Saturday, May 24, 2014

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

(Originally published for Vintage Fashion at Examiner.com)

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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mad Men Viewers, Expand Your Minds: Other Megan Associations (i.e. Ali MacGraw)

(Originally posted for Vintage Fashion at Examiner.com)

This is for 'Mad Men' viewers who care to put a pause on (or a full stop to) the exhausted Sharon Tate theories. (Why would the show writers give viewers an outcome they've so heavily predicted, after all? They won't.) Any late-1960's aficionado can tell you that there are plenty of other associations to be made. To viewers who are incessantly fixated on just one 1969 reference, especially in terms of Megan: stop limiting yourselves.

Behold something new. Megan Draper, the struggling starlet, is being fashioned after several actresses from 1969-70, but the one who jumped out (for me) is Ali MacGraw, who essentially began her suddenly stratospheric acting career at 30. Megan is pushing 30, and looking for her big break. (MacGraw was also a New Yorker who moved to LA.)

The photo of MacGraw (on the left) is from 1969. Megan wore this exact look in the season premiere, 'Time Zones', as she was getting ready to go to her acting class. MacGraw's photo appeared in the August 1969 issue of Vogue. The image was a big deal at the time: she's wearing her own clothes, standing outside of her NYC apartment, barefoot, after it had rained. This was not the photo Vogue originally intended to use, but they found it charming. Ali MacGraw was about to become Hollywood's it girl and star in 'Love Story'.

Moreover, Ali MacGraw's first film was 'Goodbye, Columbus', in which she starred alongside Richard Benjamin. 'Goodbye Columbus' was based on a novella by Philip Roth. Roth also wrote 'Portnoy's Complaint' –– and its film adaptation starred Richard Benjamin, as well. 'Portnoy's Complaint' is incidentally the book Don was reading in 'The Monolith' episode of 'Mad Men' –– which foreshadowed Michael Ginsberg's terrible predicament in the following episode, 'The Runaways' (since Roth's story deals with issues related to Ginsberg.)

If viewers choose to fixate on just one upcoming event (like the Manson murders), they are sure to miss out on so many other worthwhile details. Think back to the way 'Mad Men' dealt with comparably game-changing events, concepts and moments –– like The Beatles, JFK's assassination, Martin Luther King's assassination: they occurred peripherally, and there was no lingering on the topic. And through certain characters, viewers identify with feelings evoked by the event.

Megan Draper happens to be an actress living near where the murders will inevitably take place. It's L.A., it's the canyons. Of course there were actresses and other such neighbors who felt particularly traumatized by what happened. Of course it will be terrifying for Megan –– and for everyone else –– afterwards. And that is all. Ultimately, there are plenty of connections to mull over. 1969 was a kaleidoscope of people and events. Viewers should 'expand their minds' and just enjoy the show!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Festival (Woodstock) Dress + Double Recap of 'Mad Men' (S7E3 & S7E4)

(Note: This is a recap for the 2nd episode of Season 7 of 'Mad Men', originally published for Vintage Fashion at Examiner.com.)

THE LOOK ~ This dress is an up-cycled sari, redesigned to be a lady-like 'hippie' festival frock. Dark blue and floral, the dress fits particularly well with S7E4 –– since Marigold and friends could conveniently (being well within proximity) attend Woodstock, arguably the most influential music festival in our collective history. The gang of hippies will likely want to keep their one (debated) vehicle on the premises, after all.
THE ANECDOTE ~ Not long before I'd meet my now husband in 2003, I dated someone who tried to provoke me by saying he believed the legacy of Woodstock has been fabricated. In a conversation once (after I raved about how The Zombies' song 'Hung Up On a Dream' is touchingly indicative of how people were feeling about the 'peace and love' movement) he insisted that the event that got countless young people to travel, in whatever manner possible, to one locale to experience music and freedom en masse was not 'as big a deal' in its own time as it's been made to be in retrospect. He was oddly committed to this notion, despite his lack of interest in the topic.

