Everybody loves a good “Mad Men” conspiracy theory (although, is “conspiracy theory” really the phrase we should be using?) In any event, a fashion blog has tossed a wet blanket on the Megan Draper-Sharon Tate theory that ate the Internet last week and kept “Mad Men” fans on the edge of their seats Sunday night, waiting for evidence that Megan Draper was about to be (or already had been) brutally murdered.
For those just tuning in, it all started when the daughter of a photographer noticed that a T-shirt Megan wore in “The Better Half” looked a lot like the one Sharon Tate wore in an Esquire spread her dad shot in 1967. She tweeted her discovery to “Mad Men” costume designer Janie Bryant, who replied that the wardrobe choice was “no coincidence.” Reddit picked up the conversation, and the conspiracy theory went viral after the pop-culture blog Uproxx, a leading destination for mind-bending “Mad Men” minutia, published a story based on the Reddit thread.
The Megan Draper-Sharon Tate connection is irresistibly macabre, given the increasingly elevated sense of menace in Season 6 of “Mad Men” and the show’s habit of writing actual historical events into the script. (Tate was murdered by Charles Manson followers on Aug. 9, 1969, just about one calendar year ahead of where “Mad Men” is now.) The most recent episode -- SPOILER ALERT -- seemed only to reinforce the theory, when Don Draper hallucinates an apparently pregnant Megan after he smokes hashish at a party in the Hollywood Hills. Megan shows up in the “Next on Mad Men” preview, but Uproxx has a theory that her appearance there does not necessarily mean she is still alive. After all, Don Draper has seen dead people before, and those “previews” are obnoxiously, and hilariously, oblique.
But before we have Megan dead and buried, let’s take a look at what fashion blog Tom & Lorenzo has to say about it:
Janie [Bryant] has always pulled from iconic female figures when it came to dressing the more glamorous of the female characters on the show. With Megan, she hit the mother lode because she came into the story just as the fashions got crazier and with the storyline of pursuing a performing career, which opened up whole new costuming vistas for Janie after years of dressing housewives, secretaries, and office workers …
Megan is dressed like Sharon Tate because she’s a glamorous-looking actress who married very well and, like Joan and Betty, the style she’s mimicking suits her perfectly. We’ll see if more similarities will surface, but we would be very surprised if Megan wound up dead. Janie has never been quite that obvious in her costuming choices. We think the presence of that shirt ties into the general theme of encroaching violence and urban anxieties that has permeated this season. It’s possible someone will get hurt and maybe even killed, but we just can’t hop on board the frantic 'MEGAN IS A GONER' freaking out this week. Everything we know about the costuming of the show tells us it just doesn’t work that way.
Not convinced? Tom & Lorenzo posted still shots from early “Mad Men” episodes of costumes inspired by these iconic figures -- Betty Draper as Grace Kelly, Joan Harris as Marilyn Monroe, and (this is more of a stretch) Peggy Olson as Jackie Kennedy.
But perhaps most importantly, Tom & Lorenzo had noted the Sharon Tate-Megan Draper wardrobe similarity in March, before Season 6 premiered. “Megan’s going a more California-inspired, Sharon Tate kind of route, which fits her character,” Tom & Lorenzo said of Megan’s glamorous, empire-waisted look in the Season 6 promo photos.
So why did it take 10 episodes for the rest of the world to make the connection? There’s a couple of possibilities. One is that it was fairly anachronistic to have any female “Mad Men” character in any kind of T-shirt, especially one with a big red star on it, which easily could have promoted an increased online interest in Megan’s wardrobe in that balcony scene, which explains how a brief Twitter conversation between two not particularly well-known people (Bryant is recognized among fashion and TV insiders, but her Twitter interlocutor is just a regular person like you and me) made it on to a Reddit thread that was picked up by a popular blog.
It was a conspiracy! Just not in the way we initially thought. Our very own Nadine DeNinno, resident fashionista and fellow “Mad Men” rabbitholer, is deeply skeptical of the likelihood that the Esquire photographer’s daughter would so quickly and easily recognize a T-shirt from a 1967 photoshoot and be moved to investigate the similarities. But who knows? Maybe her dad had an image from that spread on display in his home and it was burned into her memory.
Still, given the fortress of secrecy Matthew Weiner has built around “Mad Men” plot points, it does seem a little bit odd that Bryant would freely admit that the wardrobe choice, and its presumed connection to Sharon Tate, was intentional. UNLESS … this is an elaborate, multiplatform red herring orchestrated by the “Mad Men” writing team to keep us all preoccupied waiting for Megan to get pregnant and stabbed so that we miss out on clues to another plot turn that will blow our minds even more than the series finale of “The Sopranos.”
Sunday night can’t come soon enough. But check back Friday for our Q&A with Uproxx’s Dustin Rowles, where we'll conspiracy theorize ourselves to death.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Email me at e.killoran@ibtimes, or tweet it at me: @EllenKilloran