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'Mad Men's' old-school fashion influences current styles and trends

The cast of

The cast of "Mad Men" shows off their fashions during season 7. Photo Credit: AMC / Frank Ockenfels 3

"Mad Men," AMC's 1960s period drama about slick admen and curvy women, has been a fashion gold mine, influencing the slim silhouette of men's suits and the beauty ideal for women's bodies, and bringing the worlds of fashion and costume design ever closer in the process.

From the very first season viewers were seduced by the show's post-1950s innocence. One could dream about living in an era before Surgeon General warnings, when cigarettes and booze were a given at lunchtime, and the polished glamour and propriety of opera gloves and pillbox hats were the norm.

The look of "Mad Men," which wraps up this Sunday, was envisioned by costume designer Janie Bryant, who was inspired by old catalogs, her Southern grandparents and the wares at L.A.-area vintage stores -- which she helped to make fashion destinations.

A womanizing, hard-drinking man's man who could almost be forgiven his sins because he looked so darn dashing in a suit, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) became an instant style icon. The strength of Don's uniform for success -- the slim gray suit, crisp white shirt, neatly folded pocket square, occasional tie bar and fedora -- inspired men of the 21st century to dress up in a new, trim-tailored silhouette. Surely it's no coincidence that men's retail sales began an upward climb in 2007, shortly after the series started to run on AMC.

The women of "Mad Men" were equally influential, with fans of the series dissecting every look online, from pen necklaces down to power girdles. Together with first lady Michelle Obama's similarly retro style, the series helped kick off five years of ladylike cardigans over pencil skirts and slim dresses, worn with kitten heels and pearls. It also helped rekindle interest in matte red lipstick and cat eye liner (thanks to Don's second wife, Megan Draper).

AMC capitalized on the throwback style of the show, entering a marketing partnership with Banana Republic in 2009 that put "Mad Men" posters in the windows of stores and a "Mad About Style" guide in the hands of shoppers.

And Bryant became a household name, creating a new model for the costume-fashion designer with a steady stream of outside design gigs. Over the years, Bryant collaborated with Brooks Brothers, Maidenform, QVC and Shoes of Prey. And by 2011, she was designing an entire, 1960s-inspired "Mad Men" collection for Banana Republic.

On-screen, as the '60s raged on, the show's costumes reflected cultural shifts and the emergence of personal style -- Peggy's plaid pantsuit a symbol of women's newfound power in the workplace, Stan Rizzo's beard the mark of a generation determined to break with the conservative past, Sally Draper's white go-go boots a sign of the rise of youth culture and Megan Draper's tie-dye mini dress a hint at the sexual revolution.

Only Don has stayed the same.

For the final run, "Mad Men" enters the 1970s, after leaving off in the summer of '69 with the Apollo moon landing. Looking at today's '70s-influenced fashion, that would be right on trend.


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