Mad Style: Joan Holloway, S2 Part 1

Posted on July 03, 2010

Season 2 Episode 1 – “For Those Who Think Young”

Joan surveys the Sterling Cooper landscape in search of an appropriate spot for the exciting new Xerox machine. Joan gets a little stern with the girls after they protest the suggestion of putting it in the break room and reminds them that this technology will be a godsend to them. Of course, the rise of the Xerox machine (as well as various other forms of business technology) was the death knell for the steno pool. The reason you see a sea of women typing away both on Mad Men and in period movies is because without modern business technology, you needed an army of secretaries to do what just one can do today. The scene is lighthearted but when put in perspective there’s a slightly ominous feel to it.

Later she heads into Roger’s office for some light banter about her new steady doctor boyfriend and whether or not he’s going to propose to her.

We’re seeing a more mature, settled down Joan in Season 2. She’s in a serious relationship that looks like it’s going the distance, so she’s toned down her look slightly. She’s still working in the rich color, tight silhouette Joan mode, but the fussiness is lessened. A simple neckline, no scarf and downplayed jewelry (although we do love that two-piece brooch with the connecting chain). The message is clear: Joannie is off the market.

She’s still trying to figure out a place to put the Xerox machine, rightly predicting that it will change the office drastically. She encounters Lois and reprimands her for crying in the ladies room, something she has specifically forbidden. “There’s a place to do that. Like your apartment.”

Brown isn’t a color she goes to often, but like all redheads, she looks amazing in it. Still, it’s an austere Joan, at least in comparison to Season 1. She still looks competent and womanly and sexy as hell, but there’s a definite sense of withholding in her wardrobe; a maturity stuck in the halfway world between single gal in the city and the doctor’s wife she hopes to become.

 

Season 2 Episode 2 – “Flight 1″


Joan attends a party at her former boyfriend Paul Kinsey’s place in Montclair, New Jersey. She rolls her eyes at his ridiculous pretensions, pointing out that he’s drinking a rare expensive liquor but he doesn’t own a couch. Paul introduces his girlfriend Sheila White who is, of course, not white. Paul gets called away and Joan dabbles in a little racism to put Sheila in her place: “When Paul and I were together, the last thing I would have taken him for was open-minded.” Sheila lets the insult roll off her and compliments Joan on her purse. “Thanks! Just got it!”

There’s no doubt that she was out of line here, but the reaction to this scene, in our opinion, tends to miss the point. “Joan is racist!” her detractors cry, and there’s no argument that what she said here was racist. But the thing is, Joan was going to have her claws out for any girl introduced to her as Paul’s girlfriend. In typical Joan fashion, she zeroed in on the one thing that was going to make her feel superior and because it was 1962, she used the kind of language and revealed the kind of thinking common among middle class whites, even of the NYC variety. If Sheila was a skinny white girl, she’d have made a backhanded crack about her figure; or about her clothes, or about her education or perceived sophistication. Sheila is a sweet, friendly, pretty girl, so Joan zeroed in on the one inarguable point that places her below her on the social ladder. This is not a defense of what Joan said, but it does put it in a little perspective.

And in order to show this darker and more complex side of Joan, here she is in a print, something she has never worn before on the show. And not just a print, but a quintessential early ’60s paisley in greens and golds and oranges, perfectly matching her coloring. We’ll see Joan in green a lot this season. We’re not big on color theory (i.e., “green means money”) especially because quite often costumers make color choices based solely on the actor’s coloring or the setting of the scene. Still, green makes a major impact on her look this season and it’s notable we’re introduced to it here, in an unusual look for Joan in a scene that paints the least flattering picture of her yet.

Joan notices that Paul has been avoiding her and confronts him like a cat with a toy. He accuses her of saying something mean to his girlfriend and Joan pretends not to remember her. “Describe her to me. I know what’s first on the list.” When Paul begins to accuse her of racism, she cuts him off with “I’m not a phony,” and then skewers his pretensions so severely she practically leaves smoking skidmarks on the Sterling Cooper carpet. “Out there in your poor little rich boy apartment in Newark or wherever. Walking around with your pipe and your beard. Falling in love with that girl just to show how interesting you are.” When he attempts to defend himself, she takes a drag and says coolly, “Go ahead. What part is wrong?”

