This project – a project very near and dear to my heart – my last ode to Mad Men – is now yesterday’s (or rather a week and a half ago’s) news. The buzz about the series finale has quieted to a whisper among die-hard fans or those behind on their DVRs. Everything I know about the Internet and blogging and Google and the immediacy and timeliness of it all tells me I need to let this project go and write it off as a series of unfortunate mishaps, time and money and energy I’ll never get back. But I refuse to let this project die in the depths of my external hard drive. So, without further ado, I present my final tribute to Mad Men: Marie in Manhattan, a short story of a woman whose life ran parallel to Peggy and Joan.
MARIE IN MANHATTAN
Marie moved to Manhattan in the fall of 1965, just a few weeks before her twenty-second birthday. She came to New York City with the hope of becoming a writer. To pay the bills, Marie took a job as a secretary. Although typing company memos and contracts wasn’t the best use of Marie’s written skills, she was a capable typist no matter what the content. Her personal record was 48 words per minute.
After nearly two years in New York, Marie hadn’t made much progress with her career, but she had made new friends and met a man, Paul Miller. Paul was an associate editor at The New Yorker, and he was certain he could make Marie a star. He told her she was the next Pauline Kael.
By the summer of 1968, Marie had her foot in the door at The New Yorker. They had published one of her short stories titled “The Dandy Game,” which was a witty anecdote about the life of a secretary in New York City. Before the piece was published, Paul pulled some strings, and Marie came into the office to meet with the Editor-in-Chief. “You’ve got a spark,” he said, “don’t lose it.”
On a warm Sunday in the spring of 1969, Paul proposed, and Marie said yes. Planning a wedding would be a welcome distraction from her career. Monday morning Marie returned to work. It didn’t take long for her co-workers to learn of her engagement. “Congratulations!” exclaimed Anna, whose desk was adjacent to Marie’s, “You don’t have to worry about being a writer anymore, you’ve got a ring!”
Shot on location in the Garment District of Manhattan courtesy of Breather.
My grandparents moved into the house on East 33rd Street in February of 1968. My mom was about to turn six, and her younger sister was only a month away from being born. My mom always says she remembers it vividly: my grandmother eight months pregnant, sitting under the shade of the awning on the front porch, directing the movers.
Forty-three years later, my grandmother decided it was time to leave this home and its original avocado-green fridge. I spent every Christmas in that house, even my first Christmas at one-month old. So for the Christmas of 2010, my family and I went there one final time.
My mom and I slowly made our way through the house, identifying the things we wanted. One night we were going through the mid-century modern highboy in the guest bedroom, her room growing up. In the bottom drawer, we came upon a treasure trove of costume jewelry my aunts had somehow missed. Among the baubles was a gold bangle.
In the summer of 2011, I was at my parent’s house, packing to move from Georgia for the first time, across the country to Madison, WI. In the background, I was re-watching Mad Men. I looked up from the pile of clothes I was folding and placing in boxes, dropped what I was doing, and darted toward the T.V. I paused the episode and immediately called my grandmother. Joan was wearing the gold bangle.
As silly as it sounds, I’ve come to treasure the bangle even more ever since I discovered Joan wearing it. I always knew the bangle was genuinely vintage, but for some reason, knowing costume designer Janie Bryant deemed it worthy for Mad Men makes it all the more authentic.
Note: I attempted to remember and locate the original episode in which Joan wears the gold bangle, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do so before publishing this post. Now I have a good excuse to re-watch the entire series and report back! However, Joan wears the bangle again in the final season, episode 12.
“Costume is all about developing characters and telling a story.” – Academy Award winning costume designer Angus Strathie
The year is 1937. You’re twenty nine years old, a young mother in your prime. By a twist of fate (and a little magic), your body miraculously stops aging. For the rest of time, you’ll experience the world in a young woman’s figure, but you’ll grow into an old soul.
“Adaline is somebody who has an incredible wardrobe. She’s dressed a little more conservatively because she’s not 29, she’s a hundred.” – Blake Lively
The year is 1976. Although your life is anything but ordinary, you’re still just like any other woman. You find it hard to resist the latest fashions. As the decades go by, your wardrobe is evolving into an archive of memories and moments, past experiences and people.
“Since the piece took place over almost a century, it was extra challenging to be able to find all those periods and all those moods and all those emotions of this character.” – Angus Strathie
The year is 2015. For seventy-eight years, you’ve had to define and re-define yourself, often through what you wore. Each article of clothing holds a sentiment and tells a story of a particular time, a particular version of you. Sometimes, when you head to the closet to get dressed, you find yourself wearing something from every decade.
