It’s impossible to talk about Mad Men without talking about the clothes. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes garish, sometimes voyeuristic, and sometimes teasingly symbolic, nothing is chosen just for aesthetics. On Mad Men, the costumes are storytelling devices that help create a richer and more textual experience for the viewer.
Janie Bryant, the Emmy award-winning (for Deadwood) designer behind the costumes of Mad Men, spoke to EW last month about her theory behind melding the costumes with the development of individual characters, including Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka). Though cryptic at the time, in light of Sunday’s episode, Bryant’s comments about Sally were suddenly brought into focus. [SPOILER ALERT: We'll be briefly discussing plot points from the June 9th episode "Favors"]
The eldest Draper child has the weight of the world on her fashionable shoulders. Though she might be too young still to have any real scandals of her own, she’s old enough to see what’s going on. Poor Sally has spent the past 6 seasons attempting to grow up amidst all the fraught relationships around her, including the divorce of her parents and her new life straddling the world of the suburbs and the city. Sunday’s episode was no exception, when she walked in on her father and his married neighbor Sylvia Rosen (Linda Cardellini) in bed together.
“I always envision Sally now as having two different worlds,” Bryant said. “Now she has her style of what she wears when she’s at the Francis house and then she has her influence of Megan.” Last season we saw Sally attempt to push her own boundaries by dressing older than her age with knee-high boots and makeup, a somewhat revealing testament to the effect of this life divided. Don of course made her tone it down before she left the house, but it was a clear sign that Sally was growing up.
At the beginning of the season, January Jones (Betty) told EW that we could expect more tension between Sally and her parents. “I think that Sally is her mother and her father all in one.” Jones said. “I think that people respond so well to that character because people liked Don and Betty together. So to see someone who is half of each character is really fun. To see her kind of manipulate the situation between Megan and her parents is really interesting.”
Who knows what Sally is thinking now that she’s seen her father in such a compromising position. Will the revelation diminish the glamour of his life in her eyes? Will she perhaps become more sympathetic to her mother, knowing more clearly now what she had to put up with during her marriage to Don? “I love that idea that she almost has a split personality,” Bryant teased.
Let’s all watch next week and analyze whether or not her clothes are skewing Betty or Megan, or if she branches out and makes some radical new choices on her own.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter: @ldbahr