Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thoughts on a Word: Glamour (Part I)



Glamour is an illusion, and an allusion too. Glamour is a performance, a creation, a recipe, but one with give. Glamour is elegance minus restraint, romance plus distance, sparkle sans naivete. Glamour is Grace Kelly, Harlow, Jean (picture of a beauty queen). Glamour is $3.99 on U.S. newsstands, $4.99 Canada. Glamour is artifice. Glamour is red lipstick, Marcel waves, a pause before speaking, and artfully placed yet seemingly casual references to time spent in Capri. Glamour is—let’s face it—a cigarette. Glamour is Jessica Rabbitt, and it’s Miss Piggy too. Glamour is adult. Glamour cannot be purchased, but it can’t be created out of thin air either. Glamour is both postmodern and yesterday. Glamour is an accomplishment. Glamour is magic.

In fact, glamour began quite literally with magic. Growing from the Scottish gramarye around 1720, glamer was a sort of spell that would affect the eyesight of those afflicted, so that objects appear different than they actually are. Sir Walter Scott anglicized the word and brought it into popular use in his poems (“You may bethink you of the spell / Of that sly urchin page / This to his lord did impart / And made him seem, by glamour art / A knight from Hermitage”); not long after his death in 1832 the word began to be used to describe the metaphoric spell we cast upon one another by being particularly beautiful or fascinating. It wasn’t necessarily a compliment (“There was little doubt that he meant to bring his magnetism and his glamour, and all his other diabolical properties, to market here,” from an 1878 novel) but by the 1920s—not coincidentally, the time women started developing the styles that we now recognize as glamorous—the meaning had shed much of its air of suspicion.

Not that we’re wholly unsuspicious of glamour. Female villains in films are often impossibly glamorous, for as fascinated as we are with the artifice of glamour, we’re also a tad wary of it. Glamour keeps its holder at a distance, and it needs that distance in order to work; watch the magician’s hands too closely and you’ll spoil the trick. It’s unkind to glamour to call it strictly a trick, but neither is it inaccurate: On a person, glamour is a series of reference points that form its illusory quality. We perceive red lipstick and hair cascading over one shoulder as glamorous because we understand it’s referencing something we’ve collectively decided is glamorous. The same is true of glamorous looks with less direct artifice—say, a world traveler in a pith helmet and white linen—but in becoming a reference point, anything we code as glamour becomes artifice, even if it’s not about smoke and mirrors. It’s not hard to get glamour “right,” but since glamour is a set of references—a creation instead of a state of being—you do have to get it right in order to be seen as glamorous as opposed to pretty, polished, or chic. We don’t stumble into glamour; we create it, even if we don’t realize that’s what we’re doing. Call glamour a performance if you wish. It’s equally accurate to call it an accomplishment.

In 1939, glamour—rather, Glamour—took on an additional definition. In 1932, publishing company Condé Nast launched a new series of sewing pattern books featuring cheaper garments more readily accessible to the downtrodden seamstresses of the Depression; its more elite Vogue pattern line hadn't been doing well. Seven years later, Condé Nast spun off a magazine from this Hollywood Pattern Book called Glamour of Hollywood, which promised readers the “Hollywood way to fashion, beauty, and charm.” By 1941 it had shed “of Hollywood” and had already toned down its coverage of Hollywood in order to focus on the life of the newfound career girl; by 1949 its subtitle was “For the girl with a job.” That is, Glamour wasn’t about film or Hollywood or unattainable ideals; Glamour was about you. That ethos continues to this day: Glamour might have a $12,000 bracelet on its cover but will have a $19 miniskirt inside, and its editorial tone squarely targets plucky but thoughtful young women who want to “have it all.”