“What we felt was right was to actually incorporate those vintage pieces into her contemporary look. The 2015 look is contemporary clothes mixed with vintage pieces or vintage accessories.” – Angus Strathie
We all have a relationship with our clothes. After imagining yourself as Adaline, a woman who has lived for almost a century, consider how deep that connection might be with certain articles of clothing. This is how costume designer Angus Strathie employs fashion to enhance Adaline’s story in The Age of Adaline. With a variety of styles and silhouettes from nearly ten decades at his disposal, Strathie makes use of color, pattern, and accessories to reflect Adaline’s character in her wardrobe.
In both flashbacks and present day, variations of red, blue, and black are dominant in Adaline’s wardrobe. I believe Strathie focused on this palette because each color represents a piece of Adaline’s story. Red hues carry a spectrum of meaning, anywhere from danger to love. Because of Adaline’s unique condition, she’s forced to conceal her identity and lives with the constant threat of being discovered. Adaline also spends her life grappling with relationships. Her secret prevents her from allowing herself to build deep connections or fall in love. The color blue continues to illustrate Adaline’s struggle. Blue is often associated with sadness and loneliness. It’s also a color that’s rarely found in nature, much like the miracle of Adaline’s agelessness. Finally, black represents Adaline’s mystery and intrigue. While her beauty is alluring, Adaline internalizes a great deal of vulnerability and insecurity because of her secret. Keeping people at arm’s length to hide her truth proves to make Adaline’s story even more interesting.
Strathie also uses pattern, specifically florals, to characterize Adaline and develop her story. Flowers symbolize growth and renewal. They’re often given as a sentiment at milestones throughout our lives: birth, marriage, holidays, and ultimately death. Because of her inability to age, Adaline circumvents the typical human life cycle, and she must constantly reinvent herself to hide her true identity. Flowers represent the normalcy Adaline so intensely desires.
Adaline’s collection of clothing and accessories helps to keep her grounded despite the lack of stability and consistency in her life. Strathie uses a particularly unique accessory as a signature for Adaline’s look: the scarf. Scarves were a popular accessory in the first half of the twentieth century, during Adaline’s true youth. Although they’re a more unusual contemporary accessory, scarves remain a part of Adaline’s style in present day. For Adaline, the past feels never-ending, but her scarves signify a time when she was purely young at heart.
Strathie’s costume design in The Age of Adaline beautifully illustrates the connection between clothing and storytelling. Whether you’re a wardrobe stylist working with an individual, an editorial stylist working on a campaign, or a costume designer working to develop a character, fashion is a way to express a narrative. Clothing is a part of our daily lives, from what we wear to the magazines we read to the films we see. Most of the time, we don’t realize the impact clothing has on our interpretation of a person or character. However, the saying, “clothing speaks louder than words,” is often true. Within a single article of clothing, an outfit, or a closet, there’s a story.
The Age of Adaline debuts in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 24, 2015.
My Continued Fascination with Costume Design
You may have noticed the tribute to Edith Head on yesterday’s Google homepage. October 28th marked what would have been legendary costume designer’s 118th birthday. While you may not be familiar with the designer herself, you may know some of her designs if you’re a fan of the classics, such as Samson and Delilah, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and White Christmas just to name of a few of the dozens upon dozens of iconic films she worked on. Head still holds the record for most Academy Awards received for her work in costume design, an impressive feat for an inspiring lady that paved the way in this industry. You may have read some of my other posts about the members of the costume design community that are still trying to make a name for themselves nearly 80 years after Head’s successes. I look forward to continuing to follow this industry and the strides women are making within it!
It’s no secret that I love a good deal, so it should come as no surprise that I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, Bargain Fever. In journalist Mark Ellwood’s new manual about how to shop the discounted world, he explores every facet of today’s bargain junkie from their genetic makeup to the extreme lengths they will go to for a good deal. In reading synopses and reviews of this manual, it eerily sounds like this is a book about me. However, it also sounds like I could learn a thing or two from this bargain manual. While I consider myself a pretty savvy shopper, I’ll never turn down new advice about snagging the best deal. Bargain Fever hit shelves earlier this month, so grab your copy now!
Nicole Kidman’s Newest Campaign
You may already be swooning over Nicole Kidman’s Fall/Winter 2013 campaign for the iconic shoe label, Jimmy Choo. Now, it has been confirmed that Kidman has returned to the brand for their Resort 2014 collection. I may be a little biased because I’m a longtime Nicole Kidman fan, but the actress looks better than ever in the photos leaked for the 2014 ad. In the campaign, Kidman is channeling famed French actress, singer, and model Brigitte Bardot. Needless to say the collection elicits a distinctly sexy 1960’s vibe. In the photos, Kidman rocks an era appropriate beehive, creating a stark contrast to the edgy bob she sports in the Fall/Winter campaign this season. There’s also a must-see behind the scenes promotional video for the campaign that you can watch here!