Mad Style: Joan Holloway, S2 Part 2
Harry Crane is the new head and sole member of the television department and finds that he can’t do the work alone. He needs someone to read scripts of upcoming television shows and flag anything that may be of interest or concern to any of the advertisers. Enter Joan. Since SC won’t approve another staff member for the new department, she volunteers to take some scripts home to read. She finds it way more enjoyable than she expected. Fiance Greg comes home with Chinese takeout to an excited Joan (“You’re not gonna believe what’s about to happen on As the World Turns!”). Greg is threatened and confused as to why he’s so. He sputters some less-than-supportive remarks. “I didn’t know you were such a reader.” “What are you bothering with that for?” “Joannie, you should be watching those shows instead of reading them.” The conversation reveals that things aren’t going as great in his residency as hoped and that it will be at least another year before he can give her the bon-bon-eating life he insists upon. He relents on the extra work and tells her he guesses it’s all right. “I’m glad you approve,” she says with light sarcasm and he reminds her that he asked her to get him a glass of water. With a quick apology, she hops up to get it.
There are two reactions here. One, that she looks utterly adorable and kitten-sexy in this tight little sweater and capri pants combo topped off with the ever-present scarf, which, outside the confines of Sterling Cooper, finds itself sassily wrapped around her head and trailing down to her shoulder. Everything about this outfit screams “This is not the Joan you see in the office.” It’s like after exhaustively detailing all her costumes up till now, we feel like we’ve got a handle on what the rules are with this character and here she is, breaking every single one of them.
The second reaction is this: such a radical departure from her strict office dress code works in the context of the scene as we get an inkling for the first time that Joan doesn’t reign supreme in this relationship as she does at work. It’s not all smooth sailing at home the way it is at Sterling Cooper. In addition, the most obvious point of all is being made here as Greg expresses a frustration and unease with the idea of Joan enjoying a job enough to keep it, especially since he fears she’ll have to keep it for a while longer until his career gets going. He literally fears her wearing the pants in the family. And here she is, wearing them.
A very grateful Harry introduces Joan to some clients. “Joan is handling broadcast operations.” They are charmed and impressed with her insight and handling of the material. She’s in utter control as always, but just under the surface there is a tiny hint of the voice inside screaming “I LOVE doing this!”
Not only does Joan have a bold stripe running vertically down her front like a man’s tie as she impresses a group of men with something other than her looks, but her dress EXACTLY matches Harry’s shirt and tie. This is the Sterling Cooper Television Department and its most impressive member isn’t wearing pants.
At the start of Season 2, we noted that Joan was quite toned down in her looks. Everything was still very fitted, but the dramatic scarves and costume jewelry were either gone altogether or much more simple. That’s still true here. She is perfectly accessorized as always with a matching gold chain, cuff, and earrings that compliment the colors of the dress, but she’s not sexing it up like she once did. What she is doing more and more going forward is utilizing graphic elements like the stripe here. We’ll be seeing less of the column of one color that she previously favored and more little graphic touches here and there.
Joan does such a good job in the television department that they hire a man full time to take the work she loved away from her. On the late afternoon of the day of Marilyn’s death, Roger is surprised to see Joan napping on his couch. She wasn’t expecting him. “It’s 4:30. You’re supposed to be sitting in a bar somewhere.” He sees that she’s upset and is surprised to find out that it’s because of Marilyn. “Yes,” she says a little sarcastically and a little ruefully, “I’m just another frivolous secretary.”
He tries to console her but only reveals how little he really knows her and how much she identifies with the dead movie star. She is composed but there are tears on her face. This is truly painful to her and Roger has no idea why. “This world destroyed her.” “One day you’ll lose someone who’s important to you. You’ll see. It’s very painful.”
She and Roger have a moment wherein her heart is bared in all its pain and what is she wearing? Purple. This is a gorgeous dress that we haven’t seen before. The other notable aspect is the irregular stripe, another new graphic element. The neckline and the brooch with the gold button earrings make it a look that says sexy but grown up. She’s feeling a kind of pain that can only come with time and experience and the ability to look back. It makes sense that she looks, we don’t want to say “mature,” because we’re not at all implying she looks old. She just look experienced and womanly and restrained in her grief. She knows better than a lot of women how a woman that looks like Marilyn is treated. And with the recent disappointment on the career front – losing something she didn’t even know she wanted – there’s a part of her that questions if her looks-based ambition was all it was cracked up to be.