It’s all too fitting that the once-downmarket* sister of Vogue is titled Glamour. To the eyes of a nation emerging from a depression, the concept of glamour might have seemed faraway—but it also seemed accessible in ways that the gilt-edged Vogue wasn’t. The “girl with a job” knew that with the right sleight-of-hand, she could purchase aspects of glamour found on the magazine’s pages, pick up a tip or two about home economy (if one must be bothered with the terribly unglamorous domestic life, why not make it economical?), and find out how to enchant her suitors or husband—and she wouldn’t necessarily need money or social status to do any of those things. She just needed the know-how of glamour. Glamour magazine doesn’t target the highest end of the market, nor does it assume that its readers have the cultural capital of the modern-day gentry (“How to do Anything Better” is one of its more popular features; readers might learn how to make a proper introduction or throw a dinner party). At first glance this might seem counterintuitive to the spirit of its namesake, yet it’s anything but: With these specific moves, Glamour reinforces the notion of glamour as something actionable. In knowing that most of its readers, however stylish, aren’t among the cultural illuminati, Glamour acknowledges that maybe they have need of casting the occasional spell—which, of course, Glamour is happy to supply.


I should say here that I worked for Glamour magazine for several years as a copy editor.** I share that not only to disclose my relationship with the magazine, but also because my specific post there—as a professional grammarian—was tethered to the concept of glamour more than I realized. For gramarye, the root word of glamour, also gave birth to the word grammar. The route is fairly straightforward: Gramarye at one time simply meant learning, including learning of the occult, and it’s this variant that went on to be glamour. Grammar stayed magic-free and pertained to the rules of learning, eventually becoming particular to the rules of language. But the two are linked more than just etymologically: Both grammar and glamour function as a set of rules that help people articulate themselves and allow us to understand one another. I understand you are telling me of the future by the use of words like will and going to; I understand you are telling me about your vision of yourself with red lipstick and a wiggle dress.

Some may argue that the rules and articulations of glamour are confining. They can be, when taken as feminine dictates, but they also make glamour democratic. It’s easy to aim for class or sophistication and miss the mark, for there are so many ways we can make unknowing missteps. But because glamour relies upon references and images, with a bit of thought and creativity almost anyone can conjure its magic—and unlike fashion, glamour doesn’t go in and out of style, so you needn’t reinvest every season. You can be fat and glamorous, bald and glamorous, poor and glamorous, short and glamorous, nerdy and glamorous, a man and glamorous. Perhaps most important, you can be old and glamorous. In fact, age helps. (Children are never glamorous; neither are the naive.) Glamour’s illusion doesn’t make old people look younger; it makes them look exactly their age, without apology. Glamour can channel the things we may attribute to youth—sex appeal, flirtation, vitality—but it also requires things that come more easily with age, like mystery and a past. Think of the trappings of adult femininity little girls reach for in play: not bras and sanitary pads, but high heels and lipstick, those two most glamorous things whose entire point is to create an illusion. A five-year-old knows that with womanhood can come glamour, if she wishes. She also knows it’s not yet hers to assume.

In case it’s not yet clear: I am a champion of glamour. That’s not to say I’m always glamorous; few can be, and certainly I’m not one of them. I like comfort far too much to be consistently glamorous. But I’m firmly in glamour’s thrall. When I am walking down the street (particularly 44th Street, in the general direction of an excellent martini) in something I feel glamorous in—say, a certain navy-blue bias-cut polka-dot dress with a draped neckline, clip-clip heels, a small hat, and the reddest lipstick I own—I feel a variety of confidence that I can’t channel using any other means. It’s not a confidence that’s superior to other forms of assurance, but it’s inherently different. It’s the feeling of prettiness, yes, and femininity and looking appropriate for the occasion. It’s all of those things, but the overriding feeling is this: When I am feeling and looking glamorous, I am slipping into an inchoate yet immensely satisfying spot between the public and private spheres. You see me in my polka-dotted ‘40s-style dress, small hat, and lipstick, and you may think I look glamorous—which is the goal. But here’s the trick of glamour: You see me, and yet you don’t. That is, you see the nods to the past, and you see how they look on my particular form; you see what I bring to the image, or how I create my own. Yet because I’m not necessarily attempting to show you my authentic self—whatever that might be—but rather a highly coded self, I control how much you’re actually witness to.

