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Virginia Postrel
Los Angeles
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“It’s impossible to walk from this book not thinking differently about things.” That's what Weston Cutter of Corduroy Books said in his review of The Power of Glamour, and it's a theme that comes up again and again in comments about the book. “Reading this book made me look differently at the role glamour has played in my own life,” wrote Leslie Camhi in The New York Times Book Review. Reading the book gave Kate Bolick an explanationfor why she loves the Vermont Country Store catalog but never wants to visit the real store. It gave Autumn Whitefield-Madrano insight into a beauty puzzle: "If women’s magazines make women feel so bad about themselves, why do we continue to buy them?" For Ken Silber it crystallized a unifying theme in what he likes "to write and read about, what sorts of art and design I tend to enjoy." It might change... Continue reading
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Military glamour is among the most ancient forms. From Achilles, David, and Alexander through knights, samurai, admirals, and airmen, warriors have been icons of masculine glamour, exemplifying courage, prowess, and patriotic significance. In the half century leading up to the end of World War I, warfare was also one of the first contexts in which English speakers used the term glamour in its modern metaphorical sense. (The word originally meant a literal magic spell that made people see things that weren't there.) “Military heroes who give up their lives in the flush and excitement and glamour of battle,” opined a U.S. congressman in 1885, “are sustained in the discharge of duty by the rush and conflict of physical forces, the hope of earthly glory and renown.” A 1917 handbook on army paperwork was “dedicated to the man behind the desk, the man who, being away from the din and glamor... Continue reading
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As introduced in this earlier post, I've set up a Pinterest board for my forthcoming book The Power of Glamour, combining photos and quotes from the book. Here are some more samples: The promise of escape and transformation is an essential element of glamour and the subject of chapter three of my book. The connection between glamour and escape is one reason transportation vehicles figure so prominently in its iconography. In the 20th century, particularly during the period between the World Wars, glamour, escape, speed, modernity, and “the future” were all connected in the public imagination. I argue in chapter seven that, in fact, glamour provided a way for people to figure out what modernity meant and how they felt about it. In the 1950s and ’60s, glamorous visions of transportation technology offered a more speculative version of “futuristic” escape that still sparks longings today. No discussion of futuristic glamour... Continue reading
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One of the nice background touches in the terrific Danish political drama Borgen, whose episodes can be seen on LinkTV and L.A. station KCET, is the never-mentioned poster on the front door of reporter Katrine Fønsmark's apartment. It tells you why she became a journalist and why, even though the guy kissing her is the prime minister's “spin doctor” (apparently his official title), she maintains a certain skepticism toward public officials. She actually seems a little young for All the President's Men to have sparked her ambitions, but I do know baby boomer journalists whose career ambitions were shaped by that glamorous portrayal of journalism. More than we like to admit, glamour influences our answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Think of all the architects and designers inspired by Ayn Rand's uncompromising genius Howard Roark. As a story of struggle and triumph,... Continue reading
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To celebrate their site's launch, Nicole Nelson and Barbara vanBok (interviewed here) of We Are Fragrances are offering a lucky DeepGlamour reader an 8ml bottle of Turkish Embrace, one of their classic perfume blends (valued at $132). That's the big one, on the left. (The small one is the 5 ml bottle.) Here's how We Are Fragrances describes the scent: Dare to have a brush with the exotic... Lose yourself in citrus groves under clear skies, hear the laughter and sample the sweets in bright bazaars and dance all night under a sea of stars to the haunting music of the oud and kanun. Our classic French-style perfume is a blend of essential oils in a base of pure fractionated coconut oil, said to have skin softening properties along with antioxidants. Creamy, exotic and slightly demure, Turkish Embrace is a woody citrus with a soft and delicious gourmand heart. Zingy... Continue reading
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When we gave away a copy of Alyssa Harad's book Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride (see the interview and excerpt below), the winner turned out to be a young perfume entrepreneur with an interesting story of her own: Nicole Nelson (left), the 27-year-old co-founder of Maine-based We Are Fragrances. She has teamed up with perfumer and aromatherapy consultant Barbara vanBok, 47, to create a line of fragrances, including both perfumes and wearable aromatherapy blends, made with essential oils and blended without alcohol. We Are Fragrances launches its online store this Thursday with a fall collection of eight scents. The two co-founders talked with DG about the serendipity of how they met, the importance of creating scents in a ‟scrubbed and sanitized culture,” and how they're making a place for women of color in perfume culture. Plus perfume for newbies and the appealing... Continue reading
