We said a final goodbye to Mad Men last Sunday, and we had a hard time saying a real farewell. But does it help to know what we think happened to the crew in the decades following the 1970s? Travel back – and forward- in time with us as we imagine a world where these folks are real and have a whole life ahead of them.
In season 4 of Mad Men, school-marmish secretary Ida Blankenship died in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Bert Cooper remarked that Miss Blankenship wasn’t just a fusty old lady:
She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut.
Ida was not even 70 years old, but her lifetime stretched from an era of horse-drawn transportation to one of live television broadcasts and international flights.
If Mad Men characters were real people, most of them would be much older than Ida Blankenship. Don Draper is now roughly 90 years old – give or take a few, because, you know, Dick Whitman and everything. Joan is 84, and Peggy is about to turn 75. At 61, even little Sally Draper is getting AARP mailers and gearing up for retirement.
That’s right: Sally Draper is only a few years younger than Miss Blankenship.
The Mad Men crew witnessed as much change in the second half of the 20th century as Miss Blankenship did in the first. Contrast the first scene between Peggy and Joan with the last. In 1960 Joan told Peggy that the way to be indispensable at work was knowing what kind of liquor to stock for your boss. Working as collaborators was out of the question. By 1970 (spoiler!), Joan proposes that she and Peggy become partners in a production company. In 1960, Joan told Peggy to “always be a supplicant;” in 1970, they’re both bosses.
During the first seasons, Mad Men’s costuming reflected early ’60s style — which, of course, owed a lot to the straight-laced 1950s. Men wore suits, women wore skirts, and pillbox hats were a hot accessory. By the last season, we saw glimpses of the fashion world we live in now. Characters wore casual clothing – jeans, even! – in settings they wouldn’t have dreamed of in 1960. Early on she dressed like a cat from a Richard Scarry book, but the Sally of 1970 could almost be mistaken for a teenager of today. Some of Mad Men’s 1970 styles look dated to us now – Pete Campbell has the semi-Medieval haircut of every man in my family’s 1970s photo albums – but most wouldn’t look out of place in a hipster neighborhood. By 1970 our modern fashion culture had emerged: much less formal and easier to maintain than the early ’60s looks, owing at least in part to all of the Joans and Peggys who were now working and didn’t have hours each week to press laundry.
Speaking of fashion, Mad Men will go down in history as one of the best costumed shows in television, and while I always enjoy a man in a suit, there’s nothing that compares to women’s fashion in the 1960s.
WHO’S EXCITED ABOUT MAD MEN RETURNING THIS SUNDAY?!!?!
Sorry, I’ll stop yelling at you. I’m just really hyped about it. Mad Men is one of my all time favorite shows, and since it’s only 13 episodes long, fans like me spend more time waiting for it to come back than actually watching it. Besides the A+ acting and the unexpected story lines, the style plays an important part of the show. Since it’s set in New York City in the 1960s, it’s important to take the viewers back to that era with visual cues, since the written words can’t always express the time frame. Creator Matt Weiner does an amazing job of making sure every little detail is accurate to that particular time in the 1960s, and costume designer Janie Bryant is just as fastidious. Her style decisions have even inspired a Mad Men fashion line at Banana Republic, so she must be doing something right.
Here are some of my favorite costumes from seasons past. I can’t wait to see what 1968 brings! And spoiler alert: There are no pix of Jon Hamm’s “Don Draper” (ifyanowwhatimean).