This is an effortlessly chic touch from the 1960s; the subtle way in which Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant sets Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) apart from the pack. A straightforward loosely tied scarf around the handbag and Joan is the most stylish woman in the world’s most sexist office:
Black leather frame handbag with burnt orange lucite handle. Front decorative flap pocket. Gold tone frame and clasp. Silk orange, red and purple geometric print scarf knotted around the handle.
The bag could be very dark green, or blue, it is difficult to tell. The quality matt finish would suggest genuine leather, maybe even pigskin. Gold tone is gold coloured metal without actually having any real gold in the content.
Tying a scarf around the handle of one’s handbag, particularly on this rigid-framed style with short handles, was in vogue from the early to mid-1960s (by then it had became a tad old hat). Christina’s scarf is most likely silk, but nylon scarves were also common to accessorise in this way as they were thin and would not bulk the bag’s silhouette.
During the 1950s bamboo handles were popular on handbags. By the early sixties it was wood or, as in this case, a lucite revival giving an amber-like finish.
Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway is about the closest living, breathing equivalent to Jessica Rabbit we have in 2009, and for men of a certain age such a voluptuous image will always represent the ultimate in womanly sex appeal.
Yet even disregarding Christina’s hourglass curves, it is telling that more women today do not choose to dress in such a gender defining way. It seems it takes a show set some forty years ago to remind us all what feminine attire really means. Or does such an implicitly primitive observation imply only one possible future for Joan – in the past?
© 2009 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.