draper to be a complete mess. His style is failing, no longer keeping up his exterior image as a successful, American businessman; his suits are boring and not special, and his behavior is that of a sloppy drunk. If it weren’t for that scheming twinkle in his eye, we wouldn’t recognize this Don Draper at all. Here’s to hoping Don gets back on stable footing, both sartorially and in life altogether.
Part of Don’s shameful behavior includes attempting to seduce every woman within five feet of him. First comes Phoebe, his adorable neighbor whose quirky, mod style is much appreciated. After her Christmas party she lugs a drunk Don into his apartment, wearing a gold brocade dress with black lace tights, slim dangly earrings, and the hair and makeup of Edie Sedgwick. It was a moment of fashion bliss. Next, Don puts the moves on a blond, female marketer who will have none of it. During her presentation Don notably exits, refusing to complete her personal survey. Realistically, he probably left because staring at a woman covered in black and white houndstooth is nothing but an eyesore. She even had a matching houndstooth scarf to complement her suit. How anyone else stayed in that meeting is a mystery. She makes up for it at the Christmas party in a chic black dress with a cut away neckline and perfectly bobbed hair. Even then, however, she has no patience for Don’s attempts.
In the end, Don gets some sympathy from his secretary, Allison, who’s opening look of an orange jumper and white tie neck blouse marks a new fashion trend for Mad Men’s ladies. In most scenes in the SCDP offices at least two women in jumpers can be seen in all colors and patterns, heralding in a newer, more modern aesthetic for style on the show. During the Christmas party, however, Allison looks stunning, albeit less modern, in a blue and green, full skirted dress and crystal statement jewelry. Even though she leaves Don immediately after sleeping with him, she can’t help but feel bad the next morning when he hands her a bonus without any affection, and she resigns to typing alone in a white and blue plaid jumper and lace trimmed blouse. She’s looking a little like she borrowed that look from Sally’s closet, which is just all over wrong. But I’ll forgive since she looked so perfect at the Christmas party. [Ed.'s note: I feel like the Christmas party look was Betty, day after was Sally.]
Also looking perfect at the Christmas party were Mad Men’s other leading ladies, Joan Harris, Trudy Campbell, Jane Sterling, and Peggy Olson. Joan does not disappoint in this episode, from her red dress with bow details that “makes [her] look like a present” (Roger’s words) to her brightly hued suits in the office, Joan revels in her power at SCDP. One issue, however, was the pink dress with skinny floral print scarf that she wore in the last episode. Is Joan repeating outfits or is this just a continuity error that occurred during filming? Please let it be an error, I don’t want to imagine a world where Joan’s closet has bounds.
Back at the party, Trudy Campbell looked like perfection in an electric pink dress with gold and silver bead trim. I’ve always admired Trudy’s style choices, from her kooky hats to her matchy-matchy daywear. Conversely, Trudy’s husband Pete just looked weird in a burgundy, double-breasted jacket of sorts, although I commend Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant on variety in the male character’s wardrobes, maintaining each character’s identity through his clothes. Roger is classic in three-piece suits in black or gray, usually with a funny tie–a wink to his personality. Lane is a conglomeration of mismatched patterns and a proliferation of red neckwear, Don is messy and boring nowadays, Harry is experimental with odd colored pants and brown blazers, and Pete is put-together but basic is blues and blacks. I can’t understand why Pete is wearing that ridiculous jacket, other than to emphasize his awkward disposition.
Jane Sterling looked Cleopatra in white, which was as fabulous as it was out of place at the SCDP makeshift Christmas party. Also looking fabulously out of place was Harry’s wife, whose dress incorporated at least five different colors, not including its metallic gold trim. I’m almost certain that my grandmother has the exact same dress in the trunk in our basement, meaning that I’m going as Mrs. Crane for Halloween.
Last but not least is Peggy, who’s style has changed dramatically even from the last episode to this one. In the first shot of Peggy this episode, she wears a red dress that imitates the fit of a suit, with a white blouse sowing at the neck, her newly-signature pearls, and a black beaded headband. Peggy’s new style is hard to peg down; it’s more powerful than her past looks, but still far more modest than most of the other female characters on the show. She later wears a nude-toned wide neck dress, and a dark green dress with asymmetrical buttons to the Christmas party, complete with Christmas tree brooch. I thought her Christmas look was adorable, but her matching green eye shadow was a huge mistake. Never match your eye shadow to your outfit unless your outfit is Givenchy couture and your eye shadow is applied by Pat McGrath, as seen here. Nevertheless, Peggy is making an effort to express herself through her style choices, and I commend her for that.
While the SCDP offices are a hotbed for fashion change and modern style, the Francis-Drapers are keeping it classic.
This episode begins with the Francis-Drapers selecting a Christmas tree for “their” home. Betty, never one to dress down, stands out in a teal blue coat and white and red patterned headscarf. She’s doing her best to keep up her image as the perfect model-cum-wife, starting, in signature Betty fashion, from the outside in. While the Draper family stands together on the right, each dressed impeccably; Henry Francis stands alone at left, marked as different by his awkward stylistic choices. He wears a dark green turtleneck under a beige open coat, looking like a cross between a 70s porn star and an undercover cop. Visually he is incongruous with the Drapers’ projected image of familial perfection. I blame it all on the turtleneck.
Later in the scene, Sally’s stalker/friend/sociopath Glen enters in a mélange of wintry patterns, none of which can reduce his instantly creepy vibe. You may remember Glen to be the boy who stows away in the Draper’s garden shed and later asks for a lock of Betty’s hair in season two. His partnership with Sally this season is sure to stir up more trouble in the Francis-Draper home.
After Glen and his friend ransack the Draper residence, Betty arrives home looking more glamorous than ever before. She’s holding nothing back in this look, her hair meticulously bobbed and curled, startling red lipstick that matches her red party dress with a gigantic red skirt and bow. She covers it all up with a tan fur trimmed coat, looking more supermodel than mom.
Ultimately there’s a style divide between the modern, progressive style in Manhattan, and the conservative style in the suburbs, a clash that represents the difference between a lot more than minis and full skirts.