Mad Men, AMC’s Emmy Award-winning series about an advertising agency set in 1960’s New York, has become a hit with more than just viewers – top designers are sending 60’s-inspired looks down the runway for the second year in a row. Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, and Liz Claiborne have allowed the show to influence their collections, and one of my favorite discount women’s clothiers, Chadwicks, is showing “The Jackie Sweater,” a nod to the 3/4-length sleeves worn by the former First Lady during the Kennedy Administration. Even GQ is calling for guys to “Man up their style” in the Don Draper way (lead character on Mad Men), when men were men and women were women and everyone dressed with style and flair.

January Jones and Jon Hamm and Betty and Don Draper


January Jones and Jon Hamm as Betty and Don Draper
AMC’s Mad Men

So why the fascination with this retro look?

I think it’s a re-calibration of the style meter, a sort of lash back against the casual dressing of recent years. You see them ever so often in fashion history. In the last 100 years, for example, you have:

  • 1920’s – Boyish silhouettes and knee-length hems defy the corseted S-shape and cumbersome skirts of the Victorian era
  • 1940’s – Dior’s “New Look” of 1947 flaunts the abundant use of materials so scarce during World War II
  • 1960’s – White gloves, matching accessories, and careful grooming are chucked in favor of the bohemian hippie look
  • 1980’s – As the hippies grow up and get jobs on Wall Street, long hair and bell bottoms give way to big hair and big shoulders
  • 1990’s – Grunge replaces 80’s as boomer kids repeat what their parents did during the hippie movement
  • 2000’s – The grunge kids have grown up and are looking for something new, so naturally, they turn to the past – their grandparents c. 1960 – for inspiration.
Funny how things come full circle, huh?  Each generation tries to define itself by essentially repeating what their parents did in a slightly different way. Personally, I like the more dressed up looks, because it requires people to think about what they wear rather than just grab a tee shirt and jeans. Anyone can do that and most do. To be a trendsetter, you have to think “outside the box” – even if that means putting a fresh spin on an old look.That’s what Mad Men’s costumer, Janie Bryant, Emmy-award winning designer of the western series Deadwood, has done to perfection. In fact, the series’ looks have become SO popular, she’s been asked to design her own ready-to-wear line. She’s also been nominated for another Emmy award for her work on Mad Men.Catch Mad Men Season 1 and Season 2 on DVD, and look for the current season at 10 pm Sundays on AMC.

Christine Hendricks as Joan Holloway, AMC's Mad Men

Christine Hendricks turning heads as
Secretary Joan Holloway
AMC’s Mad Men