Now, that’s part of the whole problem we feminists have with the visual construction of femininity: The codes speak for us and we have to fight all that much harder to have our words heard over the din our appearance creates. But within those codes also lies a potential for relief, for our own construction, for play, for casting our own little spells. That’s true of all fashion and beauty, but it’s particularly true of the magic of glamour.

I promise not to play tricks on anyone. But forgive me if, every so often, I might want to use a little magic.
_________________________________________

Stay tuned for part II tomorrow, in which an author and renowned national columnist, a multidisciplinary artist and satirist, a four-time novelist with a bent toward otherworldly enchantment, and a publicist who's one of the "cultural gatekeepers in the literary world" share their own thoughts on the concept of glamour.
_________________________________________
*Glamour isn’t “downmarket” any longer, I don’t think; it’s more middle-market. Or, as a marketing poster once floating through the halls there read, it’s “masstige.”
**Given the dual etymology, I think it's only fair to declare all Glamour grammarians to be sorceresses.

19 comments:

  1. I love this! Beautifully written and thought provoking. I had no idea that glamour and grammar share a common root but it makes a lot of sense. I am looking forward to tomorrow's part two.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You have made my day with the news (to me) that glamour and grammar share a common root. As a professional editor, I must say that I am delighted to find glamour in my work, which at times has seemed rather dry and unimaginative (but only at times). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marsha, I was similarly delighted. Let's keep making magic on the page--

      Delete
  3. I like comfort far too much to be consistently glamorous.

    Ironically, I am reading this in my favorite pair of Vibram FiveFingers, which feel like house slippers (why I'm wearing them so late) and which everyone -- everyone -- comments on as fabulous or alluring. I'd have settled "quirky" for them, but apparently other folk have different ideas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In part II, Lisa Ferber talks about the glamour of eccentricity--seems we have a case study! And now I want to try them. They always looked uncomfortable so I'm glad to hear the opposite...

      Delete
  4. Speaking of glamour and grammar, here's a great quote from Sir Walter Scott's journal about proofreading: "Got home about two o'clock, and set to correct a set of proofs. James Ballantyne presages well of this work, but is afraid of inaccuracies--so am I--but things must be as they may. There is a kind of glamour about me, which sometimes makes me read dates, etc., in the proof-sheets, not as they actually do stand, but as they ought to stand. I wonder if a pill of holy trefoil would dispel this fascination."
    http://www.online-literature.com/walter_scott/journal-of-scott/10/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Splendid! Perhaps next time I'm overextended I'll just gently suggest that an editor take a pill of holy trefoil...

      Truly, though, there's something to the idea that glamour makes us see things as they ought to be. I'm not comfortable going over-the-top in my own presentation, but when I've found small vestiges of glamour that I've successfully employed in my own life, it can sometimes feel like I'm restoring things to their natural state. I'm meant to slink around my apartment in my Butterfield-8-style slips; the flannel pajamas I'd worn before them were some sort of cosmic mistake, clearly!

      Delete
  5. LOVE!
    I'a a student of Ethan Hon's and he shared this with our class.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, awesome! I was hoping to be able to come speak to his class but the timing didn't work out. Glad you enjoyed!

      Delete
  6. Obama White House issued a manifesto

    The 52 long report authored by the White House Deputy National Security adviser Rhodes. This is the first published after Obama took office in January last year, the National Security Strategy. The report notes that the greatest security threat facing the United States and the international community was 'weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons,' the report warned North Korea and Iran, saying that if these two countries to abandon its nuclear program, 'will be able to embark with the international community to expand path of political and economic integration. If not, the United States will adopt a variety of means, so that Nike Kobe Shoes the two countries even Nike Lunar more isolated, 'Bush version differs from national security strategy, Obama's version of the' US threat 'is defined Nike Zoom KD 6 Kids more broadly reported that Nike Air Max Thea Print Mens the cuts the budget deficit is the key to keeping America's great power status. Nike Air Force 1 Womens The report will also network security risks, climate change, America's dependence on fossil fuels and other included in the list for the first time a national security threat, 'the list' and there are local terrorists. He reported that, in response to this threat, the federal government will increase its investment in the field of intelligence, so that local communities have the ability to respond to domestic terrorism. 'National Security Strategy' is an important report must be published each US president, much attention at home and abroad the new US National Security Strategy weaken WMNS Nike Dunk Heels the Bush administration initiated the 'preemptive strike' concept, the military as a means of diplomatic efforts ineffective Nike Shox in case the final choice. Political analysts generally the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States Nike Free Dynamo as a 'Bush doctrine' of the Declaration. 'Bush Doctrine' to the US military strength as backing, affixed with neoconservative label, emphasizing ideology, respected diplomatic strength, advocates the world to implement 'American democracy' in his second term, Bush declared in the 2006 National Security Strategy report 'War against WMNS Nike Dunk Heels terrorism is not over,' reaffirmed the United States to pursue 'preemptive strike' strategy. The new national security strategy that the United States is the enemy of a specific organization, 'al-Qaeda and its branches.' US President homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan analyze new and different at the same time the National Security Strategy, said: 'Our enemy is not Sneaker Online terrorism, because terrorism is just a tactic. '

