It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone who has watched Mad Men must have a little crush on Joan Holloway. Except for me. I have a HUGE crush on Joan.
I love the whole Mad Men phenomenon, I really do. I do remember finding the first series a little slow and difficult to get into, I frequently scream at the screen when I see the chauvinism and double standards many of the male characters display, but all of this is part of what Mad Men is. I don’t even need to mention the fantastic 50s and 60s sets and clothing. I once invented a drinking game where you have to drink every time you see a dress you’d love to wear. I’ve never played it. I’d be dead.
Joan is the Office Manager at the advertising agency which is at the centre of the TV series. She manages the day to day running of the office and is something of a mother hen to the many secretaries who work there. If by mother hen you mean a bitofabitch. Which I do. She is a strong sassy character who is efficient and does her job well. She also has the best breasts in the office. Or in any office I suspect. Without a doubt. Not least due to this fact, she is sleeping with her boss, an activity that continues until he has a heart attack and thinks better of it. Well, for a bit anyway.
In season 2 Joan gets married and you can see she is torn between enjoying her job and not wanting to give it up, fearful she will become a bored housewife. It must been a dilemma for many women in those days. Not anymore, we are expected to juggle both. As the seasons roll by Joan’s marriage falls apart and she becomes a single mother. She takes on more and more responsibility at work and proves herself to be more than capable.
So why style icon? Well Joan is a strong woman. And I think women like strong women. Well, I do anyway. We have needed them at multiple points in the past and we still need them now. She works hard to play a difficult game in a world which, as a woman, she has little power. The female characters in this world are expected to prove themselves and be grateful for every opportunity that is thrown their way. She can give as good as she gets, she can be warm and she always. looks. amazing.
Comments on her clothes are many and varied but I will share my two favourites: Roger Stirling ( her boss) teases her about a man who has the hots for her, stating: “he was all over you that time you wore the red dress, the one with the bow on the back, that makes you look like a present, could you wear it?”
I also love that fact that she spends most of her time swanning around the office with a little gold pen on a chain around her neck nestling suggestively in her décolletage. No biros for Joan! A colleague comments: “She even wore a pen around her neck so people would stare at her tits.”
Joan’s clothes are great and she does use her sexuality to help her get on. I’m hoping that’s not what women have to do now – I certainly haven’t, but then I’m not as well dressed as Joan and I’m in a different business! Most of her outfits would not be deemed appropriate for the classroom.
She knows how to dress according to her curves and the effect is devastating. The camera loves her and I swoon almost every time she is in shot. Christina Hendricks plays her superbly, and her character is not one-dimensional. She is a girl: she has guts, she is brave and strong, she messes up, she makes questionable decisions about the men in her life, she is kind and all of this adds up, for me, to make her an icon. Go and watch it, go and read about her, there is a lot written about her character which is much more succinct than I could ever hope to be.
I salute you, Joan.
It is with a huge crush I say:
It’s only vintage but I like it.