Christina Hendricks, video star

Work, Joan; image courtesy of stylist.com

I’m rooting for Christina Hendricks. Mad Men fans know her as Joan Harris Holloway, the office manager at Sterling Cooper Draper Price whose lethal curves distract some dummies–including her noxious husband–from recognizing that she steers the ship. Hendricks is great at mining all the ambivalence of a woman who hasn’t quite updated her notions of female power for the times she’s living in and attempting to negotiate who she is with how she’s perceived

Like many fellow cast members, including star Jon Hamm, Hendricks has yet to really break out past the show’s phenomenon. She has the additional obstacle of her curvy body. Though it fits within the context of the show in ways that January Jones’ yoga-toned physique does not, it is vexing to many people who can’t fathom a female celebrity who is neither skinny nor fat. She is simultaneously praised for bringing back a plus-size figure she doesn’t have and relegated to hackneyed iterations of old-style Hollywood costuming because many designers can’t wrap their heads around clothing any woman who isn’t a size 2. 

Christina Hendricks with husband Geoffrey Arend at the 2010 Emmys. Folks may liked this lavender Zac Posen ensemble, but my friend Kristen and I thought she looked like a saloon hostess on Deadwood; image courtesy of esquire.com

While most magazines can’t conceptualize a pictorial with female subjects that don’t involve an open mouth and a heaving bosom, hers channel the pin-up in ways that highlight the “retro” in retrograde. 

A familiar scene; image courtesy of fanpop.com

This is a particularly confusing development, as Hendricks’ character–under the care of costume designer Janie Bryant–is one of the sartorial tastemakers on a show responsible for retailers like Banana Republic to revisit the 1960s. However, as Julia Turner observed in Slate‘s TV Club coverage, Betty Draper and Peggy Olsen evolve their wardrobes over the course of the series while Holloway has yet to update hers. As much as Holloway has perfected a flattering style on an office manager’s budget, I also think this speaks to a lack of stylistic options for curvy women. Mad Men is currently in the middle of 1965. In two years, Twiggy’s stick-thin body will be in vogue and Marilyn’s figure will be archaic. Thirtysomething Holloway won’t be able to wear the minidresses the model helped popularize. I hope she seeks her revenge in the 70s by claiming the wrap dress as her own. 

This mid-70s Diane Von Furstenberg number would look smashing on Ms. Holloway; image courtesy of metmuseum.org

I actually prefer the actress in simpler attire that doesn’t feel the need to announce her hour-glass silhouette. A former goth kid and self-professed jeans-and-a-t-shirt girl, she looks wonderful in clothes that don’t strap her in or relegate her to a bygone era. As a woman whose garments need to be machine washable, I like it when ladies can breathe and eat and spill food in whatever they’re wearing. 

So I find it interesting that Hendricks has been in a few music videos that didn’t play up her figure. Such treatment of female subjects is anomalous within a medium that relishes in objectification, much less when the clip features an atomic redhead built like a brick house. Click on the links provided below to watch. 

Everclear
One Hit Wonder
So Much for the Afterglow
Directed by McG 

Broken Bells
The Ghost Inside
(S/T)
Directed by Jacob Gentry

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