The office is holding a baby shower for Harry Crane when Don walks in after taking a few days off because of Betty’s father’s stroke. Joan welcomes him back and he asks her for a moment of her time. Like a flipped switch, she is uber-secretary; efficient and on-point in everything she does. He tells her that he changed his mind and he’ll be going with Pete to an aerospace convention in California, which means Paul Kinsey will have to surrender his spot on the plane. Roger walks in and tries to be Roger, but he managed to piss off both Don and Joan by leaving his wife and making his relationship with Jane public to the office. Neither of them have much to say to him and he makes his way out. Joan betrays absolutely nothing on her face of whatever she may be feeling. She affectionately tells a tired Don, in that way that makes us wish we had our own Joan, “Go ahead and lay down. I’ll keep the drunks away,” and then strides into the baby shower and humiliates poor Paul Kinsey by informing him in front of all his co-workers that he’s been knocked off the aerospace convention trip and that she needs his tickets and credentials immediately. After Paul stomps out, she smiles and asks if there is any cake left.
This isn’t a notable dress on any other level that it looks great on her and that it has more graphic elements with the white trim and buttons. She looks calm, cool and collected, even if her former lover humiliated her and even if that leads her to be a little nasty to her other former lover. Not a thing on her face and looking perfect head to toe.
An exuberant Joan calls out when she sees Roger talking to Peggy, “THERE you are!” Greg has picked her up to take her out to dinner and Joan is determined to show him off to Roger now that he’s made Jane his choice. It doesn’t escape Greg’s notice that Roger and Joan seem to know each other pretty well. In an earlier scene, while they were both in bed, Greg got a little, well, male, about the fact that she was taking the lead in sex and had, horror of horrors, gotten on top. “Where did you pick that up?” “Greg, stop that. you know there is no before.”
After small talk with Roger, she takes Greg back to her desk to get her purse. He asks her if they can go in Don’s office and have a drink. “Isn’t that what they do all day? I’ve seen the movies.” She reluctantly agrees, but only because the rest of the office is empty. “That Sterling guy knows an awful lot about you,” he says accusingly and she attempts to defuse him with a breezy, “I’ve worked here for nine years.” When accusing her doesn’t give him what he wants, he rapes her on Don’s office floor. She struggles and says “no,” and does everything a woman in that situation was told she was supposed to do and in the end, she just turned her head away from him and focused on the wall until it was over.
And when it was over, a satisfied Greg and very quiet Joan leave for their dinner date, her red roses left behind.
This would be the outfit that originally formed the idea in our heads that purple was her sad color. After all, this is by far the saddest (and most horrifying) of any of her scenes. We can’t help noticing that she’s not just in purple, she’s in several purples (top, skirt, bag, shoes, and scarf), as if one purple wasn’t going to be enough to portray the depths of her sadness. It’s rare to see her done up entirely in one color like this. Usually there’s some little contrast, even if it’s a brooch or necklace, neither of which, curiously enough, are present.
Except for the time she ended a date to come into the office in the middle of the night because of Roger’s heart attack, we’ve never seen her look this sexy at work. No doubt she brought this outfit in and changed at the end of the day, knowing she had dinner plans at a fancy French restaurant. There’s no way she’d wear something that exposes that much of decolletage in work.
She’s exposed, she’s stripped bare, and she’s wearing her sad color. The clothes can’t tell the story of the scene any better than that.
Don comes back from a completely unplanned 3-week sabbatical brought on by an imploding personal life. He returns to a New York gripped by fear, in the middle of what would later be called the Cuban Missile Crisis. In addition, Peggy has the office next to him and Sterling Cooper got sold while he was away. Joan greets him warmly as a “sight for sore eyes,” and you can see she’s uncharacteristically flustered by the fear of nuclear war. She fills him in on who his expecting him, gently informs him that his wife has been calling the office, and then asks him if she should arrange for civil defense procedures to be put into place. Don informs her that there’s no point on the latter, ducking and covering isn’t going to help.
It’s not a scene about Joan, and yet we thought it was notable that she’s wearing another graphic look, this time a print, which is still rare for her office wear. That kind of swirling circular pattern does a nice job of underlining her emotions in this scene. It’s strange to see her in a print like this just like it’s strange to see her struggling to keep her emotions in check.
Don pretty much storms out of the meeting with the new owner of SC, fully believing that his time there is over. He encounters Joan, who can’t get through to Greg at the hospital because the switchboards are overloaded. She admits to Don that she’s just about beside herself and can’t work anymore. Don tells her to go home. The crisis has everyone at wit’s end anyway.
Again, it’s a brief scene and it’s only partially about her, but we thought it was notable that she’s dressed in the exact same multiple shades of purple as in her rape scene and she’s getting upset that she can’t get through to her fiance.
[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com - Photo Credit: amctv.com/originals/madmen]