Again, these exchanges had less to do with Sheila’s race than they had to do with Joan taking the opportunity to be a bitch to her ex-boyfriend. And in her defense, everything she said about Paul was largely true and he really was dating Sheila because he thought it made him more interesting.

Later, Paul takes Joan’s driver’s license from her purse, xeroxes it, and hangs it over the Xerox machine where everyone can see that Joan has committed the crime of being 31. Joan rips it down in disgust and vents a little to Peggy about how the men in this place will drag you down if you let them, conveniently leaving out the part where she was acting pretty low herself already.

This outfit has all the hallmarks of 1962 Joan: The simple shape, low on embellishments, understated neckline, mature color. The green serves to remind us of the green in the previous scene and in some respects, it becomes the signature Joan/Paul color as we’ll see in a bit. We LOVE those early ’60′s half-length gloves with the relaxed cuff that women wore – and it was women and not girls who wore them. Again, it’s about highlighting her maturity and attempts to get out of the SC world.

 

Season 2 Episode 3 – “The Benefactor”

Don finds himself once again without a secretary (having fired Lois because he was off fucking around and she didn’t cover for him) and Joan meets him at the start of the work day to inform him, “I will be taking care of you.”

It’s a brief scene and it’s not really about Joan, but it does serve to remind us that she is supernaturally good at her job and can slip into the old secretarial role without batting an eye. Seriously, who, male or female, gay or straight, wouldn’t want a Joan Holloway to start every work day off for them with “How about a cup of coffee? I think I remember how you take it.”

Again, very understated and in a business-like blue. Joan is at the tail end of her decade-long husband hunt and she’s not interested in the attention of other men anymore. In a strange way, she’s become a little more like Peggy; focused on her job and no-nonsense in her appearance. Of course, “no-nonsense” for Joan means she still looks like a walking hot fudge sundae. She can’t really do plain if she tried and the funny thing is, she’s trying here.

 

Season 2 Episode 5 – “The New Girl”

Joan finally gets her engagement ring (“I’ve been offered a few and this is by far the best.”) and happily parades both it and the new girl, Jane Siegel around the office. Later she pays a visit to Roger, and like all their scenes together, it sparks and crackles with wit and sexual attraction. He wishes her well and tells her he’s sad because soon there’ll be no good reason to come into work. She reminds him that she’s not going anywhere and he informs her that she is, even if she’s not ready to accept that. “Are you being a concerned daddy?”

Here we see her a little more decked out than in previous scenes this season. It’s still a businesslike blue, but the tight jacket over the print blouse (it’s possible this is one piece) with the little bow at the waist and the large brooch are more embellishments than we’ve seen from her in a while. She’s celebratory but still professional and still very much Joan top to bottom. We talked in Jane’s entry about how Joan’s blue serves as a counterpoint to Jane’s. They’re the same woman at two different points in her life. Jane is walking in the door as Joan is preparing to walk out.

Joan notices that the office horndogs are all hanging around in front of Jane’s desk pretending to be busy. Jane is putting on a show with a hiked up skirt and an unbuttoned blouse. Joan shoos all the men away and has a stern but maternal talk with Jane about her “decolletage” and affectionately tells her there are better ways to go about what she’s doing.

This is Season 1 Joan, sexy and pink and embellished. This stands out because this is the exact outfit she wore last season when she tried to get Peggy to consider sexing her look up a little bit. Here she’s wearing it to tell Don’s latest secretary to sex it down a little bit. Two opposite messages but the message of the outfit remains the same. “See how I’m doing it? That’s how you should do it.”

 

Season 2 Episode 6 – “Maidenform”

Peggy comes to Joan frustrated because she isn’t being included in account meetings and she thinks it’s because she’s a woman. Joan is at first amused and bats her around a little, making sure to tell her that she never wanted what Peggy wanted and that Peggy never listened to any advice she’s given her before. Nonetheless, she walks out giving her essentially the same advice she always gave her: “You want to be taken seriously? Stop dressing like a little girl.”

