While traveling my wife and I often stay in historical hotels. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries some interesting hotels were built as stops on railroad lines, the kind of place where Harvey Girls or other uniformed staff served you. Resort spa hotels were often built near natural features such as hot springs.
Many of these hotels closed during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Some have been renovated and reopened. The mineral resources of the western United States have generated boom-and-bust cycles that continue to this day. For example, Las Vegas, New Mexico, was once a wealthy mining and railroad community which had several hotels. The Castañeda, a mission-style Harvey House hotel, is now a decaying giant whose vacant rooms sleep silently only a few steps from the train station (the hotel was used in the film Red Dawn). A picturesque city, Las Vegas has been used in many films, especially in the days of silent Westerns. In another part of town the 1881 Plaza Hotel still operates (we’ve stayed there, and it‘s shown in the photo). The Plaza Hotel was used in the film No Country for Old Men).
Many of these hotels were built in boom periods and were furnished resplendently. These hotels were places where presidents, congressmen, and railroad and mining barons stayed, as well as famous entertainers. In some hotels the rooms are named for the film stars or presidents who stayed in them.
The present-day condition of such hotels varies from abandoned shells to five-star splendor (an example of the latter is the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs). We recently stayed in a historic resort hotel whose grandeur had faded a bit (I’ll leave it unnamed). There were echoes of its former majesty, as well as signs that times had changed. There were no bellhops, for example, uniformed or not, to the disappointment of one elderly couple. And the decor was sometimes slightly off—the new carpet in the dining room clashed with the upholstery.
During our stay there I noticed that the music heard in the lobby and dining room was 1940s big-band music, and I pondered why it is that Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and other singers of that era are so often heard as background music in upscale locations.
One reason might be language. When I phoned about a change in our reservation, I was told, “That won’t be no problem.” The double negative told me that some of the staff would be downscale. Perhaps the relatively urbane language of many big-band era song lyrics era helps hotels project some sense of sophistication. In contrast, the vernacular dialects used in many post-1950s lyrics might create a more commonplace ambiance. If you’re striving to create an elegant dining room experience, hearing Mick Jagger sing “I can’t get no satisfaction” might shift the diners’ moods in the wrong direction. (An even worse strategy would be Karaoke. We stopped to look at one beautiful old hotel, but there was an outdoor Karaoke event going on, which demolished the Victorian ambiance.)
In keeping with DeepGlamour’s recent hat party, I think hats have an oblique relevance. In the hotel where we were staying, when you looked at photographs of its glory days, you might notice that the guests in earlier decades frequently wore hats. And when you see photographs of singers like Frank Sinatra in his heyday, he is often wearing a hat and a tailored suit. Thus when patrons hear the music of that period, they think of a time in which many entertainers dressed with high-fashion elegance when they performed, and they are reminded of a time when high style was appreciated. In a 1996 interview, American-born fashion designer Tom Ford commented, “If I was ever going to become a good designer, I had to leave America. My own culture was inhibiting me. Too much style in America is tacky. It's looked down upon to be too stylish. Europeans, however, appreciate style....In fashion, you can really tell that America is descended from the Puritans.”
The only hat that I saw at the hotel was a baseball hat worn by an attractive, model-thin woman in a black, stretch tee and a great looking pair of khaki pants. The baseball hat created a fun look, though I couldn’t help thinking that a stylish fedora would have made her outfit look more hipster current. Then again, thinking of Tom Ford’s comments, perhaps she didn't want to look “too stylish.” Otherwise, the contrast between her appearance and her husband’s, who arrived a few moments later in trucker-like clothes, might have seemed comic—though probably not from her perspective.
[Photo of the Plaza Hotel used under the GNU Free Documentation License.]
After a crummy hotel spoiled their romantic getaway, James Lohan and Tamara Heber Percy didn’t just grumble to their friends or post nasty comments on a travellers website. They created their own guidebook for similar couples seeking seductive places to stay. And when nobody would publish it, they raised £180,000 and published the book themselves. It was an immediate hit.
