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Readers, I recently borrowed an interesting book entitled Glamour, A History by Stephen Gundle, a British writer. It’s a study of the concept of glamour throughout history; its origins and its varying definitions during different eras (the 1930s and 40s in particular), up to and including the present.

I haven’t quite finished it but it has me wondering: Do women aspire to be “glamorous” anymore? Do you?

Glamour seems to me to be a dated concept, at least the way I’ve always thought about it. For me, glamour suggests drama, artifice, and exoticism — all missing in today’s busy 24/7 media landscape and the (primarily) middle class, suburban culture which we (Americans at least) have been steeped in, even if we’re not suburban or middle class.

I think contemporary life is too informal, too come-as-you-are, too frank about sexuality for the concept to hold any attraction for most people today. Is this true in your country too?

Most women I know want to be, first and foremost, healthy, then probably thin, and then some variation of pretty as they choose to define it — and ideally a combination of all three. Do they want to be glamorous? The very word evokes stylized images like these from 30s and 40s Hollywood — a very different, more formal world.

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From left: Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo

By the postwar years, the 50s and the early 60s (a time of greater economic equality in the USA) the idealized woman was more likely to be girl-next-door types than glamorous and remote, at least in American popular culture. You wouldn’t have caught Marlene Dietrich posing with a fishing rod like Debbie Reynolds.

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From left: Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds

Today, apart from the ubiquitous red-carpet celebrity events and the people who make them happen, is glamour something anyone aspires to? How about in the pop music world — think Lady Gaga or Beyonce or Madonna? Do you consider them glamorous, or merely fashionable (if that)?

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From left: Lady Gaga with Madonna, Beyonce

Readers, I ask you:

Does glamour have meaning in your lives? Do you consider yourself — or would you like to be considered — glamorous and how would you define it?

Who are your contemporary glamour role models?

Conversely, do you think the concept of glamour is dead? If so, what killed it? I’d love to hear what you think!

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~Peter

When native New Yorker Peter Lappin bought his first sewing machine two years ago to hem a pair of thrift store jeans, little did he know he was initiating a journey that would bring him fame and fortune. While awaiting his fortune he stays busy writing “the world’s most popular men’s sewing blog,” Male Pattern Boldness, and now contributing to BurdaStyle.

“For more than twenty years I’d lived on the edge of the Garment District without even knowing what a seam ripper was. Now I rip daily!”

68 Comments

  • 42030bc410c6485a8447694dacb75960d51619eb_large

    May 20, 2011, 01.03 AMby pixielynx

    I think that there is a difference in “Classic Glamor” and “Modern Glamor”. Classic Glamor is what I would love to strive toward in my everyday life. Growing up, once I started to wear make up I never left the house with out it. I’m more lax now, but then I never leave with out mascara on at least. LOL I love the look of the 40’s stars and am slowly working toward that image.

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    May 19, 2011, 10.22 PMby antarestar

    I agree with everyone saying that glamor is in hibernation, after all every idea/style swings back and forth on a pendulum. I do think that we are moving back toward more glamor, I see more women and men taking an interest. The other aspect of glamour that I think needs to be mentioned is that it has an air of mystery. We seem to be a “put everything out there on display” society. I don’t necessarily mean body parts and skin but constant updates to the internets of what you had for breakfast, that you are bored at work, on the way to pick up dry cleaning. It is difficult to cultivate an air of mystery when you share all of the mundane details of your day.

    2 Replies
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    May 19, 2011, 08.52 PMby kiwibubbles

    I think glamour is still out there, it perhaps is not a mainstream look now though. I think Dita von Teese looks glamorous, as does Victoria Beckham, and Joan from mad men. These girls have great poise, dress is clothes that flatter their bodies, in luxurious fabrics and always take extra care in their make up and hair. The blog aubreylondonpinup comes to mind too. I like to ‘dress up’ and take care in my appearance, often dressing from another decade, such as the fifties, and this makes me feel glamorous, and I get a lot of positive comments, people notice when you take the extra bit of effort to do your nails and hair.

    1 Reply
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      May 20, 2011, 12.43 AMby pixielynx

      I agree. I think that as more of the 50’s and 40’s fashions start to become more mainstream again, that the idea of the screen star glamor will also start to make the come back.

