The Kansas City Star Buzzing About "Mad Men"

March 20, 2012

Posted by John Kreicbergs

In case you haven't seen it yet, the Kansas City Star had a great article this morning about this coming Sunday's "Mad Men" season premiere. Many thanks to AAF-KC volunteer Renee Robinson for connecting the Star with our recent "Mad Women" event speaker Jane Maas. Don't forget that this Sunday is also our "Mad Men" season premiere party, presented by Willoughby Design and Will Gregory PR. Read on...

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks)

‘Mad Men’ fashion moves to miniskirts and pants Sheaths.
Girdles. Cigarette pants. AMC’s drama gets the vintage look just right. And on the horizon: Miniskirts.

By Sara Smith // The Kansas City Star

Joan and Peggy are coming back, and they’re bringing Marilyn and Jackie.

“Mad Men” returns Sunday for a new season. It’s hard to be patient when it has been 18 months since Christina Hendricks’ Joan rounded the corner of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in a jewel-toned sheath dress.

As “Mad Men” costume designer Janie Bryant says, “It’s all about the bust, waist, hips.” We noticed.

Bryant, who spoke to The Star last week by phone from L.A., said she imagined Joan as a woman whose fashion icons were Sophia Loren, Jayne Mansfield and, of course, Marilyn Monroe.

“Those women understood that fitted clothing looks best on them. It accentuates their assets, if you will,” Bryant said with a laugh.

Peggy Olson (played by Elisabeth Moss) has already evolved out of the little-girl outfits she wore in the first two seasons as she rose from secretary to copywriter at Sterling Cooper.

“We really see Peggy progress the most in terms of story and costume design,” Bryant said.

So Bryant, who won an Emmy for her work on “Mad Men,” put Peggy in polka dots, plaids and Peter Pan collars, what she calls the “ultimate schoolgirl” look. By last season, though, Peggy was wearing suits and smart dresses.

AMC is being tight-lipped about how much time has elapsed when Season 5 begins, but Season 4 ended in late 1965. In the next few months and years, runways, sidewalks and office buildings exploded with change.

Someone with a front-row seat to that change was Jane Maas, author of the new tell-all biography “Mad Women.” Maas, whose career took her from copywriter to creative director and agency president, is a real-life version of Peggy Olson. She entered the advertising world at Ogilvy & Mather in 1964.

“It was the Jackie Kennedy era. Every woman wanted to look like Jackie. Not a hair was out of place. We wore those swingy coats,” she said.

But things were about to change, and the first sign was the miniskirt. David Ogilvy put out a memo to his staff that the skirts weren’t allowed, Maas said, but he eventually gave up.

As new trends rolled in, it was copywriters who took chances with fashion.

“I wanted to make a statement that I was creative. That was important inside the agency and for my clients,” she said. So when and if “Mad Men” hits the late ’60s, it may be Moss, not Hendricks, whose character we can expect to wear a miniskirt or pants into the office.

(And speaking of offices, that’s the one thing Maas says the show gets wrong: The creatives should have much funkier offices. She had a hammock in hers.)

Bryant, of course, can’t say whether she has a pair of go-go boots in Peggy’s size stashed in her trailer. “No matter what, she is still pretty buttoned-up. That is really where that character comes from,” Bryant said.

Maas, who was happily married to husband Michael in the ’60s, said she enjoyed drawing attention to herself with her clothes, but not in the way Joan Harris does. In 1968, Maas was the first woman to come to work at Ogilvy & Mather in a pantsuit.

“It was a rust-colored tweed. I was so proud. It was so avante-garde. I knew that I was turning heads,” Maas said. “The other women all looked at me in shock.”

Maas went to meet her husband for dinner that night after work. When she showed up at 21 in her pantsuit, the tony restaurant refused to let her in.

“I had to wait in the lobby,” she said. “They had jackets and ties for men but not skirts for women.”

Though she had fun with clothes, Maas said she doesn’t miss what she had to wear beneath them.

“People don’t realize the layers we were wearing,” she said. There were girdles, garters and nylons with seams up the back that had to be kept straight.

“Then over this, you had a bra that made your breasts look like javelins,” Maas said. “You wore a slip, either rose or white, under everything.”

And when the ladies on “Mad Men” get undressed, you’re seeing the real thing.

“Most of the slips I use are genuine. They last,” Bryant said. Pieces with elastic might be reproductions, or they could be vintage. “Some of the actors wear genuine pieces that we have been able to find in their original boxes.”

Bryant, who has clothes for her characters custom-made if she can’t find them, released her second “Mad Men”–inspired line at Banana Republic for spring.

“The classic shape that I love for most figures is the sheath,” Bryant said. For women who like separates, check out the pants, designed from a pair January Jones wore on the show — “Betty Draper’s classic cigarette pant.”

1965

  • In fashion: London designer introduces the miniskirt to America at NYC “Youthquake” fashion event.
  • At the movies: Claudine Auger sizzles with Sean Connery in “Thunderball.”
  • On the radio: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Wooly Bully” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

1966

  • In fashion: Yves Saint Laurent debuts his black velvet pantsuit for women, Le Smoking.
  • At the movies: Raquel Welch puts fur on the pinup look in “One Million Years B.C.”
  • On the radio: “96 Tears,” “California Dreamin’ ” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

1967

  • In fashion: Twiggy, the face of the Mod movement, appears on the cover of Vogue.
  • At the movies: Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross bewitch Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.”
  • On the radio: “Light My Fire,” “Respect” and “For What It’s Worth”