Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mad Men Via Etsy - Dr. Faye Miller

This season, we were introduced to Dr. Faye Miller. Dr. Miller was a consultant for a consumer-research firm, hired by Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to provide insight into their clients' customers.

I loved the Faye character, but I had some issues with her as well. Thus far, on Mad Men, we have only come in contact with women who chose one of two paths - marry someone rich or solidly middle class, so you could raise children or work on your interior design skills (Betty, Trudy, Jane), or work at a menial secretarial job with the hopes of one day moving up to your next professional advancement (Peggy and Joan). We really have not seen any other alternatives for women.

Enter Dr. Faye Miller. She was relatively close to the age of the other female characters, yet she is a doctor with a PhD. She was first to admit that she put her career ahead of family, but she was an anomaly, and the show did nothing to explore her story in any great detail. I was bothered by the cavalier way that such an interesting and potentially deep character was overlaid into the story with no explanation.

Faye was mainly used as a vehicle for the other characters. She was a love interest for Don, which challenged him to expand his notions of intimacy, trust, and gender roles. She was his female match - smart, tough, sexy, and mysterious. He had to set aside his typical tricks to bed her, and engage with her intellectually. The only other time we saw this was perhaps with his artistic, beatnik paramour, Midge, during the first season.

She also forced the show to explore issues around maternal relationships in a different way. Don tried to use Faye as a surrogate mother for Sally when he found himself in need of a babysitter. Faye relented to his request and we saw an uncomfortable, yet tender, attempt by this tough career woman to fit into that maternal role, even if it was only temporary. We see Faye struggle to articulate her choice not to have a family in order to have a career, and the classic push-pull of competing priorities is brought to the fore. It also forces Don to admit to himself that he is just better off married - to anyone really - just to bring order to his life (a fait we see fulfilled by another at the end of the season).

Faye was also a vehicle for the show explore the relationships between professional women at the time. Peggy was impressed by her. Faye was a women with power, who was taken seriously by her male colleagues, and who was respected for her expertise. We saw Peggy reach out to her and ask that they continue their relationship socially when Faye's services were no longer needed at SCDP. Faye didn't see the point and declined Peggy's offer of friendship. This was an important scene to show the audience that in 1965, before the women's movement, women did not instinctually ban together to further a cause - instead they viewed each other as competition for the few opportunities where their work and their minds would be taken seriously by their male counterparts. Mentoring was not a value.

Faye's character needed to demonstrate poise, power, intellectual prowess, and professionalism. At her career level, she would have been able to afford high quality garments, and her relative youth lent her towards more modern cuts and prints. Let's take a look at examples of her style.

Graphic Office Dress

Graphic Silk Blouse
Graphic Purse

For work in the office, Faye was typically dressed in strong graphic prints.  Usually, she wore black and white, but sometimes, her graphic prints were in bold colors like red or yellow.

Yellow Work Suit
Graphic Print Scarf

Faye also wore coordinated suits to the office, and wonderful graphic print scarfs.

Chiffon Date Night Dress
For date nights with Don, we saw Faye dressed in softer dresses - chiffon numbers with watercolor prints in blues and greens.

Office Party Dress
Faye often wore black evening wear for corporate or office parties.  Her cocktail dresses usually had details like sheer chiffon sleeves, or bejeweled necklines.

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