What is Glamour?



  1. An attractive or or exciting quality that makes certain people or certain things seem exciting.
    Synonyms: allure, attraction, charm, fascination, captivation, romance, mystique, exoticism
  2. Enchantment, magic

Recently, I was given a beautiful new coat. It’s almost full-length, with a nipped in waist, a full skirt and a fur collar (faux, obviously). Sometimes I feel like a kid in a party dress and spend my time spinning round and watching the skirt flare out around me. But at other times, I feel like an ultimate glamour puss in it. Standing in the fog outside work the other night, I sent David a message to tell him that the combo of coat, fog and half-darkness made me feel like the femme fatale in an old detective noir film. He was amused, and the chat we had about it got me thinking. What is glamour anyway? What actually makes you glamorous?

The dictionary definition of glamour sounds about right to me. There is an undefinable ‘quality’ that makes one glamorous, I think. I had a think back to people in my life I view as glamorous, and tried to unstick why that is. As a kid, I was always fascinated by the idea of glamour, and what I thought was ‘grown-up’. I don’t really remember being one of those kids who tried on my mum’s shoes (ironic, considering my shoe obsession as an adult) but I was always curious about the contents of her make-up bag. A red lip still feels glam to me. Long nails were always something that seemed glamorous to me too. My great-aunt always had immaculate false nails, and I have vivid memories of being handed things and told “Open this for me, darling, my nails.” I may or may not now frequently hand things to David because my long (real) nails prevent me opening them. I couldn’t give them up though. They make me feel chicer than I actually am. As children, we understand glamour as something intriguing, and we see it in our favourite adults, and wish for it ourselves. Whether its me and the nails, or my young cousin who wanted nothing more than hair long enough to tie into a ponytail. I know kids who are fascinated by painted nails, by heeled shoes, by handbags…

But what about adult me? I still love long nails, long hair and make-up. I feel glamorous in retro styles, in dresses and heels, in good lingerie. Lizzie, of The Girl Who Cried Fashion, is someone I think is very glamorous. I’ve never seen her looking anything less than fantastic. She is, or at least appears to be, the sort of woman who is well-dressed in a well put together outfit even if she is lounging at home with a hangover. When we worked together, our regular meetings always left me in awe of her somewhat. Our morning meeting would see me tired, dressed in whatever was clean, usually with no make-up on, main-lining caffeine. Liz would have been up early, been to the gym before work and still found time for well-groomed hair, a full face of make-up and a chic outfit. The woman is class personified.

I don’t think glamour is all ‘look’ though. Glamour is in confidence, in the way you carry yourself. Glamorous women are graceful, elegant and a little bit mysterious. They’re women who dress well, but not showily, who know things about wine or good food, who are well-mannered and intelligent. But mostly I think we focus on appearance when we think about glamour. Put the word glamorous into Google image search and you get back pictures of old Hollywood beauties, high heeled shoes, evening gowns, immaculate heavy make-up, lingerie, cocktails and jewellery.

Why is it though that so many things that are seen to be glamorous are impractical? When I’m complaining my shoes hurt my feet, or I trip over the ends of my own coat going up the steep stairs to my flat, or I can’t open a tin because of my nails, I do feel a bit ridiculous. What weird brain-washing has made me idolise these things and want them, instead of a nice sensible pair of trainers? Is glamour just more beauty standards that we should be questioning? How do we decide which parts of it we do because we enjoy them, and what we do because we feel we should?