Mad Style: Peggy Olson, S2 Part 2
Peggy stops by to visit Anita and listens to her complain about her husband and mother. It’s a very simple scene beautifully acted by the both of them that really makes it feel like they’re sisters. Fr. Gill stops by to check in on Anita’s husband, who’s laid up with a bad back. Peggy is visibly uncomfortable being alone with him. Fr. Gill attempts to draw her out and asks her to help him come up with a way to publicize the next CYO dance. “Think of it as pro bono.” She’s very reluctant, but she’s too Catholic to say no outright.
This is a sweet little summer dress that’s perfectly Peggy, yet we rarely see her dress like this. It just feels like Peggy. Something that’s notable about Peggy’s wardrobe during this period of her life: she vacillates between the little girl clothes that Joan warned her about and the grownup career girl clothes she’s learning to wear. When she’s with Fr. Gill (and sometimes with Don) she tends to be dressed in these types of juvenile looks. It helps illustrate her relationships with these men, who both have some sort of hold over her.
Fr. Gil calls her to discuss the flyer she came up with. The CYO committee is balking at the tagline, “A Night to Remember.” “They feel it sends the wrong message to the girls.” He asks her to come in and speak to the CYO committee.
Another Catholic schoolgirl outfit: a jumper and blouse with a peter pan collar. Once you know to look for it, it’s amazing how consistent and how often it was employed.
Peggy meets with the CYO committee and Fr. Gill in an attempt to sell them on her slogan. “It holds the promise of the kind of hand-holding that eventually leads to marriage.” The CYO ladies complain that the illustration shows the couple dancing too close together. “Leave some room for the Holy Ghost.” Peggy is annoyed, but does her best to hide it. After the ladies leave, she angrily stands up to him. “You asked me to do this based on my expertise. You’re supposed to tell them to trust me. That’s your job.” She’s bringing her newfound ambition and independence into the old world setting she ran away from and the combination is unsettling both to her and to him.
While this isn’t quite a schoolgirl outfit, it is in a shade of what we like to call (and what only Catholics over the age of 40 would understand as) “convent green.” It seemed like back in the day, every convent, rectory and Catholic school was painted in that somewhat nauseating seafoam green that the Vatican must have gotten a deal on. You can see that same green on the wall behind her and in the stained glass. She never wore anything like this to work, so we assume this somewhat dowdy dress with an overdone scallop detail was part of her “church clothes” wardrobe. It’s feminine and non-threatening and completely devoid of anything that denotes sexuality or ambition. A good girl dress.
Peggy and Don have a short chat in the elevator on the morning the news of Marilyn’s death broke. “You just don’t imagine her ever being lonely.” On the way into the office she efficiently notes to Don that they’re lucky Playtex never went with the “Jackie/Marilyn” campaign they pitched, otherwise they’d have to pull everything indefinitely. Don is a bit shocked at her business-like attitude, especially in comparison to the office of weeping secretaries he’s faced with.
Later she sits in Freddy Rumsen’s office, preparing a campaign pitch to Samsonite with Sal and Pete. Freddy drunkenly pisses his pants and passes out just as the clients arrive for the meeting. Peggy takes control of the situation and snaps the laughing Sal and disgusted Pete into line. She sends Pete out to greet the clients and prepares to make the pitch herself.
She’s young and feminine in this outfit, but also streamlined, efficient and professional-looking. She’s finding her own personal style at this point and it’s not Joan, it’s not “secretary,” and it’s not schoolgirl. In a way, it’s a combination of all three. One of the defining characteristics of Peggy is that she observes people and learns from them. This outfit is an indication of what she’s learned.
Don informs her that Samsonite loved her pitch, Freddy has been fired, and she will be taking over Freddie’s accounts as a senior copywriter. Peggy is upset over Freddy’s firing. He had a paternal relationship with her and was the first person to notice her writing ability. Don tells her “Don’t feel bad about being good at your job.” “I wish it hadn’t happened this way,” she replies. She barrels into Pete’s office unannounced, furious that he told Don about Freddy. Pete calms her down (notably, he’s conciliatory to her instead of getting mad at her) and congratulates her on her promotion.
She’s still going back and forth on her looks. Sometimes she looks every inch the career woman, full of ambition, and sometimes she lapses back into the girlish clothes. Just like her scenes with Fr. Gill, this scene with Don sells the whole mentor/student thing going with them and so, she’s dressed in this youthful style.
