All AMC Shows
Movies on AMC
Sometimes I think I can hear designer Janie Bryant laughing during the Mad Men episodes. Not because they're funny -- though yes, of course, they can be -- but because she has an uncanny knack for creating amazing irony with her outfits. It's almost as if she takes what the characters are doing, then figures out how to make them look like they'll do exactly the opposite. It's that juxtaposition that helps make the characters so rich -- and so sardonically hysterical.
A prime example this week is Sal, whose most recent plot line is definitely not funny. But still, his grand exit outfit was unconsciously amusing, wasn't it? For those who imagined Don's tagline of "Limit Your Exposure" as relating directly to Sterling Cooper's closeted art director, take heart: You can't get much more buttoned-up than a snug gray vest that literally holds in your heart and guts, plus a very wide tie to cover you more still -- so different from Pete Campbell's skinny signature. Poor Sal!
Another great example of the costume vs. action tension is teacher Suzanne Farrell. For someone with such progressive ideals (reading her pupils Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech) and such careless behavior (uh, sleeping with her student's married father), her clothes are surprisingly modest and decidedly un-modern. Our first introduction to Suzanne was when she wore a long, opaque white dress that symbolized the purity and newness of spring. And now Miss Farrell favors longer hems and light colors -- more washed out than Betty's pastels -- with brushed silk flowers as her only pattern. Suzanne's outfits are in direct contrast with Betty's, another example of the clash between what a character does and what she wears. Betty's housewife role is so much more conventional than Suzanne's single working woman, yet her outfits are some of the most progressive in the series thus far. Think back to her abstract "Warhol" dress from her meeting with Henry; her Roman holiday outfit that was too theatrical to resist.
I suppose you could make the argument that Betty has a bigger shopping allowance, so of course her clothes are more fashion forward. But I'd like to give the meticulous Mad Men design team more credit than that, especially since the contrasts they create are interesting and exciting, particularly when you consider what Don sees in -- and on -- both Suzanne and Betty. Another reason it can't be simply a budget thing: Betty does revert back to "housewife basics" this episode -- the embroidered dress that cinches at the waist and winds down the collar with green embroidery, the blue chambray pleated blouse with neat red lipstick. Maybe she's reverting to the "safe" style because she's doing something devious -- though again, her first "date" with Henry Frances saw her in that mod-print sheath...
Finally, who wants to talk about Conrad Hilton's omnipresent Stetson hat? It might be the ultimate who-I-am vs. what-I-wear contrast this episode. Next to the smartened-up Sterling Cooper employees, the hotel mogul looks a bit like a renegade bumpkin. But he's the one running the show -- regardless of how much nattier Roger and Don look beside him.