We saw a glimmer of Betty’s longing for independence in the “Field Trip” episode, and this one really drives the point home, especially via her costumes. Betty’s wardrobe suggests that of a Feminine Mystique–themed doll: pink and blue ruffled nightgowns and floral housedresses made for lounging, not work. The one time she emerges from the house, for a party where she airs her views on the Vietnam War, she’s in yet another Easter egg–colored, nightgownlike dress. Toward the end of the episode, her protest “I’m smart. I speak Italian,” may have been a dig at Betty on the writers’ part, but shows that she’s becoming more frustrated with her life’s limitations. Sally, in her plaid poncho accessorized with a grisly bandage, makes a great foil to Betty in this episode; she doesn’t share her mother’s preoccupation with looking perfect, and calls her out on her shallowness.
Megan Draper is still playing at being a bohemian, which is why she’s thrown off — and a tad threatened — by Don’s “niece” Stephanie, a full-on hippie, complete with shearling coat and peripatetic lifestyle. When Megan throws a party for her acting class, Don is out of place, his checked sport coat the foreground to a psychedelic background. No wonder he feels more comfortable hitting the bar with Harry. (Hat tip to Janie Bryant for not accelerating all the characters into the 1969 vanguard. Don, Betty, and Peggy are still hanging onto pieces they’ve worn for a decade, just as real people do.)
Also at the party, Megan has a “Zou Bisou Bisou”-esque glamour moment, dancing theatrically with a male guest in her purple Pucci micromini. Her performative approach to everything extends to her social life, and even to the weird ménage à trois she later initiates with Don and her acting-class buddy Amy.
And let’s pour one out for poor Peggy. Not only does she have to contend with Ginsberg’s creepy gift, she has some of the worst looks in the episode. When Ginsberg comes over to her apartment, Peggy is wearing an orange striped turtleneck — just like her tenant’s young son. Immersing herself in work — she even gets her dry cleaning sent to the office, as we see in one shot — Peggy’s becoming a bit of a grind, and her nerdy wardrobe is the antithesis of Betty’s feminine flounces.