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I've set up a Pinterest board for my forthcoming book The Power of Glamour, featuring photos with quotes from the book. Here are a few samples: The book (pre-order your copy here) includes four photos by the great architectural photographer Julius Shulman, including this one of the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs. One of the biggest misconceptions about glamour is that it is somehow feminine. Men are as susceptible to glamour as women, but it takes different forms for different audiences. One of the first uses of the word glamour in the modern sense was in reference to "the glamour of battle," and martial glamour is one of glamour's most ancient forms. One of the delightful discoveries during my research was the work of photographer Virginia Thoren, who specialized in glamorously portraying fur coats in mid-20th-century ads. I hope to feature an interview with her in a later DG post... Continue reading
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In her book Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride , recently released in paperback, Alyssa Harad tells the story of how she came to know and love the world of perfume. In this excerpt, she ventures from her bohemian life in Austin into the foreign territory of Bergdorf Goodman in search of legendary fragrances. “Is Madame familiar with the Clive Christian line?” asked the sales assistant. Her thick, dark hair was smoothed back into a chignon, and the slim, elegant length of her was clothed in expertly tailored black, from the sharp collar of her silk shirt right down to the tips of her rather high heels. I stood up a little straighter and tucked an errant curl behind my ear. Yes, I said, I knew of the line. But I was looking for the JAR boutique. “Ah, JAR,” she sighed. “Yes, of... Continue reading
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Share Alyssa Harad's delightful journey into the world of fragrances with an autographed copy of the hardback of Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride . To enter, leave a comment below about your favorite scent—whether a perfume or just a smell you love. Be sure to leave your email address so we can contact you if you win. (The address will not be public.) The deadline to enter is Wednesday, August 7 at noon Pacific Time. We'll select a winner using Random.org. Continue reading
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In Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride , Alyssa Harad tells the story of how she found herself obsessed with perfume and how, through that obsession, she came to integrate the sensory and creative sides of her personality into her intellectual life. The book recently came out in paperback, and Alyssa begins a West Coast book tour this Thursday in San Francisco, followed by L.A., Portland, and Seattle (details here). Tomorrow we'll be running an excerpt from the book, and you can enter to win a copy here. As an introduction, DG's Virginia Postrel talked to Alyssa by phone. VP: I like perfume, but I find it somewhat intimidating. It’s like wine—it’s complicated, hard to learn about without a lot of investment and direct experience. You can’t just read about it or look at pictures and get a sense for it. In your... Continue reading
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No sooner had Rolling Stone put Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, looking doe-eyed and rock-star disheveled, than critics denounced the editors for "glamorizing terrorism." "The cover of Rolling Stone is meant for glorifying rock stars, icons, and heroes NOT murderers!" protested a typical reader in the article's online comments thread. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino decried the magazine for its "celebrity treatment" of Tsarnaev and for sending the "terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their 'causes.'" Unfortunately, Islamist terrorism doesn't need Rolling Stone to make it glamorous. For the right audience, apparently including Tsarnaev, it already is. Understanding the nature of that glamour could offer clues to discouraging future terrorists. But first we have to acknowledge that terrorist glamour exists. The novelist Salman Rushdie recognized the connection in a 2006 interview. "Terror is glamour--not only, but also," he said, arguing that many terrorists "are... Continue reading
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I laugh everytime I see this drink coaster. It advertises Fat Tire beer in a way that parodies all beverage ads that suggest that if you choose the right drink, you will soon find yourself surrounded by hot women dressed to kill. We all know that holding this beer bottle does nothing for this guy’s attractiveness. Yet while we laugh about that, we also realize that we all have made numerous purchases in hopes that the product would make us more socially attractive. And some of these purchases were probably hopelessly naive. Continue reading
Yes, note that the guy who turns around to give the camera a good look, which I can easily imagine someone doing today, loses his hat altogether. I also recall reading somewhere that this was a popular site for men who wanted to get a look at women's legs.
