What is Glamour? I guess it means different things to different people.
“Women in Clothes” by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton is a book of collated ideas, feelings and expressions by women on the complex subject of clothes and their psychological relevance. One of the contributors comes up with a definition of glamour from the 1700s meaning “magic” or “spell”.
Perhaps Glamour is to do with bewitching! It has a suggestion of something just out of reach, elevated, special, hovering a bit above the mortal plane. It is something Goddess-like, glossy and seductive. I associate the word with images: red lipstick, high heels, glossy blow-dried hair, something sparkly, and large sunglasses. The word has sexual overtones of course (glamour modelling), but also, sophistication and elegance.
Another contributor from the book says she is “drawn to the kind of glamour that gives women strength with an elegance that is understated”. This is the association of the word with sophistication. People she includes in this definition include Coco Chanel, Jackie Onassis, and Grace Kelly. In her opinion, Tilda Swinton is the closest person she can think of who can embody this in the way she holds herself in her clothes. Personally, I don’t feel she totally nails it only because she doesn’t exude femininity in the same way.
I think one could add Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor to the roster. Today, many people would say Kim Kardashian is “glamorous” (sexy, body-con, bling), but I think her glamour is a type without subtlety and therefore possibly without sophistication or elegance. Cate Blanchett seems to be able to embody glamour in the more traditional way – she always does Red Carpet elegance in such a stylish and understated way. I also think Amal Clooney totally pulls “glamorous” off.
Not meaning to sound flashy or pretentious, I’ve recently returned from Beverley Hills which exudes “glamour”. It may seem a bit on showy side as it is possibly one of the most self-aware, self-absorbed populations in the USA! There is a big emphasis and focus on health, fitness and appearance. If you’re staying in one of the more “glamorous” hotels which is a magnet for the “beautiful people”, the whole aura is one of display. It can be rather wearing to have to think about fitting in sartorially. Even against your natural good sense, sense of self and self-confidence, you may find yourself “catching” the need to look glamorous or up-the-ante.
I saw effortless glamour and self-consciously effort-full during my short stay there. There is a fine line between looking glamorous and too “done”, and then too self-aware. I think actually the most glam women there were the older women (maybe in their 70’s) who were old-school elegance, and totally at ease with it, in well-tailored clothes, a sparkle of jewellery or a swathe of brightly-coloured silk.
A recent report in Vogue stated that where celebrities’ go-to look for increasing glamour used to be the daring cleavage, that appears to have had its day. Stars who have put their cleavage first on the Red Carpet, have often been on the receiving end of on-line harassment via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook the next day.
Stars like Emma Watson, Kiera Knightly, and Natalie Portman, have managed to look glamorous without resorting to the full-frontal! They will always look effortlessly glamorous on the Red Carpet. Stars are choosing to bare shoulders over the bust.
I will be exploring ways of doing “glamorous” in my next Newsletter for Winter, at the end of the month, in time for the Christmas party season!