Phil Stafford

The “Mad Men” Effect

Phil Stafford“Mad Men” has given many people retro fever and nostalgic fashion longings—men and women alike. Initially, the show was met with mixed reviews. “Mad Men” accurately portrays the sexual harassment and terribly unequal gender roles of the time, which was met with much criticism when the show first debuted. However, the season four premiere of” Mad Men” drew in 2.92 million viewers, which begs the questions of whether or not the public cares about the archaic roles “Man Men” presents. One theory concerning the show’s popularity is that the public is aching for a nostalgic throwback, particularly in fashion.

“Man Men” costumer designer, Janie Bryant, has created season after season of classic suits and column gowns that have the audience swooning. Many have cried out for the end of hoodies in the workplace, in favor of snug silhouettes and hats. Who can’t appreciate a finely dressed man or a woman in pearls? It’s understandable that audience members are trying to reinstitute fashions of decades past.

“Mad Men” has a delicately crafted fashion ranking system, in which Joan Holloway glides around the office in hip-hugging sheath dresses, Peggy Olson starts the show in frumpy turtlenecks and long skirts, and Betty Draper wears pearls and white gloves. Joan boasts a classic hourglass figure, and doesn’t mind showing it off, and consequently, she receives the majority of sexual attention in the office. Peggy is more modest, shy, and career-minded, but Joan warns her to change her style if she wants to get ahead at work. Betty Draper fills the role of a perfectly groomed and dressed housewife, with classic, flattering dresses that accentuate her small waist.

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The fashion flashbacks on “Mad Men” started trends on the runway this season, with more pointy-toe heels, kitten heels, lower hemlines, Peter Pan collars, and structured handbags. Jeweled Peter Pan collars dotted Jason Wu’s collection this season, while Jil Sander showcased clean pencil skirts and buttoned up oxfords. Oscar de la Renta featured classic lace skirts, and Nina Ricci’s ultra-fitted dresses would like right at home on Joan. Off the runway, Banana Republic also released its second “Mad Men” collection this past February. It’s obviously that designers and consumers alike are inspired by the creations of the show’s designer, Bryant.

However, the fashion of “Mad Men” might be changing this season, as Bryant has hinted at miniskirts and pants for women at the office. The show’s fashion will progress alongside the times and character development, it seems.

“Man Men” presents an interesting dichotomy to modern viewers, especially women, as they are forced to reconcile their nostalgia for yesteryear with modern amenities and progress. Women may also be re-claiming fashions that once were seen as oppressive, but now are a conscious choice. Either way, “Mad Men” has wooed audiences completely, and is here to stay.


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