Six years later, Lohan and Heber Percy are married and Mr & Mrs Smith is a well-established institution. From the original coffee-table guidebook featuring 41 hotels in the U.K. and Ireland, the company has expanded to cover the world, with five more books, an online directory or more than 500 hotels, and a membership base of 75,000.
“We handpick, personally visit, and then anonymously review every property in our collection. Our aim is to bring you a trusted insider guide, just like a good travel-savvy friend would,” says Heber Percy. (Once a reviewer has given some place a good report, the company does charge the hotel to be included.)
Along with well-known journalists and authors, reviewers include celebrities like Stella McCartney and Dita von Teese, who declared the Viceroy in Santa Monica exceedingly glamorous, indeed perhaps “the most fabulous hotel in Los Angeles.” (She did not, however, bring a Mr. Smith along for her weekend.)
Although still better known across the Atlantic, Mr & Mrs Smith is attracting American fans. “I have fallen in love, love, love with Mr & Mrs Smith,” gushes Lea Ann Fessenden of the L.A. Examiner. Whether you're planning a trip or merely fantasizing about one, the Mr & Mrs Smith website is an enticing place to start. (Check out their blog here.) We’re delighted to have Mr & Mrs Smith as our Hotel Week sponsor and to talk hotel glamour with Tamara Heber Percy.
DeepGlamour: What led you to start the company?
Tamara Heber Percy: When my husband and I were dating, we both led extremely busy lives. We were always on the lookout for special hotels to escape to, but no one seemed to know more than one or two – we knew the boutique-hotel movement was happening out there but we couldn’t find a guidebook we trusted. A few weekends away where the brochures failed to live up to their promises inspired us to create our own guide. After it sold 20,000 copies in the first three months, we realized we had to take it further. So here we are.
Hacienda de San Antonio, Mexico
DG: Why are you called Mr & Mrs Smith?
THP: Mr & Mrs Smith is the front-desk pseudonym couples use when they are having a naughty weekend away – it’s a very English expression but one that when explained to anyone else puts a smile on their face! I think we were the first to recognize that couples don’t go away for the weekend to do their knitting!Mr & Mrs Smith is based on the idea that a couple is sneaking away for a romantic weekend.
Winvian, Litchfield Hills
DG: How do you extend the weekend getaway idea from a relatively small area like the UK to a continent-sized country like the U.S., or to the whole world?
THP: Busy Manhattanites also need to escape from the stress and strain of city life – you guys just have to travel greater distances sometimes. You also get shorter holidays than the Brits so getting the hotel address right first time is even more important for you. The principle is the same whether you are planning a weekend away or a week’s holiday – you want somewhere you can feel instantly relaxed, somewhere stylish and special. Your holidays are so important that ending up somewhere disappointing can be devastating. The good news is that we’re stating to see new boutique hotels springing up no more than a three-hour drive for Manhattan, and we’re sure there’ll be more. In the last six months, for example, we’ve found André Balazs’s Sunset Beach in the Hamptons, the wonderful Wheatleigh in the Berkshires, and off-the-wall Winvian in the Litchfield Hills. In truth, we’ve extended our global scope beyond just weekends away, we now cover longer breaks and honeymoon escapes too – always with our focus on the romantic potential of a place.
Wheatleigh, The Berkshires
DG: Photographs of hotels are often glamorous and evocative. Can the hotel experience ever live up to the emotional expectations those photos create?
THP: Of course. Though we hope the images we use will inspire, we certainly don’t want them to mislead – a hotel photo should tell you immediately what the hotel has that makes you want to stay there, and your experience there should confirm that you were right in the first place to choose it. I can’t think of a single one of our hotels I’ve been to where I haven’t felt that the actual experience of staying there surpassed the pictures. The images get you excited; the stay should keep you that way.
Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
DG: There are many ways a hotel can be romantic, depending on the couple and their mood. What are some of your favorite examples?
