Hot! The “Mad for Plaid” Peggy Dress

The Facts

Fabric: Plaid polyester, $.25
Pattern: McCall’s 7121
Notions: zipper, belt buckle $.25
Year: c. 1963
Time to complete: About 3 hours
First worn: March 2012
Wear again? Perhaps.

Total Cost: Originally $.50

Oh this week’s Mad Men challenge! It’s been both amazingly fun to research and incredibly aggravating to make a decision. First things first, if you want to sink a couple hours into reading about the style of Mad Men, you’ve got to read Tom and Lorenzo’s take on the show. The’ve covered all the seasons in glorious detail. Not only that, but their commentary about the fashion choices is so spot-on –particularly about how the costumes are really a huge part of character and character development.

Because I don’t need a special Mad Men theme to make a 1950s or 1960s dress, I knew I had to sew something that I wouldn’t usually sew. My first comfortable instinct was to make a late 1950s shirtdress/floral dress in the style of Betty Draper. That’s the sort of dress that I’ll wear often and, honestly, they’re just so fun to model. But I knew that if I did that, it would be a personal cop-out. That said, the dresses Betty wears in the early seasons are just so so gorgeous.

Eventually — and I’m talking again at the eleventh hour — I decided to take on Peggy Olson, specifically a mid-1960s Peggy. With this late-series Peggy, I decided to do two uncharacteristic things: sew with a polyester and sew a dress with high neckline. That girl loves her high necklines.

Oh, and her plaids. Just look at a sampling of dresses from the past four seasons (with the exception of the last dress):

If Joan is all about solid, rich colors and Betty is all about florals and feminine prints, Peggy is ALL ABOUT THE PLAID. And since I had the perfect 1960s/1970s polyester in a plaid, I decided just to bite the synthetic bullet. But, yeah, yuck to polyester, I’m sweating just looking at these photos.

Unfortunately, the dress is a bit too big for me. I tried to size down the pattern I had, but I didn’t take in account the weirdness of the synthetic stretch. And, after matching all the plaids (yes, you can’t see them, but the seams are matched), I decided not to make any severe alterations. Particularly huge is the waist. I made a belt to compensate for that. When I study these pictures, I see all the places where the dress should be tighter. However, in person the fit actually looks quite better. Posing has a way of illustrating all those little flaws.

As the photoshoot progressed, it seemed that my hair started channeling Faye Miller’s hair.

As an added bonus, here’s a photo of Elizabeth Moss on the set of Mad Men wearing one of her season five dresses!


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


Comments are closed.

  1. I really love that plaid! Bummer it’s hot polyester. I’ve liked Peggy’s business attire in season 4, particularly when the plaids are on the bias on top and straight on bottom.

    • Thanks! I rewatched the last episode from last season this morning and I just love Peggy’s black dress, which I could imagine would have been polyester originally. I’m so excited about Sunday!

  2. You nailed this one! You even look like Peggy in the first photo.

    I don’t think it looks too big for you; from the photos, it looks like it fits quite well.

    And in the bonus photo: is Peggy wearing a maternity dress?!?!

    • Thanks, Vicki! I think the dress in that photo just looks like a maternity dress because of the waistline. There’s going to be a lot of empire waists this season, I would predict.

  3. Totally cute! I had to sit this week out, but am looking forward to seeing everyone’s creations. Great job channeling Peggy!

  4. Mena, you are the best! I just stopped by as I’m flagging taking in my too big dress for this week and I’m losing the will to live, well ok, sew…..and seeing this beauty has spurred me on to finish. It’s perfect and so is your styling for the photos. You’re totally right about Tom and Lorenzo’s site, I’ve spent way too much time devouring it this week. Btw, I’m also a little late because of your Penelope. I showed my 9 year old Melchett the post about Pen making a dress, and then we had to spend 2 days teaching M to sew, thread a machine, design and make a top. I’ll email you pics. It was fun. And thank you for that sneak peek of Peggy in pink….very interesting to see that hemline above the knee, closest we’ve seen yet to a mini-skirt. OK, enough waffling, I’m off to sew on!

  5. This is so cute!! You always do something amazing. I *love* the bias neckline and matching belt.

    Peggy does wear a lot of plaid – especially during the first few seasons. Is it just me or does that season 5 dress look almost like a maternity dress??? I’m so excited to see what happens to her this season, she’s my fave of the main ladies.

    • Thanks, Liz! I think the dress in that photo just looks like a maternity dress because of the waistline. There’s going to be a lot of empire waists this season, I would predict.

  6. The styling is perfect!

  7. Nailed it! Glad you didnt choose her favourite Mustard colour. Looks amazing – perfect details as usual and a land speed record for sewing!

  8. LOVE this plaid on you! Your whole photo shoot is fabulous! The belt alone is pretty amazing, but combined with the rest of the outfit and it’s all spectacular!

  9. Wow, this is going to be a great week. I love the outfit and it looks beautiful on you.

  10. I love the fabric for this dress! It will definitely be a showstopper walking down the street!

  11. Mena, you are all kinds of awesomesauce and this dress and photoshoot are the proof in the pudding!

  12. So Peggy! You could be a stand-in. I just love how you styled the photos. Even though the material is polyester hot, it looks fabulous. Your an inspiration!

  13. This is so good! You really captured the “spirit of Peggy!”

    It’s funny isnt it- matching plaid and stripes takes such a high level of patience and skill (Some times more than others) yet when you do it properly, it’s invisible… Good work. I love the way you manipulate the pattern on the fabric.

  14. Wow! I had to look twice to see it was you…not fair, not only do you sew like a dream, you can also totally channel Peggy!

  15. I hardly recognized you! You truly looked the part of Peggy Olson! Wow. Great photos and great dress (can hardly tell it’s a wee big).

  16. This looks fantastic and I shudder to think how long the plaid matching must have taken. Hats off to you!

  17. You are the biggest bottle of awesomesauce, 100% brilliant, I can feel that fabric from here LOL. You look fantastic!!!! Imagine if Elizabeth Moss or any of the others saw what we were doing this week!!! Someone should alert these people of the Sew Weekly fabulosity that is going down here. AMAZING!!!!

  18. You do Peggy so well!! Love it. Fantastic plaid, great belt. I too can feel the polyester from here. hehe. got a few of those in the stash myself. I love your 50c price tag. You might get a job as costumer on the show with savings like that.

  19. WOW, Mena! Way to push yourself outside your comfort zone (very successfully, I might add)!!! This dress photographs so well. It’s such a shame that the poly fabric makes this dress so uncomfortable. It’s so gorgeous.

  20. That is so lovely, Mena, it’s stunning. I’m sorry it’s not as fun to wear as it is to look upon, because it’s just delightful, and I”m so glad you are channeling Dr. Faye. She’s the best. Damn you, Don, for not seeing that through. “You only like the beginnings of things”. FACT. Well done, Dr. Faye.

  21. It’s really too bad this is polyester. The dress looks fantastic! I like the bias belt too. Great job!

  22. Absolutely brilliant, Mena! I LOVE your hair! OMG. So Mad Men! The dress is fabulous–I just adore plaid. And the office setting is perfect! Can’t wait for the new season to start!

  23. That dress is soooo Peggy. The gloves, purse, and hair really add all the perfect Mad Men touches. (Not to mention the bar behind you!) :)

  24. This is thoroughly cute. Kudos for resisting your default silhoutte and extra kudos for tolerating polyester for the sake of that brilliant plaid!