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Where Has The Real Glamour Gone?

Glamour portrays a world without trade offs or compromises. Sometimes it demands opulence and at other times aesthetic excess, but it always requires selection and control. Glamour is not just beauty or luxury. It is not a style but an effect. A quality that depends on the play of a well-tuned imagination.

Movies of the late 1930s and 1940s demonstrate glamour. It wasn't the reality of the time. Glamour radiated through enormous velvety images seen on the screen that made people want to incorporate this magical spell into their everyday lives. The movies did not invent glamour, but they solidified the meaning of the word. They inspired illusions. They showed movie stars with poise and a grace. Glamorous movie stars didn't get PMS. They didn't have a bad hair day or blotchy skin. Their waist band was never too tight after a crazed impulse to eat half a bag of salty potato chips and a bar of chocolate. Because they were always in control. They glowed radiantly like the Amazon jungle glistening after an afternoon rain. They possessed a vital naturalness that was real and not cosmetically enhanced. They floated when they walked across a room. They were brilliant, quick, witty and brought to whatever sordid situation they might have found themselves in a cool tone. They were born that way, they lived that way, and they died that way. And their interiors framed them revealing an interesting variety of persona and dimension.

Then something began to change. Glamour took on a new dimension. It started to become complex and associated with a presumed lifestyle of the independent, liberated woman. And the liberated woman became associated as a kind of femme fatale. She wrapped herself in expensive clothing, wore expensive jewelry men gave her and she played them like a game of chess.

There is class taste and there is mass taste. But today the lines seemed to have blurred. Most of us think we know glamour. We’ve been conditioned by movies, television, magazines and advertising. We associate glamour with people, places and things. Things that are expensive, perfect, and largely unattainable on a modest budget. We idealize it. Certain consumer goods will show it. It used to be associated with wealth and taste. Now it seems anyone who can buy enough bling can have glamour. It is about drama. Big, bold drama. Surface and allusions. Glamour is a term that has been watered down. Used by anyone other than the cognoscenti. It has become simply a label that can be bought and sold. We see the word 'Glamour' splashed on pages of any fashion or dwelling magazine, product or person. What it means today is elusive.

Glamour’s true quality is mystery and grace – something that cannot be bought with cash.

Tantalizing Tantalus

For the dipsomaniac who fancies the finer things in life . . . a tantalus: a decorative case or box that holds cut-glass decanters. It is usually for two or three decanters, but sometimes can be large enough to hold up to six. Some even occupy room for crystal cordials for a convenient nightcap.

They were very fashionable from the mid-nineteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth and used in many of the grandest houses.

The name "Tantalus" comes from the word "tantalize". They are lockable not allowing anyone except for the one who has access to the key. The tantalus would store the owner's finest brandy and other whiskey from the eager attention of their butler, who might once in a while treat himself to a little swizzle or two after the owner has retired to bed.

In June of this year, Cowan's in Ohio sold this Continental gilt bronze and beveled glass tantalus for $1,725.
J'adore l'alcohol . . . a fine French inlaid burlwood tantalus. It has brass, copper and silver inlays and opens to reveal a brass-mounted tray with four engraved bottles and eight cordials. C'est magnifique!

Charlton Hall Galleries sold this one is September for $1,955.

This George III mahogany tantalus chest opens to an interior compartment that is fitted with a stemware caddy and two cut glass decanters. It went up for auction this month at New Orleans Auctions for an estimate of $ 2,500 - $ 4,000, but failed to sell. Blimey!

Neal Auction Company sold this English oak for $780 in October 2007. Circa 1890, it has a lock and key safely securing three square crystal decanters.

Freeman's in Philadelphia sold this Napolean III tantalus in December 2006 for a mere $478. Barely over its lowest estimate, it has boulle and tortoiseshell with gilt bronze mounts.

For the thirsty bookworm, a simple raise of a paddle and this could have been yours for $272.

The Lovely Charlotte

Charlotte Perriand -- most certainly an “It” girl. She donned a Josephine Baker hairstyle, wore a short, breezy graphic dress hinting at an exposed knee, and wrapped her neck with a chromium-plated ball-bearing necklace she designed for herself.

She was spirited, independent, liberated and brilliant. The "It" girl in those days symbolized tremendous progress women were making in society. First coined in 1927 to describe the actress Clara Bow’s sex appeal and sass, the “It” girl was a “New Woman” -- the modern woman who broke through the repressions of the past. She embraced life, held a strange magnetism, and was fully and naturally confident.

Charlotte was formally trained, well-read and determined to develop a style relevant to the "machine age". At 24, she walked into Le Corbusier’s studio and asked him to hire her as a furniture designer. His response was: “We don’t embroider cushions here,” and showed her the door.

Unfettered, she worked on her own and exhibited her project titled "Bar Under the Roof” at the Salon d'Automne of 1927. She aimed at providing affordable cutting-edge designs for the middle class consumer. She had placed a bar in a small attic. Finished the counter top with nickel-plated steel and added high stools and tables clad in in the same material. Across from the bar she had a card table and low seats upholstered in pink and blue-violet leather. Shiny hard metal plated forms with lots of reflective surfaces -- quite a difference from the more “traditional” styles of Art Deco.