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    May 19, 2011, 08.20 PMby sweetpadee

    There are plenty of glamourous people out there now. Just like fashion, glamour must change with the times. It just so happens that the trashy teeny styles seem to overpower the glamour, right now. Out of the celebrities, I see Reese Witherspoon, Marion Cotillard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman and Audrey Tatou, to name a few, all as glamourous. I always see them well put together, in a very classic way. It is really quite sad that most of these women are foreign born celebrities, which I think speaks loudly about the current state of glamour in the US.

    1 Reply
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    May 19, 2011, 08.16 PMby tinybows

    When I go out, I aspire to be glamorous. All of my fashion inspiration comes from glamorous stars from the 20s-40s. Although, people really seem to treat me like I’m an alien if I go to a bar, or karaoke night or Taco Bell or something. I dressed in a beautiful 1930s dress with a lovely cocktail hat, gloves and pin up makeup to go to a carnival freak show last week and I actually attracted a lot of people. I got free drinks, an offer to be in a burlesque show, and made a lot of friends. People were approaching me because of how I was dressed, as opposed to just blending in with the crowd. I think some people appreciate us glamorous ladies. :)

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      May 19, 2011, 08.45 PMby Peter Lappin

      So…are you going to do the burlesque show? (I would!)

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      May 20, 2011, 01.05 AMby tinybows

      Oh, of course I’m going to!

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    May 19, 2011, 07.59 PMby laha5822

    It is so easy to disappear when you’re dressed down… no wonder so many women think showing their naughty bits will help them to stand out! I LOVE glamour… driving gloves, large sunglasses, hair done, nails groomed… glamour to me is being “done”. Throwing on a t-shirt and jeans with a hoodie over it is not “done”. A sweat suit in a cute shade that hugs your butt is not “done”. “Done” is the details and the grooming… hair blow dried, brushed and styled, nails neat and possibly painted, makeup on (mascara is a necessity!), clothes fitted and tailored… that combined with a smile makes me feel like a million dollars. Kate Middleton (now Duchess of Cambridge) is one of my modern style icons; she always looks put together and really embodies the kind of everyday glamour I love!

    4 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      May 19, 2011, 08.46 PMby Peter Lappin

      Of course, living in a palace helps keep the mystique! ;)

    • Blog_pics_006_large

      May 19, 2011, 08.55 PMby kiwibubbles

      I agree with everything you say, and Kate is one of my style icons too, now that you mention it

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      May 19, 2011, 10.36 PMby ArtFeltDesign

      Exactly!!!!!

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      May 19, 2011, 10.38 PMby rogue-cellist

      Kate isn’t the only one either. Mary Donaldson (now Crown Princess of Denmark) is another very elegant, glamorous lady who always looks very polished. Of course, she also lives in a palace these days but both women developed that glamorous look long before marrying into royalty.
      Actually Kate’s wedding was a good example of this topic because there were people who were very expensively, yet poorly dressed present, and people who were very well dressed. Details do “make” the look.

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    May 19, 2011, 06.58 PMby ElleV

    Of course it is. Well, I’m not sure it’s really “dead” so much as sleeping or in hibernation. It comes of having no glamorous style icons. I mean the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s…all the way up even into the 80’s. There were stylish, glamorous women for us regular ladies to emulate. There’s none of that now. The last true style icon, was Princess Di and I think glamor died with her.

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    May 19, 2011, 06.26 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    I think a lot of glamour disappeared along with panty hose, gloves and hats…and proper undergarments. We’ve become a bare foot, let-everything-hang-out people with no sense of mystery at all. Everybody knows everything, everybody sees virtually everything, there’s little sense of adventure when it comes getting dressed…we’ve become a T shirt and jeans nation (or world for that matter).

    1 Reply
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    May 19, 2011, 06.23 PMby freaky-philomeen

    Again a very interesting post, thanks Peter!

    I may be ‘a minority’ but I do not want to be thin. I even think that the constant pressure of wanting a different body-shape is very unglamourous ;))

    My personal idea of glamour does not neccesarily involve high heels and jewelery. I prefer a field full of flowers with some funny-fured sheep in it! And of course: art, poetry and songwriters do also add a lot of glamour to my life! Maybe that is why the french word ‘glamour’ is so akin to ‘amour’ (=love)?

    Nonetheless, a beautiful selfmade dress with a fine necklace and bare feet – such simple things can make me feel very glamourous very quickly!

    1 Reply
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