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Did you ever think there'd be so much to say about a nightgown? I didn't, but the beginning of Season 3 proved me wrong. Besides starting with a wrenching set of flashbacks, the first new minutes of Mad Men show four separate women in bedclothes -- Don's mother, Don's adopted mother, Don's midwife and Don's wife. The first three nightgowns are gauzy, faded, and ripped -- a reflection of Don's shredded past and also the fact that, well, this is just a dream. And then comes Betty Draper, who's so bound to the waking world, she can't even sleep.
Betty's nightgown is gorgeous. Embroidered, empire-waisted, expensive, and impressively spotless for a pregnant insomniac. In six years, Sally will steal this nightgown and wear it to a Jefferson Airplane concert as a dress (no bra, no shoes). But now it's radiant and lovely in an earth-goddess way that should reflect the happy state of its owner -- but doesn't.
That clash of clothes and situations keeps coming through in the first episode. Note the natty British three-piece suit crossing in front of Bert Cooper's Rothko -- a really good visual for the collision of old and new we'll keep seeing this season. And the uniforms of Shelly the Stewardess and Hotpants the Bellboy seem smartly together and buttoned up -- until, after a few cocktails, they're... uh... not. By the way, Shelly's undressing scene was a brilliant way to see exactly what goes into each Mad Men outfit, from the undergarments out. A quick dissection reveals Shelly, like all the Mad women, wears a bra, panties, garters, stockings, slip, blouse, jacket, skirt, and the sort of dainty gold watches now seen on grandmothers' bureaus everywhere. (You might remember from last season that costume designer Janie Bryant has all the bras constructed in-house, because vintage pieces would be too fragile for daily wear.)
Do you think the sketch for London Fog, of the naked girl in a trench, was inspired by Shelly's dash from the hotel room wearing nothing but Don's overcoat? It seemed like a fun parallel, as well as a piece of advice that Don was giving himself: "Hey Don, see those attractive girls everywhere who want to pounce on you? Limit your exposure!"
This episode also served up a lot of post earrings -- nearly every woman had a round, gleaming pair, including Peggy, Trudy and Joan, who also entered Season 3 in a scarlet dress so tight, I thought she might actually burst out of it. Joan tempered the va-voom outfit with minimal eyeshadow matte pink lipstick, a deft balancing act by a woman who always knows how to get your attention and exercise restraint.