Glamour (presentation)

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Lana Turner was considered to be a glamorous star.[1]
Art deco, as seen here on the Chrysler Building in Midtown Manhattan, is often characterised as glamorous.[2]

In the field of cultural studies, glamour, or glamor, is the impression of attraction or fascination that a particularly luxurious or elegant appearance creates, an impression which intensifies reality. Typically, a person, event, location, technology, or product such as a piece of clothing can be glamorous or add glamour. "Glamour" originally referred to a magic spell, an illusion said to be cast by witches.

Virginia Postrel says that for glamour to be successful it nearly always requires sprezzatura—an appearance of effortlessness, and to appear distant—transcending the everyday, to be slightly mysterious and somewhat idealised, but not to the extent it is no longer possible to identify with the person.[3] Glamorous things are neither opaque, hiding all, nor transparent showing everything, but translucent, favourably showing things.[4]

The early Hollywood star system in particular specialised in Hollywood glamour where they systematically glamorised their actors and actresses.[3]

Glamour can be confused with a style, which is adherence to a particular school of fashion, or intrinsic beauty; whereas glamour can be external and deliberate.


"Glamour" originally referred to a magic spell, an illusion said to be cast by witches. In the late 19th century terminology, a non-magical item used to help create a more attractive appearance gradually became known as 'a glamour'.[3]

Late in the 19th century, the common meaning shifted to being applied to ordinary objects and jewellery without connotations of supernatural, merely upon the effect that it has on appearance. This is a sense used in this article and to some extent is the way that it was used by the early Hollywood system.

In modern usage glamour is often confused with style or female beauty; but they may be considered to be distinct, although glamour may give the appearance of beauty or present as a personal style.

An Aston Martin DB5 as seen in Goldfinger. Expensive items are often part of a glamorous lifestyle.


Many forms of architecture employ glamorous motifs to enhance the appearance of what may be otherwise mundane buildings. The Art Deco style is generally considered to be a glamorous one.[2]


The "Golden Age" of the glamour in Hollywood was the 1930s and 1940s, following the Great Depression and its aftermath.[5]

"Glamour is the result of chiaroscuro, the play of light on the landscape of the face, the use of the surroundings through the composition, through the shaft of the hair and creating mysterious shadows in the eyes. In Hollywood, stars as far apart as Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth and Dolores del Río, own and acquire glamor, technology and willingness to refine the beauty of its own... Are indecipherable magic of the cinema, substance of the dreams of a generation and the admiration of the following meeting."

— filmmaker Josef von Sternberg[6]

Hollywood studios presented their female stars in designer gowns and exquisite jewelry,[7] both on screen and in carefully orchestrated occasions for publicity. Joan Crawford is quoted to have said, "I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford, the movie star."[8]

Photography was shot in rooms that had been specially painted to flatter the skin tone of the actors and actresses, and attention was paid to hair and clothes.[3] Notably this was successfully done with:


Glamour photography is the photographing of a fashion model with the emphasis on the model and the model's sexuality and allure; with any clothing, fashion, products or environment contained in the image being of minor consideration. Photographers use a combination of cosmetics, lighting and airbrushing techniques to produce the most physically appealing image of the mode possible.

See also[edit]

  • Beauty, attractiveness
  • Celebutante, seeking and using fame for fame's sake
  • Dandy, a low-class person wearing typical high-class clothing
  • Diva, theatre, cinema and music stardom
  • Elegance, simple grace and dignified propriety
  • Glam rock, a type of music where the musicians used outrageous glamours such as platform shoes and outrageous hairstyles
  • Glamour photography, photography which shows a model, often nude or seminude
  • Sprezzatura, to appear as without effort
  • Style, dressing according to a school of thought


  1. ^ "50 Of The Most Glamorous Old Hollywood Actresses". Silver Petticoat Review. 13 November 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  2. ^ a b Fulford, Robert (13 September 2003). "Art Deco's glamour: Art Deco borrowed from the style of machines. The Deco artists loved surfaces that glittered, surfaces of glass, silver, steel, lacquer, then chromium and Bakelite". Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "TED conference Virginia Postrel".
  4. ^ "The Gilded Age". The New York Times. 2004-10-10. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  5. ^ "Zapata, Janet. "The democratization of glamour", Antiques". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-05-30.
  6. ^ [1]Buena suerte viviendo:Dolores del Río
  7. ^ "Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen", Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  8. ^ Khvan, Olga. "MFA Shows Off Allure, Manipulation of 'Hollywood Glamour'", Boston Magazine, September 9, 2014

Further reading[edit]

  • Joseph Rosa, Phil Patton, Virginia Postrel, and Valerie Steele (2004). Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. ISBN 9780300106404.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Stephen Gundle (2002). "Hollywood Glamour and Mass Consumption in Postwar Italy". In Rudy Koshar (ed.). Histories of Leisure. Berg Publishers. pp. 337–360. ISBN 9781859735251.
  • Réka C. V. Buckley and Stephen Gundle (2000). "Fashion and Glamour". In Nicola White; Nicola Joanne White; Ian Griffiths (eds.). The Fashion Business. Berg Publishers. pp. 37–54. ISBN 9781859733592.
  • Jeffrey Richards (1984). "Stars". The Age of the Dream Palace. Routledge & Kegan Paul PLC. pp. 157–158. ISBN 0-7100-9764-6.