What Prints and Patterns Say – Mad Men Style


Mad Men costumes - what do they say

Following on from yesterday’s post on Mad Men style and body shapes.  There were some comments on the dislike of the patterns that Peggy wears.  So it got me to think about why each character wears the prints and patterns chosen for them.

Peggy from Mad Men costume pattern

Peggy – she’s a woman in a man’s world.   She wears checks and stripes.   Straight patterns like checks and stripes are masculine in their feel, it’s what we expect a man to wear, from pinstripes and chalkstripes and striped ties, to tartan (a masculine check) to windowpane check.   You won’t see Peggy in florals, she doesn’t want to emphasise her femininty so that she’s treated more fairly by her male colleagues.

Betty from Mad Men costume

Betty – she’s a woman in a woman’s world.  She’s flighty and feminine and you see her in florals, spots and butterfly prints.  They’re feminine and match her softer, lighter personality and lifestyle.

Joan from mad Men costume

Joan – she’s a woman in a female role in a man’s world.  She mostly wears solids rather than patterns at work, but always in colour, she’s not a black and white woman.  The colours make her feminine, pinks, reds, purples, blues and greens, but they’re strong so she’s no pushover.  When she’s out of work she wear’s florals, but bold larger scale florals which match her more dramatic and forceful personality.  She is no shrinking butterfly, she is a woman who will be listened to.


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  • Ha, I was about to leave just about exactly the same comment as ChristineB. I've only ever seen a few episodes of Mad Men but I find the Project Rungay analyses fascatinating.

  • Nice analysis — of course, what's also going on with Peggy is that she lacks the knowledge and the confidence in dressing herself that the other two women have — so yes, the plaids and checks reflect her wanting to hold a position seen as masculine at the time, but we also get glimpses of Peggy wishing she could borrow the other women's style — and look how eager she is for that Hermes scarf . . .

  • Materfamilias – Peggy wants to be more feminine, and when she goes out socially you're more likely to see her in a floral, when she lets out her feminine side.

    Interestingly I was watching and episode in series 3 last night and when Betty confronted Don about his past she was wearing checks-giving her extra strength, rather than her usual more feminine patterns.

  • Materfamilias: and thinking about that Hermes scarf – it's a symbol of Peggy's value, that she has 'arrived' and is becoming established, succeeding in the industry.

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