mad people

To Discuss: Betty’s ‘Skinny’ Dress on Mad Men

Betty and her skinny dress.
Betty and her skinny dress.

Last night’s heart-wrenching Mad Men episode featured a number of dramatic outfits, especially the puffy-sleeved number that Megan wore to the awards dinner (Peggy’s kelly-green belly-bow was not to be sniffed at, either). But the most symbolic wardrobe moment came at the end, when Betty learns she’ll have to join her husband in the public eye. Henry tells her, “I can’t wait for people to meet you. Really meet you,” and her face falls. Later, she stands mournfully before a full-length mirror in her baggie nightie and holds up a blue strapless dress from her skinny days.

This isn’t the first time Betty’s weight has come up this season — she told Sally’s friend Sandy that she’s “trying to reduce” in the first episode. But overall she’s much warmer and more at ease with herself now, particularly compared to season five, when she attended Weight Watchers and refused to get out of bed when she couldn’t fit into her clothes. Now she’s purchased a closetful of sofalike dresses for herself and dyed her hair brown, signaling a new era of self-acceptance. She may not be the knockout she once was, but she’s become softer both in body and in manner (for example, when Bobby makes a mess of the wallpaper in his room, she doesn’t even lash out, and later gives him the perfectly normal punishment of no TV for a week).

When chubby Betty holds up the dress, she’s not just mourning for her skinnier days. The frosty blue fabric also represents her former icy exterior. She fondles her brown hair, and regards her reflection with some sadness. She then folds up her dress and tosses it to the side, as if renouncing that era of her life for good — or perhaps it’s a gesture of resolve? Is this a symbolic casting-off of skinny Betty’s ghost, or the beginning of her comeback?