by Ali Pechman
Up until this season, the stylish women of “Mad Men” rarely deviated from their set looks. Joan wore her tight, bold dresses; Betty Draper (pre weight-gain) honed her Grace Kelly image; and Jane Siegel was all about flash. (Even Peggy, the most awkward dresser of the group, stuck to mostly menswear-influenced outfits around the office.) It took the new Mrs. Draper and her fabulous wardrobe to give the show what it needed to chronicle the changing fashions of the 60s: a clotheshorse.
And a trendy one at that. We never know what Megan Draper will decide to wear next — now a rhinestone mod mini-dress, next a floor-length gown and cape in watermelon — because she probably doesn’t know either: the editors at Vogue haven’t told her yet. Megan might be the first series regular who not only reads Vogue but studies it.
“Do they always give you clothes?” the new copywriter Michael Ginsberg asks Megan when she decides to leave the agency to become an actress. “Or do you have to do it in your own clothes?” It seems obvious the new Mrs. Draper would be a natural at acting: she’s been stepping into a new costume each week through her brand-new, Don Draper-funded wardrobe. By the looks of episodes seven and eight, she (or rather costume designer Janie Bryant) has clearly been taking cues from the 1966 September issues of the magazine. Compare Megan’s outfits with the original editorials and her inspirations become obvious.
Megan must have taken notice of the editorial “Paris… New Proportions Rampant… A Fresh Eye On Line And Limb” published on Sept. 15, 1966 (when Vogue used to come out twice a month). Two of her outfits from episode seven (“Lady Lazarus”) look plucked from its pages. While Vogue had already begun to heavily feature houndstooth (a later October 1966 editorial on Paris fashions showed a similar style) the outfit Megan wears to the office at the episode’s beginning bears a striking resemblance to the styling in the magazine — she even paired her dress with the lighter stockings shown.
Another outfit, the striking green raincoat she wears on her last day at SCDP, mimics a YSL slicker from the same editorial.
That issue also featured a spread called, “Fashions to Own Right Now.” Megan, with her upgraded status from secretary to young, wealthy wife of Don Draper, now has the power to do so.
Of course, Megan took on many new roles outside the workplace this season, too. She became a wife at home and out on the town. Her more glamorous looks seem to come from another editorial called “New York Collections: American Fashion to Go Out and Buy Now” in the Sept. 1 issue. For example, her shopping outfit from episode six (“At the Codfish Ball”) and her shift dress from episode seven:
Her casual wear — she seems to have a house uniform of cropped pants and sweaters — looks pulled from the very same shoot. (More views of this standard outfit found here.)
And what’s with all the Incan prints Megan wears in the office? As it turns out, the magazine featured a more creative shoot in July 1966 on “Incametrics,” set to accompany a travel article on Peru.
The best visual clue? Megan herself. Look through a 1960s issue of Vogue, and Megan would easily fit in among the models. The magazine was not immune to the drastic changes of the decade; Diana Vreeland took its helm in 1963. The storied editor put more downtown trends, more sex appeal and more iconic 60s girls in the magazine’s pages, girls like Edie Sedgwick, Baby Jane Holzer — and like Megan Draper.
When this promotional poster of Don Draper staring rapt at a naked mannequin first appeared to herald in the new season, some predicted that it meant that, despite his recent proposal to Megan Calvet, Don Draper would be philandering again in season five. In retrospect, what it really hinted at seems obvious given the psychology of an ad man. As the laser-sharp Tom and Lorenzo have astutely pointed out at their blog, Don likes a covergirl wife. “That’s the kind of girl Don marries,” Joan observed when Megan ditched advertising for acting. Goodbye Betty, Megan is the updated model.
Related: Footnotes Of Mad Men
Ali Pechman lives in Chicago.