Considering this fella also insisted the moon landing was faked and a conspiracy (knowing well my own father worked for NASA and helped build an earlier Apollo space shuttle, so I'd have personal interest in the import of that particular work) this person simply liked to push people's buttons; he realized my great interest was in the historical significance of the 1960's –– the lifestyle, the mindset. Needless to say, it wasn't meant to be. Who even has time or energy for button-pushers? Lucky for me, I met 'the right one' immediately following that one.

THE RECAP(S) ~ S7E3 starts with Don at the movies (smoking and watching 'Model Shop') and ends with Jimi Hendrix's 'If 6 Was 9'.  It also ends with a punch to the gut (for some viewers) after seeing Don get a relentless whooping from his partners.
In S7E3, both Megan and Don are struggling with not easily getting what they want. They've both experienced enough success in their respective careers to feel worried when their talents are not immediately sought after. Don flies to LA to surprise Megan –– and try and console her and advise her to be more patient (at her agent's request.) 
There is a deep level of understanding and love between them, but while Megan is raw from a sense of struggle, her angry reaction to Don's confession about his job is heightened. The normally easy-going Megan might have been irritated, but she would've managed to brush it off. This frustrated version of Megan has a fit and tells Don to go home. She practically asks for a divorce, even. (But not quite.)
We also see Betty and Bobby spend the day together on his school field trip. In cheerfully agreeing to attend the trip, Betty has set out to prove to herself she loves handling her duties as a mother. Bobby beams with pride and joy in her presence. As usual, Bobby is such a painfully sweet child –– he's both heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch. But much like what is about to happen in his father's world, to some extent, the person whose acceptance he values so deeply turns cold to Bobby after he makes one mistake during the picnic. Bobby is terribly sorry for giving away Betty's sandwich to a classmate. He loves his mother and desperately wants to be close to her. But Betty holds a grudge against him for the rest of the day –– and even hours later, she mentions what he did. Poor Bobby. He even tells Henry he wishes it was yesterday. He wishes he could start the day over with his beloved mother, mistake-free.
When Don returns to New York, he sensibly shops and considers a move to another agency. But just as he's refused the advances of the flight attendant on the way to LA –– and that of a woman who stops by his table during dinner with his potential new colleagues –– he refuses the chance to work at a different agency. He'd rather patch things up with Megan, and with SC&P. In many ways, Don is proving himself a new man, but he wants to return to what he's known. When he gets the official offer to switch agencies, Don takes it over to Roger and tells him he'd prefer returning to the agency he helped create. Roger agrees –– and what ensues is painful to watch.
Don's return to the office the next day turns into one of the most chilling occurrences of the series. Chilling mainly because his colleagues (especially his partners) are so incredibly cold to him. A few are notably compassionate and warm: Ken Cosgrove is very welcoming to Don, and even speaks to him with reverence by telling him that going to the carousel with his kids reminded him of Don, in reference to his game-changing pitch in the first season. Ginsberg is also happy to see Don and immediately invites him to help out with their current pitch.
Don feels eager to roll up his sleeves and get to work, and cheerfully makes small talk. And he waits. He waits for a dreadfully long time. He sits there like a bull in a china shop. When the moment of truth finally comes, the partners sit with Don and treat him like a troubled child by listing off the stipulations for his return. These rules made me uncomfortable to hear or even imagine for Don –– I found myself hoping he'd refuse.
But surprisingly, Don agreed. My next hope with this decision was that Don actually feels so confident and ready to work, he doesn't care what challenges are presented to him. He believes he can handle anything –– even this terribly cold behavior from people he expected to be happy to see him.
Maybe he's so at peace with himself that, as Jimi says: "If the sun refused to shine, I don't mind, I don't mind."
* * * * * *
~ S7E4 begins with Pete and Bonnie having dinner and chatting about planning a getaway –– possibly to Palm Springs. (Coincidentally, the photos accompanying this piece were taken this past week in Palm Springs, during our own little getaway.) An interruption (George, who previously worked for Vicks) leads to a possible new account with Burger Chef. Pete also discovers during the conversation that his father-in-law has suffered a stroke.
Don's first official day back that office begins awkwardly due to lack of communication. The entire office had gathered upstairs for a big announcement that a gigantic computer will be soon be joining them. Roger wants a drink, Ginsberg wants the couch, and Don just wants to know what's going on. Sadly, this lack of communication continues throughout the episode to a distressing degree. 
