Television’s most popular drama has revolutionised not only our choice of boxset, but our wardrobes too…

It’s finally happened. I have been invited to a Mad Men party. This means, of course, numerous things. Firstly, it means that excessive drinking of cocktails is not only expected, but actively encouraged. Secondly, it means that the music will hopefully be more Miles Davis than Miley Cyrus, a little more Bob Dylan than Beyoncé. And thirdly, it means that we can all channel our inner Joan Holloway without the fear of being chased through the streets for wearing lace gloves and ginger beehives.

Ever since the show’s very first episode premiered in 2007, its 1960s look has been praised and imitated in circles far, far away from Madison Avenue. Each character’s wardrobe is so much part of them that they become almost one and the same thing – take for example Betty Draper’s matching handbags and shoes, trapping her in a world of order and conformity, reinforced by her prying neighbours and household duties. Her nipped in waists not only constrict her physically, but also represent her limits as a woman in such an era, keeping her as the model housewife in a male dominated world. However, the beauty of such outfits cannot be denied. Cropped trousers, alice bands, lace and pearls are not only universally flattering but also exude a wholesome innocence and country club charm. I defy anyone not to wish they looked like Betty when doing the washing up or hoovering the floor. Men included.

On the other end of the spectrum is Joan Holloway, office manager of Sterling Cooper and classic femme fatale. Her ginger up-do mirrors a fiery and wilful personality, and has inspired many a fan to embrace the red. Joan’s curves have been the subject of much acclaim; it seems near impossible to imagine a 6’2″ waif wearing those shift dresses in quite the same way. Her attention to detail gives rise to an outstanding collection of accessories, ranging from tortoiseshell glasses to glittering broaches, and of course the iconic “pen” pendent.

Of course, the often sexist, dishonest and scheming men of the series are no less stylish than the women they dominate. These men are selling their creative services in a world where mass consumerism is in its infancy – impressions are key. Ties are slimmed right down, and higher waistbands with shorter jackets are finding their way onto the backs of male viewers keen to channel a fresh faced Pete Campbell. Don Draper’s beige trench coat is both practical and classically smart, an everyman’s piece celebrated by designers and buyers alike. Even period touches such as patterned pocket squares and fedoras have seen surge in interest, and are a nod to the era without being too fancy dress.

The message, then, is very simple – if you’re going to chain-smoke, knock back bourbons like they’re water and cheat on your spouse, then you might as bloody well do it in style.


Anna Samson

Image – Steve Garfield