A little while back a friend coaxed me into going to a Mad Men party for a very worthwhile organization in town. Go Mad! was the tagline on all their promotional materials and I thought a dress up party would be kind of fun.
I’ve watched enough Mad Men to know who my true token character is, the one I most resemble, but I went through a few weeks of denial before I truly admitted it to myself.
At first, I pictured wearing an A-line dress with a crinoline underneath. Red nails. Pearls. I looked online for something cheap that would fit the bill but waivered too long and missed the shipping deadline that would have gotten the dress here in time. I waited, I think, for a reason. But my week with Betty was filled with thoughts of big curls, matching jewelry and a long cigarette as my one prop. I thought about Betty’s moody-mean side and how I might say, “I’m a housewife” with a sly smile.
When the possibility of finding a perfect Betty dress passed, I moved onto Joan. Could I wear something meant for a curvy body? Could I find a long gold chain with a gold pen at the end to dangle between my boobs? Wait. I don’t have any boobs. And like that the idea of Joan slipped away and smoothly as she glides down the hallway, past all the men that know she’s smarter than they are.
Then at 3p.m. the day before the party, I finally got myself to the costume shop. Every idea I had tried involved some bad version of a dress I already owned. My waist isn’t as small as it used to be and a few things in my closet didn’t fit quite right. So I took both daughters to the costume store with me to try and figure out something, anything to wear.
Lucille thought she had found heaven on earth. Flapper dresses, long white gloves, feather boas. The costume shop was a place of deep exploration and she pulled outfit after outfit off the hanger to try on. I had to convince her that a hot pink fringe dress was actually for grown ups and I’m not sure she believes me yet. Eliza suffered, as I did, through this experience and helped me pick up all the clothes Lucille tried on. We left empty handed. I was little overwhelmed.
On our way home, in a last ditch effort, we stopped at the thrift store. I saw a belt that could make one of my own dresses passable. As I was pulling it off the hook and willing Lucille to stop chasing Eliza who was rolling around the furniture section in a wheelchair, I saw the perfect dress hanging on the dressing room door. It was a vintage 1960s polyester situation with an A-line skirt to just below the knee. It had long sleeves and a high neck. It was perfect. Perfectly Peggy.
I tried it on and it fit like a glove. It was only then that I owned up the fact that I’m no Barbie doll Betty, I’m no sexy Joan. I’m diligent. I’m creative. I’m a writer. I bought the dress and decided to embrace my inner Peggy.