Tomorrowland. It’s how Disney saw the future in the 1960s, brimming with hope and the potential for progress, but come 2010, the future Disney predicted looks nothing but silly. With the future in mind, Mad Men closed season four, making moves that Mad Men’s modern day viewers will think are ill advised.
After a season of rocky patches and forced modernization, Mad Men is shedding its skin and attempting to start fresh. Don, the most tragic of heroes since Hamlet or James Dean, worked to become a new, modern man and ended up engaged to his new, modern secretary. It’s the oldest trick in the book, really, so passé and yet just the fix for Don’s penchant for progress.
Don pitches the American Cancer Society in a dark, dreary gray suit and tie in a wood paneled room that’s more stuffy than the interior of the National Arts Club. Pete, beside him, looks equally uptight in a greenish suit and black tie. A dark seriousness permeates the episode’s start, things still looking down from Lucky Strike’s departure. Once in sunny California, Don tries to brighten up, but still sticks out like a sore thumb. He wears a suit to the pool, in the hotel room, and to visit Anna’s home, before finally loosening up and jumping in (in teensy black swim trunks). Later, he’s looking more modern in a Stella McCartney-esque denim shirt and khaki pants. The next morning he’s switched out his suit shirt for a loose black button down at brunch, but back in the SCDP offices he’s looking pretty old-timey again in a dark suit and tie. Though at least he’s smiling while next to Megan.
The only scene involving Don where I wasn’t cringing was the final one, where he goes to his home upstate and runs into Betty. In a haunting moment Don and Betty share one of the most honest conversations to occur on Mad Men. Betty has been labeled everything by Mad Men fans, including “monster.” To be fair, she’s not so much a monster as she is old fashioned.
Betty’s entire wardrobe this episode is comprised of full skirted, New Look ensembles in cool colors. She fires Carla in a full on AW10 camel ensemble, gets in a tiff with Henry in a plaid dress that could’ve been the inspiration for Prada AW10, and loiters in the Draper home in a gray dress and cobalt swing coat. Everything she knows is from an older time: morality, parenting, strictness, behavioral codes. She fires Carla for disobeying her about Glen, whose friendship with Sally is too modern for Betty to understand.
And then there was Megan.
She’s outgoing, upfront, and clear about her desires. Her style is like a young Fran Drescher, straight, skinny, and mod, minus the Queens flair. And like Fran Drescher in The Nanny, she marries the boss.
Starting the episode in a slim navy dress with white striped trim around the neck, Megan acts as Don’s nanny to California. It should be noted that the only reason Don needs a nanny for his kids is that doesn’t have a wife to care for them while he works. Megan fills the role of wife and nanny. In an ivory full skirted dress with red patterning she looks proper and fresh while playing with the kids and she goes chic and modern in the pool in round sunglasses and a floppy hat. She pulls a Don when she goes out with her friend from college wearing a black dress with a square keyhole front. It’s an excellent business decision, spending time with someone connected and ambitious, even if they are pompous. Finally Megan wears a coral slim dress when she’s announced to be the next Mrs. Draper to the SCDP staff. Turns out coral really is the color of love.
On the losing side is Faye. She was too much of an equal for Don, too real of a woman for Don to commit to loving her. She started the episode leaving Don’s bed, foreshadowing her leaving his life, wearing a white and black patterned, tie-neck blouse. She’s getting on a plane, maybe a pun on her flight attendant wardrobe that I loathe so passionately? Even though Faye was badly dressed, I enjoyed her character, but she was too cunning to last. When Don calls to break up with her she wears a brown slim dress that ties at the neck and an engagement ring. How can Don propose to a woman whose already married to herself? Don wants to be Mr. & Mrs. Donald Draper, not Mr. Don Draper and Ms. Faye Miller, and so Faye’s ambition will always be a problem for him. But it’s this same motivation that may come back to bite Don. Faye knows about his true identity and with her implied mob connections, the future for Dick Whitman isn’t looking too bright.
Outside of the Don plot line, there were some breakthroughs for Peggy and Joan.
Peggy performs amazingly well in a meeting with Topaz hosiery, and ends up signing the account. Wearing her dark black and tan dress, (kind of topaz-y colors), she shoots out one line after another, a truly stellar performance for a copywriter. She’s furious that her triumph is being, yet again, overshadowed by Don. She commiserates with Joan, also wearing dark tones, about the ridiculousness of SCDP. Let’s hope a friendship forms here, since their plot lines are strangely similar, except the baby is Roger’s this time and will be posing as her husband’s. Joan hides her baby bump first in a teal dress and later in black.
So, in a nutshell, that’s what happened sartorially on Mad Men this season. It was shocking and modern and a little crazy, and, just like Don, I’m excited for what the future holds.