There is no decoration, no colorful patterning, no soft textures, no pictures on the walls, or knick-knacks, rugs or wall coverings. She brought the new materials from the outside in transforming a private space and its insulated world into something modern and into something most people could afford.

A woman designing and presenting a bar at that time was ballsy.

It spoke to a different audience and it was acclaimed by the critics. Shortly afterward Le Corbusier hired her.

A true humanitarian, she was determined to reveal new ways of living. She created some of the most significant furniture designs of the 20th century not only aesthetically, but by providing better solutions that were also affordable for the middle class. Modernity was no longer exclusively for the wealthy.

So when the “It” girls are talked about today, and splashed across pages of glossy magazines, or followed on film driving about after slugging back five apple martinis, making soft porn movies or flashing unmentionables, let’s pause and think for a moment . . . these are our “It” girls.

Happy Birthday - October

These good people touched my life and influences me in some ways or another....and yes, they deserve a Happy Birthday greetings...... here online!

Sister Osang - September 13

Gian - October 23

Trixie - October 24

King - October 27

Leslie Gurl - October 29

Jerremy - October 29

John - October 31

Ahoy, Sailor... Will You Be My Valentine?

The thought of a handsome, brawny sailor away at sea for a long period of time lovingly hand-crafting a personal valentine for his sweetheart back home certainly brings dreamy romantic thoughts to my mind.

It has been said that nineteenth-century sailors made wooden boxes displaying an intricate array of beautiful little sea shells they collected from remote parts of the globe while on their travels. The boxes were octagonally shaped and built of Spanish cedar or sometimes mahogany, with a hinged glass lid. Sometimes they were two boxes hinged together. Many of these valentines incorporated some sentimental message written out in tiny shells. They could be shut and locked with a key in case a love note needed to be tucked away inside.

Ahhhh, imagine a burly sailor with Popeye forearms and strong calloused hands taking time each evening when he wasn’t on duty thoughtfully gluing the tiny seashells that he had meticulously gathered into a pleasing pattern for that special person back at home. Sometimes these patterns were further adorned with paper cutouts or bits of colored glass.
In order for a sailor to do this, he would need to carry with him things like cotton backing, colored paper -- usually pink -- glue, glass, small hinges and a list of other items. In those days, people used glue made from animal hide which would take hours to dry. Not very practical on a moving ship.
Hum. Sailors carved items like scrimshaws -- a tooth from a Sperm whale -- featuring intricate patterns of manly subject matter. There are over 100,000 species of shells found all over the world, and most of the shells used in these valentines are from the island of Barbados. It appears that many of these mementos had their origin there.

In the Caribbean, Barbados was a British colony. An important call for American and English ships during the nineteenth century. The beaches were littered with seashells. There was also a gift shop.

It sold all sorts of touristy gifts such as coral necklaces, broaches, shark bone walking sticks, dried fish jaws, and tortoise shell hair accessories. Years later, when collectors were taking their valentines in for repair, conservators discovered the Barbados newspaper under the shells used for padding and support.

In reality, sailors didn't make these valentines afterall. Most were made by the people of Barbados specifically for the souvenir trade which had its heyday from the 1830s to 1880s. These boxes range anywhere in size from eight to sixteen inches in diameter. Victorians were shell-crazy. Shells were incorporated into a variety of other items including picture frames, sewing boxes, wall hangings, floral decoupage and many other keepsakes.

These mementos, especially the valentines, have gained value and popularity in the past few decades. Today, they sell regularly at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, as well as on eBay and in a few antique shops. A modest single valentine 20 years ago sold for $350 to $600. It now sells for $3,500 to $8,500, while the price for a large double valentine has jumped to between $8,500 and $18,000. In July 2006, two double octagonal sailor’s valentines went up for auction. They both well exceeded their estimates. The first had shells and dried berries. On the left it had a geometric motif of roses and a heart; and on the right side, it repeated the geometric pattern and in the center it spelled out in little shells: "For My Mother." That sold for $24,000. The second one sold also had a geometric motif on both sides. On the left it had a central motif of an anchor, and on the right a large rose at the center. It sold for $31,200.

Regardless, most of us would prefer to think of that manly sailor on his ship with a tender heart.

Lipstick Anyone?

Last night I grabbed my pathetic nub of lipstick left over from the summer months. The color was "Enigma." I smeared it on my lips, leashed up my unruly terrier, and went out the door for our evening walk. Damn it! I thought. Enigma is a pink. We are well into autumn. A bordeaux color would be more appropriate. Or better yet, a good fire red. Why did I care? It was late at night and no one would see me. This got me thinking about lipsticks....
"A painted face is a false face, a true falsehood, not a true face."