    he said: 'The terrorist threat into a new stage, it is no longer pay attention to fit the design of complex 911 attacks, but slowly enough to expand the complex transition to a personal attack when our enemies change strategy, we. must advance with the times. We should not get carried away by fear, and the application of a rational way to deal with. '

    ReplyDelete
  7. 8th Grade Physical Nike Mens Casual Shoes Science Fair Project Ideas

    In recent years, the Mentos and soda geyser has taken on fame at physical science fairs across the country. The experiment gained popularity through an online video, which was often emulated. The experiment itself is simple. Air Jordan Kids The student inserts a package of Nike Air Presto 2013 Mentos candy into a bottle Nike Air Presto High of soda. Diet soda and regular soda work the same, but for cleaning up purposes, diet soda is WMNS Nike Dunk Heels preferred because it is less sticky. When the Mentos are dropped into the soda all at once, an eruption Womens Air Jordan 6 of soda foam shoots high into the Air Jordan X 10 air. The experiment shows the chemical reaction that is formed when the Mentos comes in contact with the carbonation gases in the soda. The experiment is best demonstrated outdoors, but can be Penny Hardaway performed indoors under a tarp tent or other covering.

    A bending light exhibit is Designer Shoes a simple experiment that can be displayed in a number of ways. The student sets up a table where multiple sources of light are used. Nike Air Presto Leopard He can use flashlights, but laser pointers actually look more impressive and are easier to see. The first station shows that a solid object blocks the laser light. A second station shows how a laser passes through a pane of glass at a straight angle. A third station shows how a laser bends when passing through glass at an angle. A final station shows a laser being bent as it passes through a container of water, such as a fish tank. The point of the experiment is to show how light reacts with different mediums.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Obama For further reduction of one thousand nuclear warheads the United States nuclear arsenal lack of money forced downsizing

    Broadcasting Network Beijing July 4, according Designer Burberry Outlet to Voice of China 'Global Chinese Radio Network' reported the Associated Press disclosure of the 3rd US President Barack Burberry Dresses Obama under the cruel, but also reduce the nuclear warheads. The number is probably between 1000-1100, which means that the United States will cut about half of the existing strategic nuclear warheads as of March 1, 1737 the United States still deployed long-range strategic nuclear warheads deployed about 400 short-range pieces around. In other words, the United States deployed about 2000 can be applied at any time, launch Nike Site Officiel nuclear warheads. So Obama this reduction is probably accounted for about half Nike Free Run Run 3 Femme of the existing deployment of nuclear warheads, which is quite a bold plan, more than the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons treaty signed by the United States with Russia. The goal is to present the two countries in 2018, with Russia the United States each have to cut about 1,150 long-range strategic nuclear warheads, which can also be seen Obama's plan is quite advanced and bold Republican think tank experts said, such an Burberry Coats approach is actually quite dangerous. On Romney recently said Russia is the number Burberry Shoes one geo-strategic enemy of the United States, although it is an outdated idea, but many Republicans still Nike Free Run 4.0 Femme think so, Americans still can not be assured Russia. Especially after President Putin to regain a large position in the face of such a political strongman, the United States is no way to be taken lightly New START nuclear treaty Nike Free Run 3.0 Homme provisions mentioned in the United States and Russia signed, in 2018, United States and Russia will have to deploy long-range strategic nuclear Burberry Trousers warheads to 1,550 or less. So, what is a substantial reduction of US-Russian nuclear warheads is the purpose? Voice of China military observers Yong-Chun Liang believes that in addition to the factors of the Cold War threat of elimination, maintenance updates warheads really too expensive:

