Saturday, May 24, 2014

Decade-Transitional Beaded Dress + Double Recap of Mad Men (Episodes 705 & 706)

(Originally published for Vintage Fashion at

THE DRESS ~ This dress has a distinctively decade-transitional appeal: its heavy beading, lacy-sheer arms, and straight-shift style are pure 1960's; however, the longer skirt, wide lapel collar and cuffs take it right into 1970 –– and beyond. The cut of the top captures the moment well, and it looks incredibly close to the one worn by the girl in the (wonderful) image that appeared on the cover of LIFE Magazine from August 22, 1969.
Essentially a shirt dress, this is a more conservative look for 1969 as it eschews any sign of the trendy hippie (flowery prints, crocheted outfits, soft organza fabrics, prairie style, etc.) It's a dress for the 1969 gal who knows she'll stand out at a party by not blending in with the latest fads. She may even be a free-spirit taking a break from all of the freedom 1969 has afforded her, opting for a look that recalls 1966 –– a sparklier time just before all of the current 1969 madness. (Peggy, in Episode 706, recalls 1965 as being a very good year, while Don shares the same sentiment for 1955.) Trudy might wear this dress. Or someone like Bonnie –– who is far from a dirty hippie; she was disgusted by how dirty her feet were (literally) after shopping in her sandals in Manhattan all day. Much like the girl on the cover of LIFE Magazine.
THE ANECDOTE ~ As someone who's managed to incorporate the 1960's into her significant life experiences, thus far, this dress reminds me of the one I'd originally planned to wear for my wedding –– years before I had plans to be married. The dress I kept in mind to wear was a shimmery, light yellow-gold, long-sleeved number worn by Jean Shrimpton in the 1967 film 'Privilege' (a film that's painfully under-seen state-side.)
I couldn't find anything even remotely similar to that dress when the time actually came to get married. With too little time, and finances, I couldn't have a replica made. Then I found an alternative look for my wedding, this one was based on another image of Jean Shrimpton (no surprise!) wearing Nina Ricci in 1966.
I finally ended up with two dresses, two looks, both inspired by Jean Shrimpton. This dress also reminds me of an image of Francoise Hardy from 1969 in which she's wearing a yellow beaded turtleneck gown.
Like Shrimpton, Hardy was the type of gal who could go to a party in 1969 wearing something conservative and classic, unlike the most current trends –– only to stand out because of her non-conformity. The dress also recalls the type of beaded, buttoned-up (but fashion-forward) looks Diana Rigg's character, Tracy –– the only Mrs. Bond –– wears in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' from 1969. Tracy even wore a heavy-on-the-lace jumpsuit for her wedding to James Bond (a wink to Rigg's memorable turn as perpetually jumpsuit-clad Mrs. Emma Peel in the 'The Avengers'.)

