Each week, Tom and Lorenzo analyze the costumes on Mad Men with inimitable wit and charm—showing how the work of the show’s costume designer Janie Bryant reveals character, supplements the plot, and just plain looks great. This article is a short excerpt from this week’s Mad Style post. For much, much more on the style of “Lady Lazarus”—from Peggy’s power yellow to the foppish gays of yesteryear—visit tomandlorenzo.com.
Well, it’s nice to see they got some new use out of the old Ossining Draper set. Redress it, slap a couple of coats of paint on it, and put a depressed housewife in a flip ‘do standing in the middle of it, and you’ve got yourself a twisted version of the show from two seasons ago.
Pete is determined to live out some alternate-reality version of Don’s old life, except Trudy isn’t miserable like Betty was, so Pete goes out looking for a miserable woman to fill that role. To be fair, this isn’t a very Betty-like outfit, but it ties her tightly to her surroundings. She doesn’t just match them, she melts into them.
But with this outfit, the “Dark Betty” illusion is complete. This is exactly something Betty would have worn when she was married to Don, except she tended to favor blues instead of black and dark brown.
Several episodes back, we noted that there was a rose motif being deployed in Joan’s clothing in scenes dealing with her marriage (calling back, perhaps, to the red roses she was given by her fiance just before he raped her or the vase of red roses she later smashed over his head). This is a beautiful dress and perfectly seasonal appropriate for October, but we couldn’t help noticing she’s wearing a dress of dead roses.
Another thing that jumped out at us in this scene—and this has nothing to do with style—is that Don dropped another meaningless lie into a conversation. This time, he said that Megan was “up for a part,” but she’s not. She failed to get the part. He did this before, blurting out to Roger that Betty had cancer (when he didn’t know any such thing) and telling that madam that he grew up in a whorehouse, when the truth is he grew up on a farm. We think Don’s trying so hard to be the good husband and not make the mistakes he did with Betty that his natural tendency to lie—a tendency that served him fairly well for a decade there—keeps slipping out, in relatively harmless ways.
For some reason, it makes total sense to us that Joan’s a tea drinker.
Two things about this scene: One, this shot keeps getting replicated over and over again this season. Keep your eye out for it in future episodes and then spend more time than is healthy trying to figure out what it means. Don keeps getting woken up by Megan again and again.
The second thing that’s notable about this scene is how much it calls back to an earlier scene from Season 2, when Betty, stripped of her makeup, wakes Don up on the couch to discuss the state of their marriage in light of his cheating.