It’s definitely no secret that the chic, retro style from the popular AMC drama ‘Mad Men’ has influenced fashion designers and retailers alike with their fall collections for women. The show, which takes place at a New York advertising agency in the early 1960s is a retro fashionista’s paradise simply bursting with pencil skirts, sheath dresses, crinolines, beehives, and oh so much more! I am going to give all you vintage loving ladies advice on how to create a fun, ‘Mad Men’ inspired look that YOU can wear to the office.
Ok, first and foremost you need the very basics. Invest in a pencil skirt. This is a MUST HAVE to create the sexy, retro ‘secretary’ look. Most of the major retailers this fall are carrying pencil skirts in all styles and colors, but definitely invest in a basic black one. This will go with virtually any color top and is very classic and elegant. I wear my basic black one at work so often that I had to invest in several back ups! Pencil skirts look great with form fitting cardigans, blazers, silk blouses, and any fitted top. Express for Women and Banana Republic both carry very cute and sexy pencil skirts (it should also be noted that Banana Republic carries a ‘Mad Men’ inspired clothing line based on looks from the show!)
Another very popular must have for this fall is the sheath dress. Sterling Coopers’ very own Joan Holloway swears by these ultra sexy, feminine frocks! Again, start out with a very basic color such as black or beige, and accessorize with colorful vintage brooches (you can find these by the boatload at just about any antique shop in the country, not to mention a few hiding in Grandma’s jewelry box!) You will definitely want one that is form fitting and reaches just at the top or a little below your knees. Hemlines didn’t go on the rise until at least 1965, so to be authentic the dress must be a little longer. As with the pencil skirts, most major retailers carry sheath dresses and Macys.com sells quite a few styles in some very fetching colors!
Now, for you very (and I emphasize the VERY part) daring ladies out there, the key ingredient to a GENUINE retro office look starts from the inside out. By that, I mean your undergarments! Lingerie is often talked about (and seen) on Mad Men, and while you might want to take a pass on some of the real deal (Girdles! Ouch!), invest in some pretty flesh colored stockings with seams up the backs and a garter belt. You can find those at any nice lingerie shop such as Victoria’s Secret or you can log onto ebay and find a plethora of vintage stockings from way back when (just a forewarning, vintage stockings are EXTREMELY collectible, so be prepared to hand over a substantial sum if you want the genuine article.) Also, no lady back in ‘Mad Men’s era would ever leave the house without a silky slip under her sheath. While most modern dresses and skirts already have built in slips, it’s really more fun (and historically accurate) to slip on a pretty slip underneath. I can honestly say, you will REALLY feel like you stepped back in time if you wear vintage, or vintage inspired lingerie under your outfits as I personally do. It’s so much fun and will DEFINITELY makes heads turn *wink*!
As for make-up, you might want to save the false eyelashes and robin’s egg eyeshadow for Halloween or for going out. Even though women back in the 1960s wore very heavy eye make-up on a day to day basis, it really isn’t practical or appropriate to wear it to the office in 2009 (although in all honesty I would, but even us ultra-retro gals have to draw the line and be professionals at some point ;) Just go with minimal eyeliner and very subtle brown or gold eyeshadow (this palette works with any color outfit btw) and plump up your lashes with an eyelash curler. Glossy lips didn’t come around until much later, so for your lipstick I would definitely go with a solid maroon or a VERY light shade of red. Be sure and blot though, because like I mentioned with the eye make-up, anything too heavy is just not office appropriate in this day and time. Save the va va voomness for a hot date after work!
Most of the gals on ‘Mad Men’ sport ultra-complicated beehives which look simply divine, however, in those days women got that look visiting the beauty parlor once a month (and by that, I mean they did not wash their hair for probably that long, eek! ) So, in this case you might want to pass on being historically correct and simply go with a small, teased up-do held in place by a hair claw (think of Sarah Palin’s up-do which would work divine with a retro sixties look) or get your hair cut into a cute flip. Headbands and ponytails are also alot of fun and very Sandra Dee!
Accessories MAKE an outfit. Simply put. I live by this statement and over and over again I am proven right every single time. Classic pearls (earrings and necklaces, genuine and faux) are the Holy Grail of an early 1960s look (think of Jackie O. and Audrey Hepburn). You cannot miss with pearls. Timeless and elegant, they will make you look (and feel) like a million bucks, whether they are real or not. As I mentioned earlier, brooches are also an integral part of creating a Mid-Century look, and always have a pair of tortoise shell sunglasses handy. You can find just about all of these accessories at a store such as Claire’s or Icing, or better yet, at a vintage shop (where you will get the real thing and usually for very reasonable prices). Also, be sure to carry a silk scarf in your handbag to wrap around your ‘do when you leave for work!!!
Now, if you aren’t *completely* sure about leaving the house in a head to toe retro look (which personally, I love to do) then be creative and mix and match old with new. Wear a pencil skirt with a wild, funky top or a sheath dress with a pair of opaque tights and thick heeled patent leather pumps. Use your imagination and start out slow. Take a look at fashion magazines or models online to pick and choose the look you feel is right for you. Pretty soon, you will be making more and more heads turn with your chic, stylish, ‘Maddening’ look!!!