THE RECAP(S) ~ Episode 705 begins with Stan discovering evidence to Lou's side ambition at the copy machine. Plenty can be said about the hilarity that ensues over 'Scout's Honor', as well as Lou's curmudgeonly grievances towards his subordinates' lack of appreciation for his humor and talents. However, I'd like to focus for a moment on what actor/comedian Allan Havey, who plays Lou Avery, said in a recent interview. It is one of the funniest, simplest, and most accurate things I've ever heard an actor say about his character: 'Lou has a love interest on the show and it's Lou.' Meanwhile, Ginsberg shows signs of his upcoming breakdown, the final result of which has become one of the most memorable moments on 'Mad Men'.
Don gets a call from Stephanie Horton, the 'niece' he inherited from his marriage to Anna Draper. She tells him from an L.A. payphone near Capitol Records that she's pregnant and that she could use his help. Don's immediate reaction is heartwarming. He seems thrilled at the prospect of helping out this 'family member'. He enlists Megan, who is game and just as sweet as Don about the idea of helping Stephanie out. Stephanie arrives at Megan's place, friendly preliminaries give way to real conversation –– and Megan's disposition sours when Stephanie innocently suggests the deep bond she has with Don. Megan, grows more insecure by the day while living as a struggling actress in L.A., and she takes most things far too personally as of late. Don arrives the next day, Megan has a party. The party is so incredibly different from the one Betty has for Henry at their home in this episode. The two parties offset one another visually in a wonderful way. The menage a trois at the end of the evening is not much of a gain for reluctant Don; the information he gets from Harry Crane during the course of the evening is far more valuable to his livelihood.
The episode ends with two men taking charge of their oppressive predicaments in very different ways, with very different results. Poor Michael Ginsberg. Everyone realized too late how badly he needed help. He was not being eccentric; mental illness was rapidly taking over. And all the while, he blamed the giant computer. That paranoia is probably what accelerated his condition. So he took initiative and cut off 'the valve' so that he could release the pressure. The valve being his nipple. 'The most talked about scene' of this season (at least, if not several seasons) is a truly sad one. (Side note: Pink Floyd's 'Brain Damage' from 1973 and its 'lunatic' protagonist had been on my mind earlier the very day this episode aired; I was deeply saddened to see that Ginsberg had actually become the lunatic.) Don also takes charge of the pressure-cooker his place of employment had become –– and he releases that pressure by crashing a cigarette meeting with bold suggestions, subsequently positioning himself back on steadier ground with adversaries Lou Avery and Jim Cutler, whether they'd like to admit it or not. After quite an eventful episode, Waylon Jennings sings us out triumphantly with 'Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line'.
* * * * * *
There is a lot to cover in Episode 706. The episode begins with a hurried mother in a station wagon with her kids in the parking lot of Burger Chef getting grilled by Peggy for information and insight into why she chose get her family's dinner there –– the big takeaway of the interaction turns out to be that she feels guilty about feeding her family greasy fast food, and that she wants to stop answering questions and get them home. This entire episode is about longing –– and about how each individual has a different perception of his or her own failings. Bonnie and Pete fly to New York together; we discover that Bonnie is a divorcee. She makes it clear to Pete that she'd like for him to get a divorce from Trudy so their relationship has a chance to move forward, before she invites him to join her in becoming a member of the mile-high club.
Peggy explains the pitch she's been piecing together to the team. Her position is that mothers feel guilty, so their job will be to give them permission to feed their families with Burger Chef. Lou jumps in and says, 'Well, who gives moms permission? Dads.' (Oh, Lou...) She runs through the proposed ad, her idea is adequate, and everyone is satisfied. But her ad's cookie-cutter family appeal gnaws at Peggy's own sensibilities, the idea that times have changed and the family she was depicting no longer exists. In Lou's office, Pete asks Peggy to let Don pitch to Burger Chef. He has more confidence in Don's ability to win the account, which bothers Peggy deeply, but she concedes. Her unraveling begins to show, but it had started before this account ordeal ––  she later reveals to Don that she recently reached a milestone birthday, 30, without telling anyone. She'd kept her birthday a secret. Despite her level of success, she is still treated as a woman on the job and she's given limits at every turn, and she feels unfulfilled in her private life.
