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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

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    May 19, 2011, 06.21 PMby diane-s

    To me, glamour comes from inside a woman-so glamour isn’t always defined by outward appearances-that is certainly part of it, but it is the mystique of the woman-and I agree that glamour is underground right now-though you can see glimpses in how we are gravitating to the vintage and retro designs in homes and clothes.

    1 Reply
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    May 19, 2011, 06.02 PMby heidilea

    I think the modern-day middle class American idea of “glamour” is more sexually explicit than it was in the past, and all the modern stars you have pictured embody this “modern glamour.” I think this ties into your post the other day about age-appropriate dressing, where sexual exposure and attractiveness are what’s important and glamourous.

    I do strive to be more glamourous when I can, though the kind of job and life I have does not permit me to do it all the time. I think Mamadiosa hit the nail on the head with that one. However, my idea of glamour is more classic than exposing—and I believe the old-fashioned kind is more sexy than the modern.

    Glamour is not dead, it’s just got a different look. For so many years, casual has been king and it’s gotten to the point where people think it’s okay to go in public with nothing but a bikini or their pajamas. I feel like the pendulum will swing back and people will start to dress up again.

    3 Replies
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      May 19, 2011, 07.09 PMby bhghatesyou

      ha i totally agree about the bikini and pj’s. this can be corroborated by the website peopleofwalmart.com. But i do think the idea of glam has changed. it seems as tho the “regular people” are not supposed to be glam anymore that has been relegated to the celebs only. america is all about comfort it seems. people go to court in sweatpants for example or job interviews in tee shirts. come on now a little effort wont kill you!

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      May 19, 2011, 08.48 PMby Peter Lappin

      I hope you’re right!

    • Missing

      May 19, 2011, 10.58 PMby louisamae

      Yes i agree about the pj thing! worse they even have their slippers on that is just being lazy. Where i live I see people attend theatre in jeans and sweatshirts, so disappointing. In the office where i work i was talking to a very pretty 20 something she told me she does not bother with dressing for work. It is only for the weekends. I was a little surprised! i love to plan my outfit for the day and like the process of putting myself together.

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    May 19, 2011, 05.57 PMby thesnakeships

    You know, maybe I’m working with a different definition of glamour, but I’d say Lady Gaga, much as I think she’s a moron, is absolutely glamourous. I think of gamour as tricking the eye. Half sparkle and half sleight of hand. And, well, Gaga has that.

    It’s like the opening line of Gone with the Wind (the book), “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it…”

    I suppose, you’re glamourous if you’re hardly recognizable when you turn the glamouring off.

    2 Replies
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      May 19, 2011, 06.05 PMby heidilea

      I totally agree! She’s a rather plain looking gal in real life, and I think she’s worked her image, talent and personality to make herself the most glamourous woman around. I can’t help but give her props for that!

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      May 19, 2011, 08.49 PMby Peter Lappin

      Brilliant! :)

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    May 19, 2011, 05.24 PMby niamhh

    People my age think glamour is being Cheryl Cole, even though she wears a pound of make-up and fake hair, and fake tan. I think it’s a culture now where baring skin is the new glamourous. The combination of a high neck and a low skirt is considered ugly, which is think is because girls think showing cleavage is the same as looking confident.

    2 Replies
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      May 19, 2011, 07.29 PMby victors

      that is so true!

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      May 24, 2011, 09.33 AMby popbabe7

      You’re so right- nothing glamourous about Cheryl Cole- fake fake fake!

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    May 19, 2011, 04.55 PMby bluebetty

    I found this interesting. I think glamor is missing in today’s culture, it almost feels like it reserved for celebrities. I don’t necessarily agree with this. As a culture I think we tend to be too casual sometimes.

    However I would love to be considered glamorous, but in my day job that’s just not practical. Although in my off hours I do try to look as fab as possible.

    1 Reply
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      May 19, 2011, 08.49 PMby Peter Lappin

      There aren’t really that many glamorous day jobs, when you think about it…

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    May 19, 2011, 04.51 PMby carottesauvage

    Glamour is just hard to sustain on a day to day basis! Hold the pose baby, hold it :)

    1 Reply
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    May 19, 2011, 04.48 PMby Lucha Suarez

    Glamour is not dead, but maybe in hybernation at times. I do believe that not every woman can be glamorous at every moment of every day, but the we can be in varying levels some of the time. Was that confusing? What I mean to say is that I can’t very well walk my children to the bus stop every morning in an evening gown, but you better believe that my outfit matches, is cute, my hair is done and I have makeup on! I am also a hispanic woman and was raised to be more dressed up, it is part of our culture, anyone who has ever caught a glimpse of a telenovela can testify to this, lol! In the United states though, I do believe that we have a dressed down lifestyle. It is nice to be glamorous, but it is also nice to not HAVE to be.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      May 19, 2011, 08.50 PMby Peter Lappin

      Totally. It’s nice to be able to turn it off too.

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