The Puritan Thomas Tuke wrote in 1616 in his "Discourse Against Painting and Tincturing". He condemned makeup for creating a "false face." Many young women would make rouges and lip tints from household products. Even home-made remedies to clear up blotchy patches on the skin.

Starting in the 1960s, some women blamed male-dominated consumer industries for manipulating women into buying beauty products. They have a point. On the one hand, we generally like to look good. We hate getting whistled at, but we also hate it when we’re not given the look over. On the other hand, don’t we actually feel better after we put a little color on our face?
Did we buy into the needs that advertisers falsely created? Are we that superficial? Do we really believe in the promises of the anti-aging creams?

It takes time to put on all those serums and creams and eye reduction potions. The act of beautifying ourselves is really a lot of work. It is time consuming, narcissistic and absorbing. And expensive. We have to read the labels, experiment with what works and what doesn’t, and even visit our dermatologists to get a prescription for something promising us more miracles.

Why do we wear make-up anyway?

History shows despite adversities in life such as war, economic depression and social change, we still desire to look good. For whom? Women in jail color their hair with Kool-Aid, Nair their brows and rub deodorant all over their feet to soften their heels. They don’t do this for their visitors. They do it for themselves.
Women have always been the pioneers of the cosmetics industry. Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder, Mary Kay Ash… these women did not launch their companies to manipulate women. Women knew what they were buying. It is the ritual, the array of colors, the mastery of skill, sharing of knowledge, and the tiny compacts we lie to keep in our handbags. The acceptance of wearing makeup was no fad, but a way in which women wanted to show themselves to the public.
Cosmetic use became popular in the 19th century but many saw it as a mark for a clandestine woman. Lip and cheek rouge were considered scandalous. Only prostitutes wore makeup. The proper woman was to bite her lips and pinch their cheeks before greeting company.

Manet's 'Nana' of 1877 -- the glorification of self-adornment. Chicly extending her little finger as if to sip tea as she applies her lip color. This painting is of an immoral woman showing her process of adornment.

By the turn of the century, make-up was still frowned upon anyone other than a woman of the night or a music-hall performer. Husbands could even divorce their wives for wearing it.

The suffragette movement struggled to win the vote. They also fought for the right to wear red lipstick as a symbol of feminine defiance.
Inez Milholland Boissevain leading the suffrage procession on her white horse.
Washington, D.C., March 3, 1913.

Women who used cosmetics were called rebellious, uncontrollable and dangerous. 1920s flappers were condemned by some for wearing heavy eyeliners and bright lip and cheek colors. Stylish women begin tweezing their eyebrows and wearing black around the eyes.
In the following decade, Hollywood inspired standards for beauty. Most women want to look like movie idols. If we look good, we feel better. Despite the Depression, lipstick remained very affordable.

In 1938, the cosmetic firm Volupté introduced two new lipstick shades. One was called "Lady" and the other "Hussy." "Lady" was marketed toward the quieter woman. It had a soft mat finish. Mademoiselle magazine explained that this one was for The kind who preferred lighter shades, "smart clothes and tiny strands of pearls." "Hussy" on the other hand was a darker shade, "with a gleaming lustre" and peddled to the woman who liked to be "just a little bit shocking."

"Hussy" outsold "Lady" five to one. The names of these lipstick colors evoke moods. They were not branding the type of female. Female identities were once fixed, set by class, family lineage and social etiquette. It was all about to change.

Rosie the Riveter

By WWII, red lipstick is seen as a symbol of patriotism. Women were encouraged to wear make-up as they worked male jobs. Women defied hardship and they took pride in their appearance.

With post-war optimism comes a renewed emphasis on the family. There was a shortage of men. Women were told to try to look as beautiful as possible to catch a husband.

The 1960s arrive and Elizabeth Taylor stars in Cleopatra, 'Swinging London' style come to full bloom, and Twiggy wears false eyelashes.

The women's liberation movement emerges. There is a backlash against the concept of adorning oneself to please men. Women denounce makeup. Bras are burned and shaving their legs stops.

It doesn’t last long. Super-glam arrives in the 1980s. Vanity and decadence are celebrated. Expertly applied make-up symbolizes the high-maintenance grooming of the wealthy wife. Men in hair bands start donning makeup as well.

We hated being objectified in this video.
But how many of us paused and thought.. "excellent lipstick shade."

Honestly, did anyone find this manly?

In the 1990s women became more interested in finding their own natural beauty enhancing it with lighter, less visible formulas. Nude lipstick, natural muted palettes.

Now in this decade, we are going beneath the skin. Botox, collagen, facial rejuvenation, bleaching creams, tattooing makeup…

Do we do this for our husbands, boyfriends, or the younger handsome neighbor we discretely watch behind the blinds mow his yard?

In 1936 Vogue magazine conducted a survey. Nearly 100 percent of male respondents disapproved of noticeable makeup. If you ask most men today, they will respond the same.

Red has a subliminal message. And we know this. It suggests sexual arousal. It inspires awe and fear. Just as men are concerned about size, we are concerned about our own control.

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