The Transformation of Peggy- In Color

I’ve been re-watching Mad Men (so far just season 2) to take a closer work at Janie Bryant’s brilliant wardrobing for the show.  First we fluffed around with Betty and her BFF and pondered whether it’s too much to wear petticoats, girdles and pearls around the house (many of us do, and it’s not so bad!).  Then Jane’s colorblocks wiggled by and we were distracted by her lumpy (if vintage appropriate) bra.

This week, rather than talk about a single dress I want to talk about Peggy’s style transformation- specifically her use of color as she finds her “style.”

She’s a woman of her time- smart and talented, but not quite sure where she belongs in the masculine working world.  She struggles to keep up with them as they meet in seedy nightclubs outside of work to brainstorm and ogle the models who come to the office to audition for a brassiere campaign.  She’s not one of the boys, so they exclude her from these work-related shenanigans.  At one point they literally shut the office door in her face.  In her frustration, she turns to Joan for advice.

Joan doesn’t mince words and I love her for it.  “If you want to be taken seriously, stop dressing like a little girl.”  This moment (season 2, episode 6) marks a change in Peggy’s manner of dressing, and the way she interacts with her colleagues.  Please to note the blue- it’s a nice dress, but Joan is probably right.  It’s a little outdated for the time, a little “girly-”  but, the color works for Peggy.

Viola.  In the next scene, she drops by the nightclub where the boys took the Maidenform client- definitely not dressed like a little girl! (Still season 2, episode 6)  This color works very well for Peggy, and while it’s a more revealing dress it’s also impeccably fitted, tasteful, and appropriate to the situation.  (I love that drape and the broochy thing!)

She’s confident, and undoubtedly pleased that she shocked her co-workers to their cores.  “Ah!  Now they’ll notice me and listen to my ideas!”  A dress can do that.

Perhaps the client notices her a little too much and mistakes her for a paid companion rather than a business player.  She doesn’t seem to mind the half-drunk old man pulling her onto his lap, but I shudder when I see clips like this and thank God it’s not 1963 anymore.

She finds ways to work this color into her wardrobe more and more often as the series progresses. (episode 8)  This blouse in particular stood out to me because while it’s perfectly modest and work-appropriate (like old Peggy’s clothes), it’s also striking.  I like that.  She uses the color from her “confident grown woman” silk cocktail dress and uses it in cotton for work wear.  It stands out, but because the color suits her she stands out in a good way.  At the same time, she’s gaining confidence in her job.

She pairs the blouse with a skirt that picks up the color without competing or clashing with it and finishes the outfit with a belt in a paler shade of turquoise.  I think it suits her beautifully, and again it’s appropriate to the occasion.  I’d go so far as to guess (we don’t see) that her shoes also match the belt.

The lesson I would take from this is- if a color works for you, it works for you.  It works when you’re dressed up, it works at home, it works at work.  It’s amazing the difference a suitable color can make to your appearance.   Remember: We sew- we can sew whatever we like in the colors that best suit us!  We’re not at the mercy of the Pantone color forecast!

I want to say more about that dress and the Peggy-Joan dichotomy apart from color and style transformation.  Should I save it for this Saturday or just plunge on tomorrow?

For a cool slideshow on Peggy’s changes, click here.

(Ruth’s beeeeyootiful version of the Kimono Wrap Top)

I just want to say a big, huge THANK YOU to all of you for your lovely comments on the Wrap Top Pattern and Merino Fabric Giveaway!  I wish I could start another new pattern for y’all tomorrow!  (It’ll have to be very soon, my fingers are itching!)  I woke up to an especially hilarious post by Sew Ruth– she made a beautiful ivory version of the Kimono Wrap Top and she’s so funny I nearly spat my coffee all over my keyboard this morning.  Really. 


  1. I’ve always been a fan of Mad Men but also started watching it from the beginning again since I just started sewing last July. It is so interesting to watch it from a wardrobe perspective and I believe I now have a greater appreciation for the styling that goes into each episode.

    • I think the way Janie Bryant tells stories with the clothes is amazing. I’m such a fan of her work, every time I watch the shows I’m amazed over and over again at the way she uses clothes to express aspects of the story without words…

  2. I love this post. I’m a purple girl. It makes me happy, it looks good on me, I get compliments while wearing purple. Be it dressed up, at work or home, it works for me. Red would be my second choice in colour. Not the oranges and greens my MIL thinks I would look good in, I just don’t feel happy in those colours.

    The white collar and cuffs certainly make the first dress look more girly to me.

    • It’s hard to listen to MILs. Don’t they know that?

      Yes… I like the white collar and cuffs, but it’s definitely a little “girly.”

  3. Looks like I’m not alone anticipating the return of Mad Men. I love how the characters have evolved through the use of a fantastic costume designer.

    And thanks for linking to Ruth’s post about her top! It’s now on the ‘must sew’ list.

    • I’m more than a little worried I won’t like the show anymore… The fashions of the late 60’s don’t do much for me and I’m not that enamored with the characters… Though I would like to know what happens to Peggy.

  4. Love blue-greens and purple. And hot pink. I never wear them though, which now seems weird. I liked Joan’s response to Peggy in that scene – it still has relevance today.

    • Yeah, there’s that.. .What is it with me and aqua and strawberry lately? I can’t seem to make myself not love love love them.

  5. If that isn’t proof of how outerwear can change people’s opinions of your personality and motives, then I don’t know what could be. And people say paying attention to fashion is shallow! Pity the foo’s.

    • I think it’s usually people who don’t *get* fashion and non-verbal communication through clothing who call it shallow… But I think that’s a little too dismissive- the way you dress and present yourself (especially for work) really, really matters!

  6. I like the 60s styles but let’s hope they don’t bring back Crimpolene and nylon. Oh static! That retired ballerina at the end of your post could do with a bit of toning up though, especially if she wants to get into wiggle dresses.

  7. Pingback: Mad Men Mod: Megan « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  8. This post is great. I thought I was the only one who likes Peggy! It seems everyone is a fan of Joan or Betty. Now I’m off to look at that slide show you’ve linked.

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