THP: The views from Hacienda de San Antonio in Mexico are some of the most romantic on the planet – across coffee plantations to the Colima volcano in the background. Breathtaking.Honeymoon-perfect Jade Mountain in St Lucia, where each room has only three walls and is open to the air – private but unenclosed. (The views of the Pitons poking out of the ocean and the private infinity pools help up the romance stakes even more).I love the grounds at Hotel Endsleigh in Devon – on the banks of the River Tamar with its own arboretum – stunning English countryside made for romantic ramblings. The bedrooms at Blakes Hotel in London are romantic because of the designer’s attention to detail: luxurious fabrics, zillions of cushions – the quintessential luxe boudoir (although Gramercy Park in NYC does a pretty good job in the sumptuous bedroom department too).
Blakes Hotel, London
DG: What makes a hotel glamorous (as opposed to romantic)?
THP: Usually, the decor and style of service. It tends to be bolder, more striking – a bit ‘look at me I’m something, aren’t I?’ and more about the kind of clientele you’ll mix with there than squirreling yourselves away as a twosome. A romantic hotel can be a little more relaxed in style and softly spoken about its best features. It tends to let guests discover its charms rather than put them on show. Higher Westcott Farm – a four-room boutique B&B surrounded by wild Devon moorland – must be one of the most romantic places on the planet, but you wouldn’t call it glamorous. Both styles are great fun to experience depending on the occasion – our aim is to help you make the right choice for your mood.
The DG Dozen
1) DG: How do you define glamour?
An unquestionable, convincing, and inspiring level of confidence that creates a lasting impression. Nothing to do with money, all about mindset. I think this is applicable to everything: people, places, pashminas…
2) DG: Who or what is your glamorous icon?
Anouska Hempel – all her hotels radiate glamour; you feel glamorous by proxy just by staying in them. We interviewed her for our blog not long ago – an eye-opening experience:
3) DG: Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?
If glamour weren’t luxurious, it wouldn’t be glamour.
4) DG: Favorite glamorous movie?
5) DG: What was your most glamorous moment?
My wedding day at Ca’s Xorc Hotel in Mallorca.
6) DG: Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)?
My Cartier watch.
7) DG: Most glamorous place?
Ibiza – I grew up there, got married there, and go back whenever I can.
8) DG: Most glamorous job?
Something in Formula One.
9) DG: Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't.
Travel – after six years of doing it for a living, the gloss does wear off.
10) DG: Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized.
Campari and soda – my mum used to drink it in the 70s.
11) DG: Can glamour survive?
Yes, as long as it has a humble side to it.
12) DG: Is glamour something you're born with?
Not necessarily, but you do have to love it to have it.
1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett?Angelina
2) Paris or Venice?Paris
3) New York or Los Angeles?New York
4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace?Princess Grace
5) Tokyo or Kyoto?Tokyo
6) Boots or stilettos?Boots
7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau?Art Deco
8) Jaguar or Aston Martin?Aston Martin – but it has to be a DB7.
9) Armani or Versace?Versace.
10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour?Anna Wintour.
11) Champagne or single malt?Neither – I am a cocktail girl.
12) 1960s or 1980s? 1960s
[Hotel photos courtesy of Mr & Mrs Smith. Spanish Grand Prix photo by Flickr user Mr. Mystery under Creative Commons license. Aston Martin DB7 V12 Vantage by Flickr user The Car Spy under Creative Commons license.]
Virginia's post about the hotel industry’s perpetual promises to “bring glamour back” reminded me of my recent trip to Miami—a city that was originally built, and then renovated, with glamour in mind.
To my eye, though, the city is full of reminders that glamour is often only skin-deep. At first glance, Miami is gorgeous. The people are fabulous, wearing dramatic (and tiny) clothes that would never fly in most American cities, and the architecture harkens back to a long-ago era when cocktail hour started promptly at 5 p.m. and jeans weren’t considered acceptable dinner attire.
Look closer, though, and the glamour fades away. As I walked around the city, I kept thinking of that line from Clueless, “She’s a full-on Monet. From far away, it’s OK, but up close, it's a big old mess.” “Big old mess” might be an exaggeration, but looking closely at glamorous people and places often reveals the flaws and strain under the façade.
