Retro Nostalgia – Good for My Wardrobe, Yes, But….

by Valerie on July 21, 2009 · 5 comments

Pencils Skirts & Pearls’ post on Mad Men today reminded me that Banana Republic’s partnering with the show to sell Mad-inspired fashion, starting tomorrow. When I got the flyer with my BR credit card statement, I was really excited. I still am, for the following reasons:

1. I like shopping at BR for work clothing.

2. I find Mad Men a very witty well-written show.

3. I do love the pencil skirt and shift dress glamour of Mad Men clothes, which are inspiring several BR pieces.

4. I have a well-documented cardigan habit, and cardigans are going to be a mainstay of this collection.

So yes, this partnership is a great thing for my wardrobe (assuming I get to buy something before this very-hyped collection sells out) – and a good thing for both the show and BR, considering I want them both to thrive and keep existing.


All this retro-nostalgia always worries me. I love the design of retro clothes and things, but I harbor no illusions about how women were treated in those times. And I mean that on the micro level, i.e. perfection of clothing lines ensured by constraining girdles as well as the macro level, i.e. the fact that women had to fight for careers and respect in the workplace.

Maybe it is because we live in difficult times that people look back to other eras and idealize them. The 50s and 60s can appear especially attractive because there is a sense of order and beauty to that time, Ironically, from everything I have read, this rigidity was a reaction to the uncertainty caused by the Cold War.

Incidentally, I went to the women’s college featured in Mona Lisa Smile. When the movie came out a few years ago, I loved seeing the campus on-screen and the pretty clothes, but I also found it chilling to think only 50 or so years separated me from a time where the choices I have made (living alone, going to law school, independence) would not have been choices I could take for granted.

As much as I love retro-inspired things and can’t wait for Season 3 of Mad Men to start, I have no desire to live in any retro era – it may seem like things were simpler back then, but really, the present and all the choices and education available to women today is much more attractive to me. And I am so glad the BR Mad Men collection does not include girdles and other strictures.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel July 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I love the clothes too! But I've never seen Mad Men before. I keep hearing such wonderful things!


2 City Girl July 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Mad Men is wonderful entertainment :)


3 Kiki July 21, 2009 at 7:30 pm

What's worse, actually wearing a girdle or other "control garment," or suffering through the body-image issues brought on by idealizing the physiques of today's independent but unrealistic celebrity women?


4 Kirsten July 22, 2009 at 2:03 am

I love pencil skirts, pearls and heels too. But, like you I hope to never return to the times when women were expected to stay at home, not work and be baby factories.

I still think feminism has a long way to go, but we have come quite far.


5 Jen of A2eatwrite July 22, 2009 at 2:54 am

It's interesting. My son ponders this all the time – just from the perspective of whether or not people think that today's *technology* is a good or bad thing.

There's no doubt, that purely from the standpoint of being a woman, I'm happier living today.

I'm not sure that all the changes we've encountered are a step forward however (in terms of overuse of the computer, of which I'm guilty, etc.)


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