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The most glamorous store in America may be going public. I don’t mean Neiman Marcus Inc. -- or Bergdorf Goodman, which it owns -- although the luxury retailer is glamorous to many people, and it did just file for an initial public offering. I’m talking about Container Store Inc. The retailer, which has 61 stores and two more opening this fall, is known as an exemplary employer, ranking high on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 14 years running. It avoided layoffs after the 2008 downturn. It talks a lot about values, and its executives regularly say things like, “We all know we’re doing more than selling a product.” All those good feelings -- and the sales that topped $750 million last year -- depend on something every Container Store customer knows well: The store’s merchandising is amazingly seductive. Like a luxury retailer, the Container Store... Continue reading
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Although I love hats, I rarely wear them, partly because they're overly warm for Southern California and partly because when you need them most they have an annoying habit of blowing off. I always wondered what people did about sudden gusts in the days when hats were more common--especially at the turn of the 20th century, when women's hats were huge. I always assumed that the answer lay, as this detail from a Charles Dana Gibson illustration suggests, in large hat pins that firmly attached the latest styles to the period's similarly oversized hairdos. But it turns out the real answer lies in another characteristic of the Gibson Girl: her existence not in real life but in pen and ink. The styles of the past look graceful because we know them from glamorous still images, in which a perfect moment has been captured and refined. As this video from 1903... Continue reading
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My book The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion will be out November 5 and is available for pre-order on Amazon. Here's the catalog description: Critically acclaimed author and Bloomberg View columnist Virginia Postrel offers a provocative theory of glamour, elucidating how this dominant cultural force shapes our most fundamental choices, channels our deepest yearnings, and reveals who we really are. Skimming the glossy pages of a magazine or glimpsing a flashy billboard, it’s easy to reduce glamour to mere celebrity or glitz. Yet glamour is a potent cultural force whose magic reaches far beyond the spheres of fashion or film, influencing where we choose to live, which careers we pursue, where we invest, and how we vote. Even in its most seemingly frivolous forms, despite its transient and illusory nature, glamour articulates our secret longings and exposes our true characters. Analyzing icons from Achilles to... Continue reading
Also royalty. I saw quite a few photos of Kate and William, but I was only going to pay for Marilyn.
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Contrary to popular belief, the glamour of air travel didn't disappear with the crowded planes brought on by deregulation and cheaper prices. It started dissipating in the late 1960s, with the coming of jumbo jets and terrorist hijackings. “In the popular imagination,” writes architectural historian Alastair Gordon in his excellent book Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World's Most Revolutionary Structure , “air travel was now equated with boredom and disaster.” This Weather.com slide show on “Glamour in the Skies” reminded me of another change--this one a technological improvement--that eroded airline glamour around the same time: the disappearance of the staircase in favor of safer, more weatherproof indoor jet bridges. If you're a traveler, you'd much rather walk directly into the terminal on a more-or-less level jet bridge. But the old stairs set the traveler apart from the crowds on the ground. They created a dramatic sense of arrival... Continue reading
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Renaissance of Roland Barthes, an interdisciplinary conference on the late critical theorist's influence on various subjects, will be held at the CUNY Graduate Center on April 25-26, 2013 at 365 5th Avenue (btw 34th and 35th Streets), NY, NY 10065. I will be presenting on Barthes' contributions to fashion and dress theory on Thursday, April 25 in a panel from 2:15pm-3:45pm (room 8402), moderated by CUNY's chair of fashion studies, Eugenia Paulicelli. Full conference program and directions: http://barthesconference2013.wordpress.com/ In Fashion This Year: Roland Barthes and Dress Theory The study of dress is a subject that, more so than almost every other cultural discipline, has historically been met with derision in its efforts to become a widely respected field of academic study. Its long road to acceptance among research universities and similar field authorities was aided in part by its examination and interpretation by academics from other disciplines, especially during the... Continue reading