Bob Benson returns to the office with their clients from Detroit; Clara, Cosgrove's secretary is suddenly very pregnant. There's some small talk between the Detroit guys and Ken, with his eye patch a reminder of the harm they caused him. He's asked about his little boy, and Ken wins with this line: 'Are you kidding? He's crawling all over the place. You really gotta keep an eye on him.' Joan and Bob are clearly very happy to see each other again. Megan stops by to visit Don at the office and Peggy is the first to welcome her. One of the newer secretaries tells Megan she didn't know Don was married –- which shouldn't matter, considering the lack of communication at that office, and the fact that Don had been M.I.A. for quite a while –– but Megan takes it badly, as evidenced by the sudden discoloring of her face. She, too, is unraveling; she is filled with angst, longing, worry. This is not the Megan from 1965 or 1966 who breezed through life and had everything good happen to her so naturally.
After rescuing the closeted Detroit client from a late-night arrest, Bob gets word that Buick will be hiring him, which means he would have the leave the agency. He whips up a plan to propose to Joan so that he can have a ready-made family and create an appropriate front for himself. Joan lets Bob know that she knows he isn't into women; he adjusts his proposal to ask whether she'd still consider the fact that, as a single working mother, she is not likely to find another husband. She refuses his not-so-great offer, again. Now their friendship is forever tainted. Pete shows up to see his little girl –– and Trudy. But Trudy stays out for the entire time he visits. When she finally comes home, his relaxed, giddy, southern California demeanor is nowhere to be found, replaced by bitter, angry Pete who reminds her that they're still married. Trudy holds her own, as she always, always, always does. Trudy is one cool woman, truth be told. She is quite possibly the most perfect individual on 'Mad Men'. She's whip smart, she has progressive and open-minded views, she's accepting, she's pretty, she's fun, she's a great daughter, wife and mother. A true lady. We don't see her very much, but she is always respectable, sweet, and lovely. It's no wonder Pete does not want to divorce her –– the idea that she could become a divorcee, with mile-high club potential for another man, is suddenly too much for Pete.
Don wakes up to see Megan on the terrace and the happy expression on his face, as he looks at her without her knowledge, speaks volumes. He loves Megan. He loves having her near him. He puts his arms around her and says: 'Tell me you didn't miss this.' Megan, surprised by his good mood and not entirely comfortable with the idea of being back in New York says: 'I missed you.' Don offers to take her shopping, she agrees, and the little bit of joy that's in her heart shows in her face. Meanwhile, Peggy stews as she works in the office while others are enjoying the weekend. She doesn't trust her strategy and she doesn't trust her abilities. She calls Stan, then Don, and complains and barks at them both. Megan's packing and the search for her fondue pot the next day is indeed a tell-tale sign. Don says he thought she just needed summer clothes to take back to L.A. and she replies, sheepishly: 'I miss my things.' Don tells her he sleeps better when she's there, in New York. (Awww...) Don offers to take some things back with him when he visits at the end of July, and Megan suggests they meet somewhere next time that's not New York, and not L.A. Bonnie returns after a day of shopping to find Pete having ordered and eaten room service. Disappointed, she shows him her dirty feet from wearing sandals in the city. 'I look like a hobo,' she says. She also tells Pete she doesn't like him in New York, since he's been so preoccupied with work and Trudy, etc. while the trip was meant to be her vacation. Mainly, she's jealous of Trudy –– and senses a distance has come between her and Pete.
Don visits Peggy at the office, who's still working on a Sunday. She is snippy from the get-go, but he takes it all in stride. When Don jokes that he's 'still scandalized' from seeing 'I Am Curious (Yellow)' that afternoon, Peggy grumbles, 'Of course Megan would want to see a dirty movie.' Don mentions the pros of the work: it's almost done; it's good; the account man is overjoyed; and the client is on board. Peggy quips that he knows those are the cons. (Clever bit, that one.) And so the thawing of an old friendship finally begins. Don tells her: 'Well, when I'm really unsure about an idea –– first, I abuse the people whose help I need.' To which they both smile. 'And then I take a nap.' And Peggy says: 'Done.' So they get to work. They reminisce about earlier years –– Don says 1955 was a good year, and Peggy says she loved 1965, to which Don says: 'I got married.'
When Peggy suggests the ad could be about a working mom, instead, Don tells her the idea is too sad for an ad. The realization that keeps coming back to Peggy is that the family unit that existed back in 1955, or even in 1965, has become obsolete. If families are still together, they watch TV while they eat. With Don's kindness and support, Peggy manages to find the idea she was looking for: that family can be whomever you're sitting with, across from the dinner table. The episode ends with the work 'family' of Don, Peggy, and Pete –– sitting together around a Burger Chef table to eat fast food and discuss the new strategy.

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