Mad Men fashion
Fashion from the Mad Men era is the latest phenomenon. We are captivated by the glamour and style of the programme, now into series 3. Mad Men covers the early 60s; the period from 1960 to 1963. It was the pre mini skirt and pre hippy era. The fashions are still formal and the classic feminine shape of the fifties is still in vogue. Role models Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy set the trend. Men wore sharp suits with minimalist modern style.
The group, right, from Mad Men Series 3 show the style. The two ladies are Joan Harris (née Holloway) (Christina Hendricks) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss). Joan's dress is typical of the era and her shape is the idealised view of fifties' womanhood. Her hair is styled in a beehive and she wears plenty of make up. Peggy is a woman in a man's world. She still has the classic figure. She is younger and looks slightly less formal.
The three men are left to right, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery).
They all wear the standard office uniform of the time: a smart suit with thin lapels and tapered trousers, white shirt and slim tie. Fashionable men dispensed with turn-ups and wore a single breasted jacket with two or three buttons. The look was derived from Ivy League fashion, popular at America's top education institutions.
I am not one hundred percent convinced that Don's brown suit would have been acceptable for the office, but he is a creative.
Madison Avenue advertising executives were at the cutting edge of men's fashion in the early 60s. The ad industry was booming and the successful executives had money to spend. Those that could afford it went to Paul Stuart on 45th Street and Madison, tailors to famous actors and the ultra cool Jazz singer, Miles Davis. They often spent as much as $1000 in the shop in one go.
All three Mad Men have white shirts, this was almost compulsory in the 60s. By this time, button down shirts were popular in the US. Ties are slim. Pete's is ultra skinny. By the late 50s the classic button down shirt was fashionable for men in the US. It travelled to England via brands such as Ben Sherman in the 60s. This guy, left, from the late 50s, shows the classic Ivy League style.
This look remained fashionable for men for the first half of the sixties and for many up to the end of the decade. The US style had a huge influence on men's fashion in the UK; it was adopted by the ultra clothes conscious Mods in the UK.
In the 50s Christian Dior transformed the fashion world with his New Look: a narrow waistline and wide skirt, which made women look feminine again. In the early sixties the wide skirt was loosing ground, but the hour glass figure was still in vogue.
Joan is Mad Men's answer to Marilyn Monroe. She is the office manager, who knows how to manage men. Joan is grabbing all the attention, right, with her glamorous red dress.
Note Joan's brooch, in the photograph, left. This type of brooch was very popular in the late 50s and early 60s. It completed the overall look.
Right, Don Draper opens a taxi door for his long suffering wife, Betty Draper (January Jones). On the face of it they are the perfect middle class American couple: a successful businessman and his wife.
Betty's dress with its bold floral pattern is typical of the era. She complements it with a pearl necklace. Betty is the typical affluent housewife shopping in New York. In those days, women had made it if they found a rich husband and were able to give up the day job. Her look is less formal than Joan's office bombshell.
These two middle class women, left, are pictured in the late 50s. They are wearing the Mad Men era fashion as depicted in the programme.
The early 60s, the Mad Men era, is often a neglected period in fashion history, sandwiched between the Rock'n'Roll fifties and the youth led 60s. However, for grownup fashion it was one of the best periods. The excesses of the fifties had evolved into something more mature and stylish. Women looked like grown women, not young girls and men looked like men. It was an adult world, not a teenage one.
More on Mad Men fashion
Go to BBC4 Mad Men for more information about the programme.
See also Wikipedia Mad Men article.
Paul Stuart on 45th and Madison is still going see www.paulstuart.com