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Cameron Silver in Decades Cameron Silver, the owner of the L.A. luxury vintage shop Decades, is known for dressing Hollywood stars for the red carpet, using a remarkable eye for seeing contemporary style in vintage clothing. With his book Decades: A Century of Fashion , he demonstrates the sophisticated knowledge of fashion history that undergirds his success as a retailer and stylist. A survey of 20th-century women’s fashion, the book is beautiful, but it’s also smart, recalling styles often written out of fashion chronicles. Its history of the 1970s, for instance, includes not just the sexy “satin-skinned beauties” of Studio 54 but also the “prairie-chic sensibility” of Laura Ashley's maxi dresses. Contrasting muses—Cheryl Tiegs versus Bianca Jagger, for example, or Joan Crawford's tough-minded “Consumer” versus Rita Hayworth's eye-candy “Consumed”—add further nuance, reminding readers that decades do not come with simple, one-note themes. (Google Books offers some limited previews of the... Continue reading
Shutterstock, the huge stock-photo house, has put together an infographic displaying the trends in what its users are downloading. Its data confirm what our Vintage Week suggested: the idea of “vintage” is hot. “If you combined all the searches for ‘Cats,’ ‘Dogs,’ ‘Retro,’ and ‘Hipster,’ you still wouldn’t beat the number of searches for ‘Vintage,’” says Shutterstock. Vintage Week is stretching into this week as well. Stay tuned for more posts. Related articles Vintage Week: DG Q&A with Vixen Vintage Blogger Solanah Cornell Vintage Week: DG Q&A with Liza D. of Better Dresses Vintage Continue reading
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Among vintage enthusiasts, Vixen Vintage blogger Solanah Cornell is a first-name-only celebrity and a go-to source for advice on such lost arts as how to set your hair in pin curls and how to buy vintage lingerie. As a model for online vintage shops and a vintage-fashion blogger she's also famous for her ability to strike a vintage pose. DG: How do you define vintage? Solanah: Everyone will give you a different answer, but I define it as anything made approximately 20-80 years from now. Antique is anything older than 80 years old, and newer than 20 is second hand. DG: Who does wearing vintage appeal to? Solanah: A variety of different people, whether they are interested in alternative fashion or want to outwardly express their interest in nostalgia. DG: What do you think of mixing vintage and contemporary pieces? Do you ever wear contemporary outfits? Solanah: I love it,... Continue reading
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Born in 1965, Liza D., the proprietor of the two-year-old online shop Better Dresses Vintage, grew up in the New York suburbs as the daughter of an advertising copywriter (“a real-life ‘Mad Man,’” she says). “Growing up,” she says, “the emphasis was on education, the arts, and manners. My mom was a very strong influence. She taught me about taste, and all aspects of etiquette.” An accomplished seamstress, her mother also taught Liza how to recognize and appreciate quality garments—knowledge that she now turns to hunting for vintage treasures. (Here she wears a 1950s sundress at home.) DG: How did you get into the vintage business? Liza: My lifelong appreciation of all things lovely, old-fashioned, and well-made led me to buy and wear vintage clothing. Not exclusively or every day, but enough to seek it out as both superior to, and more affordable than, most modern options. After having my... Continue reading
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In a 1912 New York Times article bylined Margaine Lacroix, the designer who only four years earlier had shocked Paris with her sexy dresses opined on the question, "Do Women Like Eccentric Clothes?" She argued that they do not. "Now, as ever, the woman of society does not wear bizarre clothes," she wrote. You will say, are not the great Parisian houses, or at any rate a number of them, turning out numbers of extraordinary eccentricity? You are quite right. They are. And to that I can only reply that those models are created but not worn... [T]he eccentric models one sees belong to the same order of things as those strange and beautiful birds one hears about in tropical countries. Glittering and beautiful with all the colors of the rainbow they die in a day or, in other words, they are exported. Then, stripped of their peculiarly bewildering eccentrities,... Continue reading