In the wake of Mad Men’s impending retirement from the Golden Age of Television, the fashion bloggers devoted to TV costume design whose jobs were invented specifically for Mad Men are capping off their final recaps. As Don, Betty, and Sterling are dropped off in the era of psychedelic floral prints and handlebar moustaches, jewelry is entering the conversation in interesting ways.
Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez discuss the “jewelry story” in Season 7 Episode 1, reading Megan’s statement earrings and rings as an ambiguous statement: “Wealthy, accomplished woman or hooker with a sugar daddy?”
In conversation with Refinery29 about Joan’s “old-fashioned feminine power” expressed via jewel tones and accentuated curves, Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant reveals that Joan’s signature pendant necklace is “her sword battling against those men!”
Meanwhile, Scandal’s costume designer Lyn Paolo echoes a similar sentiment, describing the jewelry chosen for the gladiators in suits as “… their weapons. It gives you power … Jewelry is like an armor that protects you in difficult situations.”
While Mad Men mines the depths of vintage misogyny alongside the sexual revolution, Scandal deals in the overlap of political power and sexual power; what both series have in common is a depiction of women in the workplace engaging in power struggle while looking gorgeous. The messages sent about women and “feminine power” are as varied and conflicting as the ways these messages are received by viewers. Fortunately, that’s where visual metaphor comes in, giving voice to what we can’t find words for or don’t have words for yet. Jewelry is employed for symbolism, and appears as a form of subversive weaponry—a show of power that at the same time reflects the wearer’s actual power (and approach to self-defense).