Tag Archives: Betty Draper

How Betty Took Control Back on Mad Men

11 May

When Betty Draper visited a psychiatrist back in season one of Mad Men her doctor reported back to Don. When she gave birth in season three she was so out of it thanks to the cocktail of drugs her dreams were more vivid than the actual labor. Now in the penultimate episode Betty receives some devastating health related news and her doctor will only tell her what is wrong when her husband gets there. When Henry doesn’t trust this first diagnosis (he trusts it enough to snatch Betty’s cigarettes from her hands that once trembled long ago) and when they visit another doctor the men talk about her diagnosis and options as if she isn’t in the room.

Mad Men 7.13 Betty DraperThe camera stays on Betty with the men out of focus in the background; she is the object being discussed and while they do so without acknowledging her we cannot escape her face of concern. We linger with her as she registers the only real fear we see from her over the episode as she moves through the stages pretty quickly only briefly resting on denial and ending up with acceptance by the time we hear her sob inducing letter to Sally. I thought the Peggy/Stan chat was bad enough on tear stained cheek scale and yet this hits the upper echelon of crying; the heave sob.

Mad Men 7.13 Betty diagnosisHenry is proactive and he’s always been one for finding a solution or a better way; he offered her an escape from her awful marriage playing the role of savior, but this is one thing he can’t save her from no matter how many connections he has with the Rockefellers. The cancer is aggressive and has spread so the treatments will only prolong her life for nine months to a year. Betty’s refusal to embrace this chance baffles Henry so he breaks her confidence and goes to the one person he think can sway.

Now to a devastating scene in a string of devastating scenes and one which hit me in a personal way that I was not expecting; some backstory and when I was 15 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, thankfully they caught it early and she made a full recovery. There was something so familiar about the way Sally was told and her reaction, from the covering of the ears to not fully grasping the severity of the diagnosis while totally understanding it all at once.

Mad Men 7.13 Sally earsKiernan Shipka knocks it out of the park as she quickly moves between extreme emotions and I also want to single out Christopher Stanley’s performance particularly when Henry can’t hold in the tears any longer. The level of vulnerability from Henry is brand new and her eyes do this thing where she isn’t quite sure how to respond so she does the only thing she can and puts a reassuring hand on his back. My dad was torn to pieces in the same way and it’s hard to put into words quite how much this scene resonates with me. It also doesn’t help that my screen is pretty blurry as I type this and it is something I haven’t thought about in a long time.

Mad Men 7.13 Sally and HenryWhen Betty sees Sally as part of a surprise visit (she tells her brothers the very believable story that she did something bad at school again) the look she gives her is of pure disgust. Once again her choice has been taken away from her as Henry has gone against her wishes. Betty wrestles her control back by choosing to do nothing except carry on as if everything is fine.

A late night conversation with Sally underlines why Betty is behaving like this and it is tied to how she watched her own mother die – Betty’s relationship with her mother and the pressure she was put under goes a long way to explain why Betty is the way she is – and the last thing Betty wants is to see her daughter to go through the same life altering experience. Of course this is going to impact Sally in ways Betty can’t control; there’s no easy fix for pain like this, but she can have some influence on how this ends. Sally gets one final moment of snark in telling her mother that she is refusing treatment because she loves the tragedy and while this is far from a warm and fuzzy conversation it is as close to mother/daughter bonding as we’re going to get. Betty has offered advice to Sally on makeup and boys in fleeting moments but here she is passing on real words of wisdom telling her that she has fought for plenty in her life and how it is not a weakness to know when to move on. In fact this could be considered the least selfish thing Betty has done. She already looks like a ghostly vision in this nightdress.

Mad Men 7.13 Betty nightdressOne of the thematic threads running through “The Milk and Honey Route” is all about instincts and “how do you know when…?” Pete is all about looking at opportunity and ignoring his desire to always look for something better, Don uses his experience of forever running from who he is to pass on knowledge to someone he sees a lot of himself in and Betty knows when it is time to stop and live the rest of however short her life is the way she wants to.

Mad Men 7.13 Betty collegeThis means continuing with college (I am so bummed out that my potential Betty Draper therapist spinoff is even more unlikely now) and Henry’s initial question of why is met with “Why was I ever doing it?” And that’s all Henry needs to know that his wife is right; it’s going to be horrible but right here, right now this decision makes sense. When Betty looks at you like that you know she’s going to do what she wants.

It now feels very apparent that last week’s kitchen shoulder rub is the last Don and Betty scene and I am so glad it was one with such strong affection giving Jon Hamm and January Jones one last hurrah with each other. Betty and Don were terrible together, but like Pete, I find myself nostalgic and sentimental for how it was.

Mad Men 7.13 letterAnd now to the episode kicker and Betty’s final act of control and the letter she has given Sally includes all the instructions regarding her funeral details down to her outfit and hair (when brushing her hair earlier in the episode this felt like focusing on part of her body she can stop from breaking). Sally is not meant to open it until after she dies but I don’t think Betty expected her to pay attention to this wish. It is a mostly practical letter, but it is the closing sentiment which shows a final understanding of who her daughter is and shatters me into a million pieces.

“Sally, I always worried about you because you march to the beat of your own drum, but now I know that’s good. I know your life will be an adventure.”

Mad Men 7.13 Don DraperOne episode to go. Hold me.


