There are a hundred reasons why The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is such a big hit. It’s well written, the story line is entertaining and meaningful at the same time, and every actor on the screen is on point. But the biggest reason that Mrs. Maisel, and other period dramas like Mad Men, resonate deeply with us and show us something that has been neglected, ignored, and forgotten – and that’s simply how to look good.
We sit in front of our televisions, after a day of wearing pants that don’t fit, old graphic tee-shirts with sports logos on them and bill caps that advertise domestic lager beer. Then we look at a man on the show wearing a double-breasted suit with his cufflinks slightly protruding from the sleeve, a neatly-trimmed pocket square, a fedora tilted ever-so-slightly to one side and a pair of shiny black Oxfords, and it tickles something in our memories of long ago, when people cared about how they look. “Oh yeah!” we say. “That looks pretty good.”
We think, even for a fleeting moment, about how we might look in something like that. Most of us won’t admit it. Even talk of fedoras, suits and cufflinks today will elicit angry responses and beating of chests, and bellowing “I don’t have to impress anybody! I just want to be comfortable! Clothes don’t matter!”
Oh, but they do.
In a New York Times feature on Mrs. Maisel, Carmen Cooper, an extra on the show, said of the costumes, “I love that era. I was born in 1947, so I kind of relate to it. You hold your head up with a hat on and you smile differently, and you carry your handbag differently. You feel good.”
Carmen is right on the money, you do feel good. You do hold your head up. You feel like you’re somebody, instead of just another slob on the street.
I have to admit, after starting to binge-watch Mrs. Maisel, along with a dozen or so Christmas movies from the ’40s and ’50s – and of course, recalling my all-time-favourite series Mad Men, I did it – I went out and bought a black double-breasted suit with a high peaked lapel. I wore it for the first time on Christmas Eve, with my trusty fedora, a white French-cuffed shirt and mother-of-pearl cufflinks, and a pair of shiny black Italian Oxfords.
And yes, I did feel good. I head my head a little higher, felt a little more confident, and walked through the streets of downtown with purpose.
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Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.