When the Polyester Cometh
Well, kiddies, it’s 1969 on Mad Men, and you know what that means: polyester has hit, and it’s the end of aspirational fashion for our favorite ad folks. This week finds us splitting time between the coasts. In California, Pete is thriving and Don and Megan are half-heartedly trying to make their marriage work. Meanwhile, Peggy is floundering under a cranky new boss in New York, and Joan continues to hurl her impeccably dressed self at the glass ceiling.
Don is, as always, exactly the same: the man in the gray flannel suit, even when surrounded by the trappings of the late ‘60s.
Only he’s not really exactly the same: he is visibly older. He’s a little paler, a little sadder, a little jowlier than he was in season one, and he’s lost that easy swagger that used to make everything he did seem so cool. He’s just wearing the same clothes that he used to be able to pull off effortlessly.
And the woman he’s married to is much younger and much cooler than he is.
Oh Megan, you fabulous little thing. Now that we’ve hit 1969 the hemlines have all gone way up, to the point that Megan Draper is swanning around in what’s basically a glorified negligee.
Almost as scandalously fashion-forward? Her pearl teardrop earrings. When the show began in 1960, only prostitutes wore earrings that big and dangly.
Don and Megan keep half-heartedly trying to reconnect with each other, but with little success: Megan finally confesses that she’s nervous, and the best Don can muster up is an oh-so-comforting, “Don’t be.” Oh, Don.
Meanwhile, across the country Peggy is dealing with her own issues with the new head of the creative department, Lou. And Lou is, shockingly, dressed like Megan Draper.
Okay, hear me out. Obviously Lou is not traipsing around SC&P in a sheer polyester baby-doll (although, show of hands, who else would find that hilarious? Bonus points if he kept his glasses chain). But his old man cardigan is exactly the same shade of ice blue as Megan’s negligee/evening dress, which connects the Don and Peggy plots: both of them are are reluctantly wooing someone they don’t much care for. Don is making a few vague stabs at preserving his marriage to a woman he doesn’t seem to like anymore (and who he never had much in common with, anyway), and Peggy is fighting to prove her worth to a mediocre boss. It’s sad times for the former dynamic duo.
Speaking of Peggy: she starts the hour off ready for business in this gold plaid suit.
Tom and Lorenzo call gold Peggy’s “power color” — she wears it when she’s kicking ass/taking names at work. Between the loud plaid and the mustard turtleneck underneath, this ensemble is an afront to our modern eyes, but it’s clear that 1960s Peg feels confident in it. Go get you some, girl.
But after Lou dismisses her idea at a work meeting, she starts to regress.
Yeah, she’s still in her the gold plaids, but she’s slipped from Lady Executive to Catholic Schoolgirl. I don’t know if I should be happy or worried that her hemline is so high. On the one hand, it proves that she remembers it’s 1969. (And check those gams on Elisabeth Moss!) On the other hand, that means that Peggy went out and bought herself a ninth-grader’s jumper…in 1969.
At the end of the hour, rejected by both Lou and Ted and expected to work as a responsible landlady at home, Peggy looks for comfort with an old favorite outfit.
It’s a close cousin of the outfit Peggy wore to her first interview with Ted, which was the same outfit she wore when she dumped his indecisive ass. Only, this version is more buttoned up and conservative than the outfit she wore last year, which was low cut and trimmed in bright orange. Again, she’s regressing: robbed of her success at work, Peggy’s losing her hard-earned confidence. Is it any wonder she just curls up on the floor and cries? I would too.
Joan, on the other hand, isn’t having any of that shizz. She goes on the opposite journey and starts the show in this chic little aubergine shift.
This outfit is clean and elegant, and Joan works the hell out of it. But it’s not exactly a power suit — it’s the dress of a woman who still gets treated like a secretary. Women’s lib can’t come soon enough for Ms. Harris. (Harris? Holloway? Did she change her name back?)
Now this? This is a power suit.
Ken Cosgrove asks Joan to fill in for him at a Butler Footwear dinner meeting. (His reasoning for this is hilarious, by the way — he, like, needs to have someone to boss around? So that people will realize he’s important ‘n stuff? Here, Joanie you do it!) So Joan makes the most of the opportunity and dresses to kill in this black-and-white business suit with gold embellishments. It’s probably the most professional outfit we’ve seen from her in seven seasons.
By the end of the episode, she’s well on her way into becoming a full-fledged accounts executive — and her purple shift has transformed itself to match.
Now it’s a suit. Our Joanie is going places.
The episode ends with Peggy sobbing on her living room floor (cheer up, Peggy! Think of how much that brownstone will be worth in a mere forty years!) and Don shivering outside in the cold, alone and miserable. So…kind of a downer hour of television, yeah? Let’s close out with a moment of pure joy.
Oh, California Pete. That look of contentment on your smug, punchable face is simultaneously infuriating and hilarious, much like your Lacoste polo and madras shorts. (Incidentally, the girl under all that fake tan is Jessy Schram, who you may recall as Cinderella on Once Upon a Time and Logan’s season two girlfriend on Veronica Mars. This lends further credence to my pet theory that Matthew Weiner was a huge WB/UPN fan from way back and that Mad Men is secretly an elaborate excuse to reunite the casts of Roswell and Dawson’s Creek on air.) There can’t be a more delightful way to end the episode.
Even better. That’s Liza Donnelly’s cartoon, btw — she did the whole premiere, and you should check it out, it’s gorgeous.
So, a slow start, but keep hanging on, guys! There are only six episodes to go in Season 7a, and we still have no idea what Betty & Co. are up to. My money’s on a pantsuit sighting sooner rather than later.