NYFW Fantasy Costuming: Sally Draper in Red Valentino Fall 2015

16 Feb

Mad Men is coming to an end (*sob*) but we have time for one final Fantasy Costuming; previously we took a look at spring season threads for Megan Draper and now our attention turns towards a favorite teen fashionista, Sally Draper. Some Fantasy Costuming pieces have included items that have ended up on the shows they were picked out for and this will definitely not be the case here as a) they are not vintage b) they are not designed by Janie Bryant and c) the show wrapped some time ago. However, the Red Valentino Fall 2015 RTW collection features a range of clothes that suit both the time period to an extent and previous costumes Sally has worn.

This is going to be split into three groupings to represent different aspects of the era and Sally’s personality; as always the Fantasy Costuming selections are inspired by the costume design from the show in question – Janie Bryant – and are in no way suggesting this character should wear a specific item mentioned. Click on the thumbnails for a more looks for Sally.

Red Valentino Red Check

This is very school uniform Sally Draper – well maybe not the shoes – and Red Valentino has many plaids, flannels and checks on offer for Fall in a variety of colors. The capelets are super cute and hint at a charming youthful influence with some added tie and furry embellishments. Sally might be getting a bit too old for this style or at least she might think she is, skip to the final grouping of outfits if you want rebellious teen Sally attire.

The white tights are worn with each look and suit the sweet and sugary nature of the playful items in this group from the Red Valentino collection. These are the kinds of dresses Betty would probably love to see her daughter in (although the hemline length may cause some Betty objections) so there might be some resistance, but I think Sally would look fabulous in all of these for any fancy pants occasion she might have to attend with her family. Alas there are no white go go boots. Plus some very fun daytime suggestions for fall days in the city.

Red Valentino blue dress

And now for something Betty would probably not approve of with mismatched patterns and clashing styles mixing a hippy vibe with a little bit of rocker. Throw in some leather, a snarky attitude and staying out late to perfect the teen rebellious streak, which Sally Draper was already demonstrating when we last saw her including a cheeky backyard smoke. Kiernan Shipka could definitely work all of these looks.

Red Valentino tiger coat

Look out for more NYFW Fantasy Costuming posts this week!

The Dress

24 Apr

Here is something I wrote a while back and it was for a writing competition that was called “The ____ That Changed My Life” with the focus on something important in your wardrobe. I didn’t win, but I still like the piece I wrote and it’s got a pop culture theme so here is is:

A photograph from my first trip to New York City perfectly showcases the dress that means the most to me; the item of clothing in question is a simple French Connection floral jersey dress and the photo is a typically touristy one (hey, it was my first time). I’m standing on a shut-down Madison Avenue with the buildings looming above and the dress has a subtle pop of color that separates it from the mostly neutral tones of the people in the background and I somehow standout in this grand city, just for a moment.*


There are dresses for a multitude of big moments in our lives; prom, weddings, a first date, an interview, so why would I pick this one that you wouldn’t necessarily notice amongst all the other ones that hang in my closet? For one thing it holds the power that only a favorite item of clothing can possess; to make you feel confident.

Growing up you would be more likely to find me in jeans, with a dress possibly making an appearance but only as worn over the jeans (it was the late 90s after all). As I got older and high school parties turned into university ones and the odd fancypants soiree was thrown, my collection of formal wear grew, but I still didn’t really have any dresses for everyday affairs. A few were added to my collection after I graduated that could be dressed up or down and my favorite was one I referred to as the Brokeback dress; not because it looked cowboy-esque but as it was a less frumpy version of Michelle Williams’ costuming in this movie . It wasn’t until later when I purchased ‘the dress’ that my collection really began to grow and I finally mastered the non-formal dress.

This is around the time that Mad Men first aired and it soon became apparent that it would influence what we would see on the catwalk and in stores. As someone who writes about TV now, and was in the process of getting a Masters in Film and TV at that time, this show had (and still has) a huge impact on my wardrobe. Prior to Mad Men there was Sex and the City which spawned just as much attention from the fashion world but there is something about the updated 60s style that appealed to my sensibilities. I could never pull off Carrie’s wonderfully daring approach but the influx of dresses taking their cues from Betty Draper was an instant win.

So pop culture is one place where I take my style cues from and New York City is one of the most filmed/sung about/photographed cities, so of course I wanted to look my best when I first visited and this dress makes me feel both super comfortable and stylish. It hugs all the right places and flatters the rest, it allows me to reveal my legs without being too self conscious and it works perfectly in both the summer and winter (just add tights and boots). Clothes can serve a multitude of functions and the most uncomfortable item can look stunning and you just have to hide the pain. I prefer the least amount of discomfort route; which is why at any event that requires me to wear a heel you will find me with my shoes in hand after a few hours (classy I know).

I now have other dresses in the same style from French Connection in an array of patterns and colors and now on days off from being stuck behind my computer you will likely find me in one of my growing collection. Instead of looking to Betty Draper, now it is Don’s new wife Megan that clothing stores seem to be emulating, there will probably be a hint of this evolution with my own dress choices.

Back to the dress in question and another reason why it continues to inspired me. The photo of me on Madison Avenue (home to Don Draper) holds a special place for me. There is something about me standing in that dress on such an iconic road, in such an iconic city that epitomizes how confident this dress makes me. It seems like there are endless possibilities and this dress makes me feel like Superman.

* The quality of the photo isn’t the best as it was taken with a disposable camera (yes I still use disposable cameras, I like the surprise element) and I can’t locate the disc that has these photos on them, so it is a photograph of a photograph. The colors are duller than they are in the original copy and for some reason it makes it look like I’ve used a filter to give a 70s vibe. I still like the picture even if I look a little dorky. 

Julie Hammerle

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