At Harry Crane’s baby shower, Peggy hands Pete a slice of cake and he somewhat sheepishly says, “Thank you.” Later, as she’s leaving the office for the day, he calls her over to his office and, as he’s been doing a lot lately, tells her things he doesn’t tell anyone else. Like for instance, he’s unsettled about the fact that he’s flying out to California for a business trip and his father died that year in a plane crash. He also tells her he hates his mother and asks her what she thinks of that. She diplomatically begs off answering the question, offering that she doesn’t know his mother. “Everything’s so easy for you,” he says enviously. “It’s not easy for anyone, Pete.”
Killer dress. The best damn thing she’s ever worn on the show. She’s fully come into her own and this bold check is fairly shouting it to the world. She’s confident, she’s womanly, and she’s dressing to show it all off. This is the dress that says “I know who I am, what I want, and what I’m capable of.” It really is a gorgeous dress and unlike a lot of her earlier ensembles, it fits her to a T. She’s clearly spending more money on her wardrobe now that she’s a senior copywriter. And what’s so great about it is it’s not like any other female character’s clothes. It’s pure Peggy, all grown up.
Kurt and Peggy have a date to go see Bob Dylan in the village and Kurt stops by her place to pick her up. Perhaps “date” isn’t the right word, since Kurt recently informed the office that he’s gay. She offers a glass of wine to him before they leave and utters the line that every girl who ever thought she had a chance with a gay boy has said at one time or another: “I don’t know why I pick the wrong boys. What’s wrong with me?” Kurt, because he’s both gay and not very good with English offers his blunt assessment: She needs a makeover. “This is not modern office working woman. I fix you.” Then he plays Kitchen Beautician and gives her a new flip ‘do instead of taking her to see Dylan. It’s a really cute and low-key hilarious scene.
There’s not a lot of deeper meaning to be mined from this dress. We just wanted to highlight it because it’s such an adorable dress.
Peggy comes up with a fantastic pitch for the Popsicle account, based on the Catholic imagery that tends to permeate her family life. “Let me tell you something, the Catholic Church knows how to sell things.” She pitches it to them, they love it, and she pretty much single-handedly lands the account. Afterward, she nervously approaches Roger and asks if she can have Freddy Rumsen’s old office since she doesn’t think it’s fair she has to share an office with a Xerox machine. Roger is amused, but also impressed, telling her that none of the men in the office has the kind of balls to do what she just did.Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, meet Woman in the Gray Flannel Dress. Sure, it’s got the full skirt and pussy bow that she’s favored since she was Don’s secretary, but there’s no doubt that this is a serious career woman look. She’s in almost exactly the same color as Roger. And again, it looks a little more expensive than the outfits she was wearing as recently as 6 months prior.
Season 2 Episode 13 – “Meditations in an Emergency”
The office is clearing out as everyone heads home in fear of nuclear armageddon by way of Cuba. Pete admires Peggy for sticking around and keeping her wits about her. In perfect Peggy fashion, she tells him that she’s waiting for the trains to be a little less crowded. He asks her into his office for a drink and tells her (rather sweetly, we have to admit) that he’s in love with her. Peggy is stunned and saddened to hear this. “I could have had you in my life forever if I wanted to,” she says quietly. He doesn’t understand. “I could have shamed you into being with me.” Finally, she takes a deep breath and quietly drops her own nuclear bomb on him. “Pete, I had your baby and I gave it away.” At first he doesn’t believe her. “I wanted other things,” she says, by way of an explanation. When he still doesn’t seem to grasp what she’s saying, she lays her soul bare for him. “One day you’re there and then all of a sudden there’s less of you and you wonder where that part went. It’s living somewhere outside of you and you keep thinking maybe you’ll get it back. And then you realize, it’s just gone,” which is about her own feelings for him, the life that she was told all her life she was supposed to want, and the baby itself. “I’m sorry Pete,” she says quietly, and she stands, puts her hand tenderly on his shoulder for a second, and leaves him there as one lone tear makes its way down his cheek. One of the most devastatingly emotional scenes in the series and we can still remember how shocked we were the first time we saw it.
Once again, this isn’t Schoolgirl Peggy or Secretary Peggy or even Junior Copywriter Peggy. This is Peggy as a woman, fully capable and, with this scene, finally unburdened of any weight holding her back. She isn’t just walking away from Pete and their baby here. She’s walking away from everything – her mother, her church, her social status, her shyness – that ever prevented her from becoming the woman she wants to be. This is probably the most “mature” outfit she’s ever worn and also among the most up-to-the-minute stylish. We’d put this up against anything Joan ever wore to the office. The pearls, the oversized buttons, and the cream colored trim are all very grownup. It’s notable that she blends into the surroundings in Pete’s office, but it’s even more notable that she gets up and walks away from those surroundings.
[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com - Photo Credit: amctv.com/originals/madmen]