The partners gather to discuss Burger Chef without inviting Don, who is now very much present in the office. We viewers were privy to the tough stipulations of Don's return, none of which were that he's not to be invited to partner meetings. Don is mentioned in the meeting as Roger champions for their in-house 'creative genius' to take over the Burger Chef account. Cutler agrees, and that seems to be that. Until Lou (feeling competitive with Don) decides on his own to hand the account to Peggy and to offer her a raise. This seems highly inappropriate, but no one is communicating with Don. The first Don hears about Burger Chef is when Peggy –– awfully smug Peggy –– informs Don he is to work on the account with her as the lead. But Don is a partner, still –– and as Harry points out to the computer guy, Don is also one of three creative directors.
Don and the computer guy get chummy. They talk about the stars and the moon in relation to how humans are dealing with sharing their lives with these giant computers. Don realizes this guy could be a great new account for them. With Roger absent from the office (more on that soon, of course) Don shares his excitement about this idea with Bertram Cooper. Cooper's reaction is so cruel, I won't even  revisit it here in this recap –– but as a viewer, I remain heartbroken over how Don (a person who's clearly trying, being vulnerable, and excited to begin anew) is being treated by his colleagues. He is not simply their equal; in many ways, he deserves reverence for all he's admitted, and endured. Aren't creatives allowed to be somewhat eccentric, after all? Here's a creative who's also a founding partner of the agency. It's without a doubt disgraceful the way they're behaving towards Don. But I digress.
Roger, meanwhile, has gone on a road trip with his ex-wife in an attempt bring their daughter Margaret, now Marigold, to her senses. Marigold left her four-year-old son and husband to live in the classic 'dirty hippie' sense within a commune of new friends. This storyline is far more interesting than it seems on the surface –– in that it represents how confusing this era was for all kinds of young people. Margaret and her husband married in the mid-1960's (viewers: you may recall that President Kennedy was shot on the day of her wedding; Pete and Trudy were too distressed to attend; etc.) And as her mother indicates to Roger, maybe their daughter could have married better. We know that Margaret has asked Roger for help countless times since her marriage. Roger's son-in-law has needed assistance in his attempt to fulfill expectations.
Expectations for upper crust, higher society youths had to have been confusing when their values were being questioned in the midst of young marriage. Margaret has had to worry about her husband's career, and their welfare, but she was not raised to know how to handle anything but frivolity. It all became too much for her at some point, and we've witnessed her slow descent; so when an opportunity presented itself for her to escape what has become a confusing life, via a new way of thinking, she was vulnerable and took the risk. So Margaret's becoming Marigold and living in a commune (heartbreaking, in that she is refusing to take responsibility for her innocent, young child) is not even surprising. In fact, one can easily argue that it's Roger's own fault she ended up there. She had reached out for his help repeatedly, and he refused her every time. But this is also a great look into how the 1960's affected youth who came from money to want to reject everything and escape into a life of simplicity –- particularly those who felt vulnerable and confused, like Margaret.
One also has to wonder how Don's workday might have gone if Roger, his one supportive partner, had been around the office. After Don secretly succumbs to having a few drinks to deal with what has been a hellish day, he calls the one person he's come to trust: Freddy Rumsen. Don then redirects and spews his anger and frustration towards the bewildered computer guy. Don is a guy who needs friendship and understanding at the moment, more than anything, and no one has been caring enough. No one except Freddy, who advises him to get back in there, roll up his sleeves and prove himself by doing the exceptional work for which he's known.
This is exactly what I hoped would happen when Don bravely returned to the agency he helped to create –– head down, delivering the goods, with a new 'bring it' attitude. With nothing to hide now, the partners would be wise to try and see what new level of genius can come forth from this raw individual. It was deeply satisfying to see him resolve to do just this at the end of S7E4. The Hollies' 'On A Carousel' begins to play to close this episode out –– the 'carousel' having been referenced twice now this season. We know it has come to represent not only to Don's game-changing pitch, but also his life. And with that, Don is officially back at work. Cruel partners and competitive attitudes be damned.