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Best of TV Costuming 2013: Mad Men and the Megan T-Shirt Conspiracy

5 Dec

It’s the first entry in TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2013” costuming series and rather than doing a straightforward countdown we’re going to do a variety of posts that look at which costumes and shows have made a huge impact this year. From items that we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking, we want to look at this year’s TV through the prism of costume.

We’re going to start with the T-shirt that prompted a stream of speculation and conspiracy theories; Megan Draper’s red star tee from the Mad Men  season 6 episode “The Better Half.”

Megan balconyMad Men costume designer Janie Bryant has sparked pages of discussion with her meticulous creations and nothing more so than putting Megan in the same tee that featured in Esquire magazine in 1967 (a year prior to when this episode is set) by none other than Sharon Tate. Tate would be brutally murdered by the Manson Family in 1969 and because Megan shares certain similarities with Sharon Tate this started speculation that Megan would meet a tragic end. I have to admit that I got caught up in this theorizing as season 6 was particularly dark and violent, reflecting the tumultuous period in US history that this season is set in and it looked like Megan was going to become the victim of the season.

Season 5 had many hints at a suicide theme and while all fingers pointed to Pete Campbell, it was actually Lane who took his own life. It’s a fool me twice kind of situation and the only person to meet a potentially grizzly end is Pete’s mother – there is no body and it all happened off screen so it’s not even a definitive murder. Rabid symbolic theorizing isn’t something you might initially think of with Mad Men and yet last season with Megan’s red star shirt it hit Lost levels of debate.

Megan tshirtMegan has always been a character who is ahead of the curve when it comes to fashion trends and this outfit comes across as particularly modern, the nightdress that Peggy wears when she stabs Abe in the same episode – yep this season really did go to some dark places – is what you would expect from this era. Megan’s tee and underwear for the hot summer night is more reminiscent of what someone would wear now. This is what initially stood out about this costuming choice; this all changed when Reddit users started to speculate and Bryant confirmed on Twitter that it was an intentional reference to the Tate Esquire shoot. Cue many blog posts discussing foreshadowing and Megan’s fate.

Everything on Mad Men from the props to the references to the costumes are there for a reason, we all know how specific creator Matthew Weiner can be and because he doesn’t give anything up it encourages these types of discussions. At times it really does feel like he is fucking with us and looking back it seems kind of crazy that one piece of clothing could lead to a conclusion of murder; this is the power of the costuming choices on a show like Mad Men.

I also want to single out Tom and Lorenzo’s incredible textual analysis on their weekly “Mad Style” column; this has been a big influence here at TV Ate My Wardrobe and it shows that costuming goes beyond authenticity of a time period and it can reveal so much without a word being uttered.

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2 Responses to “Best of TV Costuming 2013: Mad Men and the Megan T-Shirt Conspiracy”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best of TV Costuming 2013: The Collection | TV Ate My Wardrobe - January 1, 2014

    […] Mad Men and the Megan T-Shirt Conspiracy […]

  2. Mad Men Season 7 Artwork and Jessica Paré Covers Stylist | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 8, 2014

    […] doesn’t spill any secrets about what’s going to happen to Megan in season 7, though the much talked about Sharon Tate t-shirt is brought up “As far as I know it’s just a T-shirt; just a costume.” You can read […]

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