The photo above was taken by my friend (and future sister-in-law), Marcail, during our trip—it’s one of the banquettes at LIV, the nightclub at the Fontainebleu hotel. Marcail took the shot to remember the club's “atmosphere,” but I think it tells a bigger story about Miami and about a lot of what we perceive as “glamorous.” Glamour is often shiny on the surface, but marred with rips and tears that expose the rough underneath.
On a banquette, the tears are literal and in a building, they might be dingy paint or scuffed floors—all easily fixed. But when it’s a glamorous persona that comes under scrutiny, the discrepancy between the surface and what’s beneath is sometimes more serious—think Marilyn Monroe or Britney Spears a few years ago. In those cases, maintaining the glamorous image adds strain that widens the gap between façade and reality even more.
[Photo credit: Marcail Moran, who says that she and her stilettos are at least partially responsible for one of those rips.]
Glamour is fragile. It tends to vanish with too much time or scrutiny. In response, people are always promising to “bring glamour back” (or declaring that “glamour is back”). Such promises are particularly common in three industries: fashion, airlines, and hotels. In airlines, they’re never fulfilled. In fashion, they often are. In hotels, there are more misses than hits.
Take the subject of this 2005 ad, the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the World Trade Center, the curved façade takes a good photo. But as a lived experience, the hotel offers little more than any other nice Hyatt. It does not inspire longing. Remodeling and a new spa did not change the hotel’s cultural resonance.
In fact, preservationists are now fighting plans to demolish the Century Plaza to make way for a complex that would include two mixed-use towers and make Century City more pedestrian-friendly. The arguments for preservation implicitly acknowledge that the hotel has little emotional or aesthetic importance today. “It is among the purest representations of 1960s Los Angeles planning and architectural philosophy we have left,” writes the LAT's Christopher Hawthorne--a back-handed compliment. The WaPost's Philip Kennicott called it “a hard building to love.”
Hotel glamour isn’t about what celebrities or presidents have frequented the building. It’s about the yearnings the hotel conjures in its audience, the escape and transformation a visit promises to provide. No one understood that better than Morris Lapidus, the architect best known for designing the Fountainebleu and Eden Roc hotels in Miami Beach. He wrote:
I was convinced that just as a store had to be designed to make people want to buy what the merchant had to sell, so a hotel had something to sell also. What was that something? A home away from home? Absolutely not! Who wants a homey feeling on a vacation? The guests want to find a new experience—forget the office, the house, the kids, the bills. Anything but that good old homey feeling that the old hotels used to see with a comfortable bed, a nice rocker on the veranda, a good solid nourishing meal. Not on your life! We were coming out of the war and the postwar period. People wanted fun, excitement, and all of it against a background that was colorful, unexpected; in short, the visual excitement that made people want to buy—in this case, to buy the tropic luxury of a wonderful vacation of fun in the sun. A sense of freedom from the humdrum lives the guests had. A feeling of getting away from it all.
Lapidus was famous for features like the “stairway to nowhere,” designed to give guests a platform from which to show off their finery. He made guests feel like stars. “Lapidus understood that a hotel lobby is a theater for amateur narcissists,” writes Tom Austin in Travel & Leisure. Though critics denounced them as tacky, to their intended audience, Lapidus’s hotels epitomized glamour. (For an excellent analysis of glamour in mid-century Miami Beach, see architectural historian Alice T. Friedman’s 2000 Harvard Design Magazine article, “Glamour, Class, and Architecture in Miami Beach”.)
In succeeding decades, that glamour dissipated. (The Fountainebleu’s builder went bankrupt in 1977.) The nouveau riche for whom the hotels were designed got old. Younger generations had different aspirations and ideals of luxury. But, after a $1 billion renovation, the Fountainebleu reopened last November. “The glamour is back at the Fontainebleau,” declared the announcer at the hotel's opening celebration, which doubled as last year’s Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Is the glamour really back? Unfortunately, I haven’t persuaded any editors to fund a reporting trip to decide for myself. Matt Rudd of the London Times makes a good case that the hotel is just too big for glamour: “In order to fill anything like 1,500 rooms, you need thousands of people, and they can’t all be Frank Sinatra.” Glamour requires mystery and exclusivity--and a lot fewer truck-parts conventions.