    Yong-Chun Liang: nuclear weapons it has its service life, in general, is about 30 years, and now the US and Russia in fact to such a stage. Because they are mainly large-scale nuclear arms race of the last century 7080, and now a large number of nuclear weapons are already in the situation to reach the highest service life. You have to maintain the original level of the scale of nuclear warheads that must scale to update it, but this update and maintain itself will require substantial capital investment. The funds now Russia is concerned, it certainly can not afford, for the US, but also a bit overwhelmed. Because the US military needs of the country it is not well-off, so on Nike Air Max 2011 Femme the basis of his nuclear weapons reduction agreement on the second phase of the original, and vision to make further cuts, I think it is understandable.

    ReplyDelete
  9. People fail in life because they don't know exactly what Nike Air Max 95 360 Womens they want to do, have or be with their life. They might say that they want to make a lot of money or would like to live in a big fancy house etc, but the truth is they don't really know what they want. These are just day dreams they're not definite goals. The first thing you need to do is grab a pen and paper and write down what you truly desire. Dream Big What would you have or do if money or time were no object? List down every detail and include all your senses for example it's no good to say "I would like a new car" What type of car? What colour? What does the leather smell like? How does the engine sound when you start it? How does it feel to drive the car? Only when you involve all your senses does a dream become a burning desire!

    Learn about the different methods and different strategies there are to make money. There are proven methods that you can use to achieve your financial goal. Methods to make money:

    Method Number 1: The first method that just about everybody thinks of is A JOB. 95% of all people use this strategy Nike Air Max 2010 Mens yet they only accumulate 3% of the wealth.

    Method Number 2: Invest your money and put it to work for you. All wealthy people own shares and property. Do you? Do what the wealthy people do and educate yourself on different investment vehicles. Become self educated in investing and do it yourself!


    Step 4 of Nike Air Max 90 EM Womens 7 Steps to Financial Freedom:

    Set aside money each and every month to clear your bad debts. There is a difference between good and bad debt. Good debt makes you money, bad debt costs you money. An example of good debt might be a buy to let mortgage on a rental property with a tenant paying Nike Air Max Classic BW off the mortgage. Bad debts are credit cards, car loans, personal loans etc. Formulate a plan to clear these debts as soon as possible. You will never have financial freedom if you continue to fork out on high interest rates every month.

    "If you don't act now while it's fresh in your mind, it will probably join the list of things you were always going to do but never quite got around to. Chances are you'll also miss some opportunities." Paul Clitheroe

    You must act today Do NOT leave for tomorrow what you can do today.

    Step 6 of 7 Steps to Financial Freedom:

    Remember that it is in giving that you shall receive. You don't need to be a scrooge and hold on desperately to your money to be wealthy, you need to be charitable. I do not for a second mean you should give all your money away, I mean be compassionate and share. Being charitable does not always mean donating money either, there are other ways to help people out. Perhaps you could teach people some of the skills you have learned while researching methods of making money in step 2?

    You need to be able to give money, time, love or knowledge without expecting anything in return to those that are in need of the above. It is through helping others Air?Max that we realise our true potential.

    "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want." Zig Ziglar

    By Nike Air Max 2014 Womens following these 7 steps to financial freedom, you will achieve what you really desire out of life. These steps will work for you if you are willing to put in the effort.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks such a lot with this fantastic new information processing system. I’m terribly dismissed up to point out it to anyone. It makes American state thus happy your immense understanding and knowledge have a brand new channel for making an attempt into the globe. Sbobet Bandar Bola Taruhan Bola

    ReplyDelete