Mad Men brilliantly showed characters experiencing the transitions of the sixties. Changes were constantly happening with clothes, career opportunities, relationships and society. Even though it’s a modern show, this style seems thematically appropriate for this time of year. The transition from winter to spring breathes new life into shopping and getting dressed.
I can never talk about Mad Men without mentioning the stellar costuming by Janie Bryant. The characters’ personalities and transformations constantly informed her garment selection. My favorite has always been Joan, who embodied a true feminine force throughout the series. I still admire Peggy, who transitioned amazingly from nervous secretary to a confident career-woman. (Side note: I highly recommend browsing the archived “Mad Style” posts from Tom and Lorenzo. They provided a great take on the fashion and how it related to the characters and the time period in general.)
I debated on how to curate a selection of early sixties pieces. Vintage shopping is a fun yet frustrating experience. You are bound to find lovely, one-of-a-kind items, but doing so can be time-consuming and expensive. For accessibility’s sake, none of the items featured here are true vintage pieces, but rather modern items reminiscent of styles and motifs displayed on the show. This makes it easier to shop across a range of prices and sizes, and lends to the title of this post, “Vintage-Inspired Shopping.”
Read below for descriptions of the 5 style points I chose. I included a variety of items that fit each one, along with direct links to shop them online. (We do not earn any money if you make a purchase after following the links in this post. If that should change, through registering as an affiliate, for example, we will be sure to disclose that information.)
The male office uniform of the fifties, a grey flannel suit with a skinny tie, was still highly prevalent in the early sixties. Don Draper, Mad Men’s leading male character, often wore this ensemble complete with a matching overcoat and fedora. While Peggy navigates working with the men in her office, she can also be seen in grey. While the election of John F. Kennedy (which occurred in Season 1) quickly brought more youthful styles into popularity, Don sported his classic grey suit through the show’s entirety.
This moral of that story can be, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Picking your favorite neutral is a great way to begin building a wardrobe, no matter what season. Light grey looks great with spring pastel colors, or just on its own in a monochrome column. The easiest way to do this is to play with textures and patterns: mix a sweater or knit blazer with woven pants. Wear a grey suit, but in a subtle plaid pattern. Finish off the look with a colorful heel, like these from Sam Edelman.
Silk scarves were featured heavily in Mad Men to complete an outfit: tied around the neck, knotted on a purse handle, draped over the shoulders. These lightweight scarves serve as fantastic transitional pieces that add visual interest and movement.
Men love scarves.Joan Holloway
There are many options at more affordable price points. If you have a certain designer item in mind, but your bank account can’t afford the splurge, explore luxury consignment sites like The RealReal and Fashionphile. Continuing in the name of sustainability, I was hoping to hunt down a great vegan silk alternative that wasn’t polyester, but no luck. I came across a beautiful Cupro scarf (made from recycled cellulose fibers) by Oh Seven Days, but it is unfortunately out of stock. I’m never one to admit shopping defeat, so I’m putting a pin in that one for now.
We rarely saw a neckline that showed more than a collarbone while the characters were at work. Janie Bryant chose a variety of constructions: boat neck, jewel neck, standing collars, and scarf or bow collars. Another important figure of the era, Jackie Kennedy could often be seen wearing any of the aforementioned looks.
For most, this is a style that can very easily transcend seasons. It definitely works well combined with a wardrobe staple, like the black dress Arianna features in this post. For anyone like me sweating it out in the sunshine state, the covering of skin is limited to certain times of the year. The weather suited for chunky sweaters lasts a few weeks at most, but modest necklines on lightweight tops and dresses can carry me into early spring, at least.
Slim ankle trousers are already a staple in my wardrobe, so this choice is a bit self-serving. The pants outfits throughout this series are still some of my favorites. Our first glimpse of Midge, a Greenwich Village artist, showed her wearing a men’s shirt tied at the waist, high rise trousers, and messy hair. These outfits served to highlight a change in fashion norms, especially when contrasted against crinoline-layered skirts and dresses.
Iconic actresses helped increase the popularity of these trousers while skirts still reigned supreme. Marilyn Monroe was photographed in a pair of white pants and a turtleneck sweater in 1953. In Sabrina (1954), Audrey Hepburn wore an all black ensemble of cropped pants, a boatneck top and flats. This silhouette works as we shed bulky winter layers, without squeezing into a pair of jeggings.
Leopard print popped up occasionally on Mad Men, and was featured on various magazine covers in the early sixties. Speaking to the theme of this post: no trend seems to come and go as much as animal prints. I’m in the camp that you can’t go wrong with a leopard print mainstay in your closet. The items featured on the show were fur-lined hats and thick jackets. To conclude our online shopping trip, I pulled fitted tops and bottoms in the true brown-toned print. I also found a few subtle accessories, like sixties-appropriate top-handle purses and silky scarves.
Let us know if this sparks any wardrobe updating for you. Are there any other Mad Men/early sixties styles or clothing items in your wardrobe? I’d also love to continue this as a series, so please comment below with suggestions and feedback!