Lady in Red
With a rouge-red shirt that matches her rouge-red lips, which in turn matches her rouge-red earrings, which almost perfectly aligns with her cherry-blond hair — all of it balanced by perfect rouge-red fingernails, this guaranteed-to-stop-traffic outfit is simultaneously a call to arms and a warning. In Indian culture, red is the traditional color of bridal dresses, which makes it a simultaneous symbol for both purity (marriage) and sexuality (marital relations.) In short, this outfit is meant to connote both innocence and experience, and also redness.
Not Fade Away
Look at the phrase ”office manager.” Now, we tend to focus on the second word — ”manager” — because ”managing” is what a manager does. But besides doing, a manager must also be. And that’s where that first word comes in: ”office.” The office manager can only manage the office if, to a certain extent, they allow themselves to be the office. Which is why, in this image, we see Joan doing her best to fade into the very ether of the Sterling-Cooper offices. Note how delicately her dress matches the brown-scale aesthetic of the walls. She’s like a chameleon, or like Kitty Pryde with better fashion sense.
Come, Sail Away With Me
Sterling-Cooper was a company with a long history. Joan’s job was to emphasize that firm’s virtues: wisdom, earthiness, security, brown. At the upstart Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce, though, Joan has to emphasize a whole host of new attributes: excitement, energy, vigor, colors besides brown. Hence this dress, a rare Majorelle Blue hue which suggests the dark blue ocean on the horizon at dawn on a summer’s day. The delicate undersea scarf completes the look. It’s as if Joan is announcing to the world: ”Gentlemen, I am about to board my catamaran and set a course for the future. Will you join me?”
Kiss Me, Stupid
So far, we’ve looked at the functionality of only Joan’s work attire. But no one can stay at the office forever — besides maybe Paul Kinsey, that goon — and here we find the divine Ms. Holloway trying on a shimmery ruby-pink number, with slightly darker maroon high-heels. Thus, her shoes are dark, her dress is slightly lighter, and her hair is much lighter still. This creates an overall ascension effect which seems to suggest that — entirely within the boundaries of her person — one will find all three stages of Dante?s Divine Comedy. Or, put more simple: Eyes up here, soldier.
La Belle Accordioneuse
Some women carry a purse. But serious women carry an accordion. This is called ”accessorizing.”
Cooking in the Sky
This sky-blue number symbolize two of Joan’s internal instincts: The urge to escape from the boxed-in nature of her domestic and professional existence into the natural world; but also, more importantly, her ability to bring elements of that natural world into her domestic and professional boxes. Man, her husband is a real tool.
You've Been A Naughty Boy
Imagine that you got called into the principal’s office. Now imagine that the principal says, ”You’ve done something so bad — so incredibly perverse, so in opposition to the goodness of the world we inhabit — that I have no choice but to turn you over to the highest authority in the land for punishment.” The principal presses his buzzer and says ”Send her in.” You hear the door open behind you. The principal fearfully cowers behind the desk. You turn around? and you see a woman with hair the color of hellfire, wearing an outfit that suggests a stormtrooper from a fascist regime and the nun that other nuns are scared of.
Blood on the Tracks
A true fashionista knows that half of all style is improvisation in the moment. That’s why Joan didn’t worry when her delicious green outfit got stained with British blood. If anything, she was ecstatic. The black-redness of the British blood gave her dress the character of golf course designed by Jackson Pollock.
Lady in Red, Part 2
In this modern-day era of Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga, there’s a tendency to think that ”accessorizing” is a synonym for ”over-accessorizing.” UNTRUE! Sometimes, all you need to set off a dress are a few key items with potentially totemic significance. Hence, Joan’s outfit here: a watch, a sun brooch, and her iconic pen-necklace. Together, the accessories form a haiku, and that haiku goes something like:
”My watch tells the time
I write my thoughts on the sun
Red red red red red.”
Patterns vs. Royalty
Oh girls. Girls, girls, girls. Girls, girls, girls, girls, girls. I’m sure that when you got up this morning you were thinking to yourself, ”What I really need is to decorate my body with ridiculous patterns like flowers and a checkerboard.” Fortunately, Joan is there to set them straight with a simple, effective purple number. As we all know, purple is the color of kings and dragons.
Everything Comes Together
Here, we see Joan bringing together the elements of every other dress she has ever worn — and will ever wear — with raw perfection. The blue suggests the sky and the sea; the red suggests passion and danger; the purple, as noted in the previous slide, suggests her imperious nature and also her ability to breathe fire onto her subordinates. This is how you tell your boss he’s impregnated you: by revealing yourself as a woman in full.
Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah
This rare misstep by the divine Miss Holloway-Harris is built from an interesting idea — the suggestion that we are looking inside of her typical red-dress aesthetic to see the monochromatic leaves of sadness that lurk within. It’s not entirely successful, mostly because it lacks an accordion.
Wild and Wacky Quackin?
A canny attempt to capture the early-60s zeitgeist, this dress finds Joan moving into her Pop Art phase. The inspiration for this sailor-blue outfit is, of course, none other than Donald Duck, although Joan wisely chooses to remove Donald?s red bow tie and his sailor cap. What, you don?t believe me? Well, did you spend five years at Pop Culture Fashion University, wise guy? I didn?t think so. Quack quack!