Joan isn’t exactly wrong in her advice, it’s just that, to us in 2010 her advice would mean, “Start dressing more authoritatively” and to Joan in 1962 it meant “Start dressing sexier.” Joan is in an almost exact duplicate of the blue dress and print blouse combo she wore when she paraded her engagement ring around the office, but it’s notable that this time it’s in a purple, the color that tends to signal the disappointments that come from her romantic entanglements. Much like the similar scene from last season where she tried to convince Peggy to use her looks more, it’s a way of subtly pointing out how Joan is on the wrong track here. She’s a devastatingly smart and engaging woman who is solely focused on the husband track and subsequently doesn’t really comprehend the issues of a woman on the career track. And once again, she’s slightly more embellished in a scene like this than in the scenes from earlier in the season when all she seemed to be focused on was her future marriage.

We love that she has various identical outfits in different colors. She knows what works for her and she’s got a limited budget. Joan doesn’t strike us a home sewer, although it was far more common then than it is now. It’s possible she’s re-using the same pattern to make different dresses but it strikes us as more likely that she simply buys the same dress in multiple colors.

 

Season 2 Episode 7 – “The Gold Violin”


Joan hears a rumor that Jane and a couple of the guys snuck into Bert Cooper’s office after hours. She plays poor Paul like a fiddle and gets him to give up all the goods. She confronts Jane about it, who first lies and then turns on Joan for acting like her mother, making the prime mistake of bringing up Joan’s age. Joan fires her on the spot.

Paul + Joan = green dress, once again. We LOVE that necklace and it gives her a slightly feral feel, which is appropriate because she looked utterly furious when Jane sassed her back. The paleness of the green is a little unusual for her because her tones tend to be rich, but it looks amazing with her coloring. The tweedy fabric gives it a textural interest as well as a maturity that keeps the outfit from being a little too frivolous or youthful, which is important in a scene where her age is once again brought up. Not that anyone really needs reminding of this, but an unmarried 31-year-old woman was largely thought of as either a slut or a tragic spinster in 1962. Jane went right for the jugular and Joan was visibly wounded by it.

After Roger condescendingly advises Jane to ignore her firing and return to work the next day, a furious Joan sashays across the office to demand “What in God’s green earth are YOU doing here?” When Jane explains what Roger said to her, Joan coolly responds, “It’s all perfectly clear,” and leaves her alone, although she is clearly angry and humiliated. She can’t do anything about it because Roger said Jane could come back.

We have, of course, seen this dress twice before. First, when we found out about her affair with Roger, and then in the scene where Roger makes clear to her that it’s over (although to be fair, Joan had already made that pretty clear herself). This is the “Roger” dress; it signaled the beginning of that relationship; it signaled the end of it; and now it’s signaling her humiliation and disappointment upon being confronted with the next girl in Roger’s sights.

 

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com - Photo Credit: amctv.com/originals/madmen]

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  • Alisa

    Look when a white woman uses racist language to remind a black person of their “place”, she’s a racist. Sure she would have been catty to anyone Paul was dating, but the point here is that she ultimately CHOSE to use racism to establish her superiority. And that sh*t is racist, plain and simple. That’s as true as it was in 1962 as it is now. Why is calling Joan the racist she is worse then her ACTUALLY being a racist b*tch to Sheila? Paul may be a pretentious hipster racist who is using Sheila to look progressive, but Joan is a socially polite racist that doesn’t reveal what she thinks of black people until pushed. As a black woman I’ve encountered plenty of white people who are perfectly polite to black people’s faces and say racist garbage to other white people when they leave the room or say racist things to black people when they get angry or feel pushed. Joan is no different or better then any of these people. She wanted to stick it to Paul, and in the process revealed that she’s a racist. I feel like it’s the same thing with Dawn. She hugged her when she came into the office, which on the surface is “polite”, but if Dawn ever got on her bad side it’s quite possible that something racist could come out of her mouth. I wouldn’t be surprised.

    • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

      You seem to have missed the part where we said it was racist.

      Talking about the motivations behind a character’s racist statements does not mean we’re arguing that she didn’t make racist statements.

      • your face

        Just revisiting these old Mad style posts and loving them.

        I know it will be a ton of work, but it would be SO AMAZING if you put together posts of Joan/Peggy/Betty/Megan/Sally/Trude’s style journeys over the decade on the show. Peggy especially.