Are you a Peggy or a Joan?

A clever promotional site allows you to play dress-up in the "Mad Men" closet

Published July 30, 2009 10:30AM (EDT)


Clockwise from top left: Sarah Hepola, Lynn Harris, Rebecca Traister, Judy Berman, Mary Elizabeth Williams, Amy Benfer, Kate Harding, Page Rockwell, Tracy Clark-Flory and Katharine Mieszkowski.

The marketers behind AMC's "Mad Men" -- as in, the ones who actually sell the show, not the ad execs starring in the series -- have brought the Broadsheet staff an inordinate amount of joy with a clever promotional Web site: Mad Men Yourself. A snazzy flash widget allows you to create a virtual paper doll of yourself and then play dress up in a closet full of 1960s fashions. (See our results above.) Oh, the delightful dilemmas that arise! To go with bangs and a buoyant ponytail, à la Peggy, or Joan's va-va-voom coiffure? A curve-rocking, bright-red dress or a modest neck-to-knee frock? Accessorize with a martini or a cup o' Joe (and why isn't Don Draper an option)?

But, wait a tic, why is this group of brassy feminists so eager for some retro role-playing?

Well, I happen to think there's plenty of room within feminism for personal contradiction -- or, as I prefer to call it, evolutionary growing pains. That said, you don't have to be a psychologist to recognize that a large part of the satisfaction derived from this kind of silly exercise comes from simple self-identification. It's the "oh, I'm that type" recognition that people get from personality tests -- whether it's Myers-Briggs or the "Sex and the City" character quiz. In the "Mad Men" world, choices are pretty limited: Peggy or Joan? Jackie O. or Marilyn? Or, put in timeless terms: Wife or whore?

There's something satisfying about seeing yourself absurdly caricatured within that familiar -- and let's not kid ourselves, enduring -- framework. It hits you over the head with its limitations: You look like a Peggy but feel like an undercover Joan or you're a Joan at the office, but a Peggy at home -- and so on and so forth. The show itself revels in that contradiction -- after all, it's Peggy the Prude, not Joan the Vamp, who ends up with an unwanted pregnancy.

So, Broadsheet readers, I invite you to pigeonhole yourselves just for kicks. And a word of advice for the ladies: When presented with the first choice of "suit" or "skirt," don't make the mistake I did and choose the former, because, duh, that isn't how this game is played -- pants are for men only.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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