We confess, our love of Mad Men extends from Sunday night all the way through the following weekend when we get our fix again. Yes, the cinematography is moody, the plot lines are appropriately subtle and the characters are complex. But, it’s the authentic style of the mid-60s that gets our juices flowing every time. Every Tuesday, we present a Style Recap after each new episode premiers, with our editors’ favorite looks from the show, and a little colorful commentary thrown in for good measure.
First things first. Was it as clear to y’all as it was to us that Matthew Weiner is clearly a closeted fan of old WB network programming and Saturday morning TV shows like Saved by the Bell? In case you didn’t notice, a much-heavier-than-we-remember Mr. Belding was on hand to oversee the Cool Whip test kitchen, and a blue-eyed Gilmore Girl (Alexis Bledel) turned into a bored, sultry Connecticut housewife before our very eyes, going on to have an affair with Pete Campbell. Talk about a walk down memory lane. We can only hope Dawson Leery and Kelly Kapowski show up at some point. Long live our childhoods!
Okay, back to 1966. This episode was titled “Lady Lazarus,” which comes from a poem of the same name by Sylvia Plath (again with the suicide references!). We begin the show with our depressed Mr. Campbell riding his morning train from the leafy suburbs of Connecticut into the City, only to have his reading interrupted by an annoying insurance salesman named Howard (Pete reminds him the agency covers him, even under circumstances of suicide. Hmm…). The guy brags about his various affairs in the city, so when Pete comes upon Howard’s sad wife of a Gilmore Girl in the train parking lot that evening (she was locked out of her car and looking for her husband), a spark ignites between the two sad souls. Her name is Beth and she seems to be a suburban artifact left over from the 50s, all the way down to her hair scarf and shirt-waist dress. Yes, just as you guessed it, he takes her home and they engage in this kind of angry, sad-soul sex. Way to become a suburban cliché, Pete.
Back in the city, our beautiful Megan is sneaking into lobby phone booths and lying about who she’s seeing for dinner. It puts Peggy in a bad situation when Don calls the office after hours looking for her. We find out the lovely starlet in the making is auditioning for an Off Broadway play that doesn’t pan out. After last episode’s confrontation with her dissapointed father, her ditching SCDP should come as no surprise. Don’s surprised and puts on a supportive act, but we wonder how it will play out since he’s missing his power partner, a mind he can mold and a big part of their relationship he can control. His face to Megan shouts “I’m happy for you!” but his face away from Megan spells confusion and uncertainty of where the couple’s future lies, especially now that Megan wants to be her own woman and go to acting class and not be home for Don all the time when he trots in after work.
Let’s talk about Megan’s fashion this go around. Standouts include the green patent leather trench she’s wearing the morning of her resignation. Walking in with Don as he wears a basic trench coat really shows a strong juxtaposition for the times: past versus future; neutral versus color; natural versus man-made. So many contrasts, so little time. What we do know is Megan’s trench would be perfectly at home on any season’s Raf Simons runway. The black and ivory houndstooth dress near the beginning of the episode was sharp, even if a bit severe for her usual playful personality. Also, her allover patterned dress looked amazing against the framed artwork of the agency’s creative room (see the first collage above to see what we’re talking about). At the end of the episode, Megan heads out to acting class with a high pony tail, pedal pushers, flats and a swing coat. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how we like our women of 1966 to look.
The team (along with Peggy) travel to Cool Whip’s test kitchen where they disappoint Mr. Belding. While Peggy’s dress is an improvement over her usual garb, she has a little outburst when her and Don are trying to act out their pre-planned “skit” for the campaign. It’s Peggy subbing in for Megan in the cute-couple act and it crashes and burns. There’s no chemistry and Peggy keeps on screeching “Just try it!” instead of the more playful way Megan said “Just taste it!” Peggy and Don have their first fight of the season. “You didn’t want her here!” he yells at Peggy about Megan. “She thinks advertising is stupid!” Peggy yells back. All the bubbling resent boils over. “I did everything I was supposed to do … and you’re not mad at me, so shut up!” Peggy says. Yes, Peggy told Don Draper to shut up.
The gentlemen’s style continue to evolve as well. Don and Pete both sported two-button jackets with an especially high button stance. Also, Stan’s striped knits intrigue us every week. Graphic and trim, the pieces are a nice pop against the more staid office uniforms, and this week’s ones were no exception. Remember, just as we said in last week’s recap, cool cats wear striped knits. #truth (I know, I know, Twitter hash tags seem hopelessly out of place in a Mad Men recap, but I couldn’t resist). Finally, the dandy from Cool Whip comes into the agency’s boardroom sporting a bold striped double-breasted blazer. We’re not saying it was great per se, but it’s certainly representative of the changing times. As the show progresses, Roger’s signature three-piece suits and peaked pocket squares are (DARE WE SAY) a little tired looking. #ForgiveUs #MenswearSin
At the end of the episode, before Megan goes running off to acting class, she hands Don the next Beatles album (Revolver, which is probably the best Beatles album of all time) before basically skipping gleefully out the door. Throughout the show, themes about “being in touch” come into play (in touch with a younger generation, in touch with significant others, in touch with one’s self), and the Beatles are a perfect illustration for the episode’s conclusion. Megan tells him to play “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which is perhaps the most un-Don Draper Beatles song of all time, and as it plays, we see all of our characters uncertain about what is on the horizon.
No matter what life throws your way, boys and girls, “Just taste it!” Until next week… —Michael Fisher