How Mad Men is bringing real women back into fashion
This show is inspiring designers from the catwalks to the high street, writes Chrissie Russell
Published 26/10/2010 | 05:00
Typical! You wait your whole life for a style icon with a look that you can conceivably pull off, only for three to turn up at once.
Joan Holloway, Betty Draper and Peggy Olson are the women of the moment. The shapely lovelies played by Christina Hendricks, January Jones and Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men, the critically acclaimed series set in the sexist, cocktail-swilling world of a Manhattan ad agency in the 1960s, have set the fashion world alight.
The Parisian runways have been awash with retro red lips, pencil skirts, clean lines and structured pieces. The era of the hourglass has returned, women can have hips, busts and bums -- finally there's a look of the moment that can be achieved by the woman in the street.
"I've not seen a reaction in fashion quite like the Mad Men effect -- it's huge!" says Lisa Perkins co-owner of Perk Up Vintage store in Dublin, where she's seen a rising interest in retro fashion inspired by the TV series.
'It's watched as much for its style as its storylines, which perhaps we've only really seen with the Sex And The City series. The difference with Mad Men is these are not brash high-end designer labels but affordable, classic outfits that we can all recreate."
The sheer joy of the Mad Men looks is that, whether you chose to be a Joan, Betty or Peggy, any shape can tailor the look to fit. And whether through genuine vintage, high-street chic or runway high fashion there's something to suit everyone.
Lisa says: "I think all women can pull off a version of the look. The key is to dress for your shape. Wiggle styles are amazing on girls with natural curves while full-circle dresses give some volume to those with a boyish figure."
She adds: "The fact that the style is still here and inspiring trends 50 years on says it all really. It celebrates the female form and appeals to both women wearing it and the men who admire it and its sexy without flashing the flesh -- perfect."
Unsurprisingly Lisa is a proponent for seeking out genuine vintage finds to capture the look.
So too is Mad Men's costume designer Janie Bryant who works with a staff of nine to comb LA's flea markets for era appropriate outfits.
Bryant and show creator Matthew Weiner are sticklers for authenticity (Weiner once changed the apples in a kitchen fruit basket for an episode because they were too large for his 1960s theme) so they prefer the actresses to dress in authentic clothes and not work out.
"They didn't go to the gym in that time period," explains January Jones who plays Betty. "They were soft and feminine."
According to Bryant, whose new book, The Fashion File, will help fans nail her popular look, retro underwear is the key to getting the perfect silhouette.
She says: "I love a longline bra because it totally smoothes the back and it's seamless. It's quite a piece of engineering.
"I also love the way it really does manipulate the shape of the breast."
Unless you're lucky enough to be blessed with a perky, pointy bust, cinched waist and remarkable lack of bulging, getting the right foundation garments is the only way to pull off the figure hugging, sultry secretary shape.
Sales suggest that shoppers have already cottoned on to the secret. Rigby and Peller (the manufacturers behind Bridget Jones' large hold in pants from the movie) say they are selling two pairs of fuller briefs for every thong. "This season big is definitely beautiful," says creative director Nick Clayton. "Fuller briefs styles are sexy as well as comfortable."
And Debenhams have seen retro sets of suspenders and stockings soar in popularity, with sales climbing more than 200pc as more and more people tune into the rising appeal of Mad Men.
Curvaceous woman of the moment Christina Hendricks agrees: "The first day I put on the retro undergarments and I was walking around the office like boom, boom, boom. I've always had a bit of a walk -- this girl's got hips -- but on the show it's exaggerated."