Slim suits, curves? Thank ‘Mad Men’

The AMC se­ries has been an aes­thetic gold mine, bring­ing worlds of fash­ion, cos­tume de­sign ever closer.

Los Angeles Times - - IMAGE - BOOTH MOORE FASH­ION CRITIC booth.moore@la­times.com

With the first of seven fi­nal episodes pre­mier­ing Sun­day, “Mad Men,” the most fash­ion-in­flu­en­tial TV show since “Sex and the City,” is com­ing to an end.

AMC’s 1960s pe­riod drama about slick ad men and curvy women has been an aes­thetic gold mine, in­flu­enc­ing the slim sil­hou­ette of men’s suits, the beauty ideal for women’s bod­ies and more, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the first five years of the show’s 2007 to 2015 run. It brought the worlds of fash­ion and cos­tume de­sign ever closer in the process.

From the very first sea­son, I — like most view­ers — was se­duced by the show’s post-1950s in­no­cence. I dreamed about living in an era be­fore sur­geon gen­eral warn­ings, when cig­a­rettes and booze were a given at lunchtime and the pol­ished glam­our and pro­pri­ety of opera gloves and pill­box hats were the norm.

“I don’t think you would have liked it,” said my baby boomer mother, shat­ter­ing the spell. “It wasn’t much of a place for women.”

Of course she was right, as we’ve seen in episodes since, but they did dress fine.

The look of the show was en­vi­sioned by cos­tume designer Janie Bryant, who was in­spired by old cat­a­logs, her South­ern grand­par­ents and the wares at L.A. area vin­tage stores — which she helped to make fash­ion des­ti­na­tions — in­clud­ing Play­clothes in Bur­bank, the Way We Wore on La Brea Av­enue and Sha­reen down­town.

A wom­an­iz­ing, hard-drink­ing man’s man who could al­most be for­given his sins be­cause he looked so darn dash­ing in a suit, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) be­came an in­stant style icon. His char­ac­ter res­onated be­cause it was the an­tithe­sis of the busi­ness ca­sual, cargo-panted, met­ro­sex­ual ideal that ex­isted in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The strength of Don’s uni­form for suc­cess — the slim gray Brooks Broth­ers suit, crisp white shirt, neatly folded pocket square, oc­ca­sional tie bar and fe­dora — in­spired men of the 21st cen­tury to dress up in a new, trim-tai­lored sil­hou­ette. Surely it’s no co­in­ci­dence that men’s re­tail sales be­gan an up­ward climb in 2008, shortly af­ter the se­ries started to run on AMC. Although the lum­ber­sex­ual’s beard oil, pocket whit­tling kit and made-in-the-U.S.A. work­boots may be the ac­ces­sories of choice now, the “Mad Men” mar­tini shaker, cuff links and pocket squares kicked off the men’s shop­ping boom.

The women of “Mad Men” were equally in­flu­en­tial, with fans of the se­ries dis­sect­ing ev­ery look on­line, from pen neck­laces down to power gir­dles.

To­gether with First Lady Michelle Obama’s sim­i­larly retro style, the se­ries helped kick off five years of la­dy­like cardi­gans stand­ing in for jack­ets over pen­cil skirts and body­con dresses, worn with kit­ten heels and pearls. It also helped rekin­dle in­ter­est in matte red lip­stick, cat eye makeup (thanks to Don’s sec­ond wife, Megan Draper) and more styl­ized hair.

Fans wrote im­pas­sioned col­umns in mag­a­zines, news­pa­pers and on­line about how Joan’s (Christina Hen­dricks’) fig­ure helped them learn to love their curves.

And fash­ion took no­tice. In 2010, sev­eral de­sign­ers showed run­way col­lec­tions in­spired by a more retro vi­sion of the fe­male form. They in­cluded Mi­uc­cia Prada, who used fuller-fig­ured mod­els on her run­way, and Marc Ja­cobs at Louis Vuit­ton, who staged a Parisian love story around a shoot­ing foun­tain, with clothes de­signed with volup­tuous­ness in mind.

AMC cap­i­tal­ized on the throw­back style of the show too, en­ter­ing a mar­ket­ing part­ner­ship with Ba­nana Repub­lic in 2009 that put “Mad Men” posters in the win­dows of stores and a “Mad About Style” guide in the hands of shop­pers.

And Bryant be­came a house­hold name, cre­at­ing a new model for the cos­tume-fash­ion designer with a steady stream of out­side de­sign gigs.

Over the years, Bryant col­lab­o­rated with Brooks Broth­ers, Maiden­form, QVC and Shoes of Prey. She wrote a book, “The Fash­ion File: Ad­vice, Tips, and In­spi­ra­tion From the Cos­tume Designer of Mad Men.” And by 2011, she was designing an en­tire, 1960s-in­spired “Mad Men” col­lec­tion for Ba­nana Repub­lic.

On-screen, as the ’60s raged on, the show’s cos­tumes re­flected cul­tural shifts and the emer­gence of per­sonal style — Peggy’s plaid pantsuit a sym­bol of women’s new­found power in the work­place, Stan Rizzo’s beard the mark of a gen­er­a­tion determined to break with the con­ser­va­tive past, Sally Draper’s white go-go boots a sign of the rise of youth cul­ture and Megan Draper’s tie-dye mini dress a hint at the sex­ual revo­lu­tion. Only Don has stayed the same. When “Mad Men” starts its fi­nal run, we don’t know pre­cisely what year we’ll be in — the se­ries started in 1960 and we left off in the sum­mer of ’69 with the Apollo moon land­ing.

But the new sea­son promo, set to Diana Ross’ 1976 tune “Love Han­gover,” fea­tures enough side­burns, loud plaid, belly chains and bell-bot­toms to sug­gest a jump into the 1970s.

Look­ing at to­day’s ’70s-in­flu­enced fash­ion, that would be right on trend.

Frank Ockenfels AMC

THE SE­RIES’ cos­tumes re­flect cul­tural shifts and the emer­gence of per­sonal style, clock­wise from above: Don’s crisp busi­ness suits, Joan’s curves and pen neck­lace, Peggy’s work­place plaid and Megan Draper’s cat eye makeup. What’s next for this iconic show? Per­haps a jump to ’70s fash­ions.

Ba­nana Repub­lic

BA­NANA REPUB­LIC even of­fered a limited-edi­tion col­lec­tion in­spired by the show.

AMC

Jaimie True­blood AMC

Fran­cois Du­rand Getty Images

ITS RETRO STYLE echoed in a 2010 Louis Vuit­ton show.

Ron Jaffe AMC

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