It is possible to bring glamour back to a hotel that has lost it, but “glamour” can’t just mean luxury or a history of association with dead celebrities. I thought the Palmer House in Chicago might have made it work, by playing up its architectural appeal, but complaints about small rooms and mini-beds suggest that modern standards may conflict with historic floor plans. (I have no first-hand experience.)
The https://www.google.com/url?q=h...Riviera in Palm Springs has had more success. It’s got the luxury and dead celebs, plus the Hollywood Regency decor that sometimes gets called “modern glamour.” But what makes the Riviera’s glamour convincing is the hotel’s intimacy, which makes guests feel like they’ve entered a special world. and, most important to me, the occasion of my stay there: the (simulcast of the) 2009 TED Conference, which features (as one blogger put it) “the glamour of intellectual power wrapped in exclusivity.” Plus, you can’t beat the Riviera’s restroom signs.
[“Stairway to nowhere” photo by Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., public domain Library of Congress collection. Riviera restroom sign photo by Virginia Postrel.]
A month or so ago, I started to write a post on sorority glamour. At first, it seemed easy enough, especially since I spent several years donning “pin attire” (something dressier than a sweatshirt and jeans) for Monday night meetings and shopping for formal dresses that could stand up to beer stains. Sororities aren’t just about the clothes (and the parties those clothes are for) but some of the glamour to be found in those institutions is definitely related to dressing up. In that respect, sororities bridge the gap between the high school prom and the board rooms and charity galas that loom after graduation.
But glamour is more than just trappings – otherwise there’d be no blog called Deep Glamour. In an effort to figure out what lies beneath the formal dresses and little gold sorority pins, I dug out a few books on the subject to see what they had to say. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a whole lot. In Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, a very honest look at life as a member of a sorority at a big southern school, author and undercover sorority girl Alexandra Robbins used the words “glamour” and “glamorous” exactly zero times each. Same goes for Inside Greek U. by Alan D. DeSantis.
Then I moved on to Google and Flickr, searching for “sorority and glamour,” and similar variations on that theme. Most of what I found was designed either to mock ditzy sorority girls or to capitalize on their image as, shall we say, morally casual. Or, as in the case of the movie Sorority Row, which opens tomorrow, to do both, while a serial killer chases the girls around campus. But no serious discussion could be found.
So finally, I went straight to the source, asking the opinions of a bunch of women I know who were in sororities during college. Finally, I got some real answers about the role of glamour in Greek life.
According to my friends – and my own experiences back this up – it’s all about the mystery. There’s something fascinating and exciting about a group that’s got secrets and rituals at its core, and a hundred-plus years of history to back them up. On top of that, the exclusivity factor, though it draws ire from the anti-Greek crowd, keeps the organization’s secrets just that – secret.
Secret rituals and codes built on long-standing, somewhat mysterious traditions - these are the things that sell us on books like The Da Vinci Code (well, these and danger), and they’re also what drive thousands of college kids to sign up for rush every year.
All that said, we can’t forget the clothes. Formal dresses and pin attire might be simply the superficial manifestation of sorority life, but when we start learning about glamour and deciding what it means to us, personally, we have to start someplace – and usually, we start with the outifts. Once we're dressed, then we can worry about secrets and codes.
["Sorority Row" poster from Summit Entertainment. I wish I had a picture of my own sorority house, but all of my pictures of the house also include a bunch of squealing girls - squealing girls who are now doctors and lawyers and scientists, and who definitely don't want their college pictures posted all over the internet.]
The deadline for Annie Leibovitz to settle her $24 million debt to Art Capital Group has come and gone without public comment from either party. But that doesn’t mean Leibovitz’s problems have disappeared, only that no one is talking to reporters.
Amid the mass of commentary on the photographer’s financial troubles (including Andrew Goldman’s definitive New York narrative of how she got in such a mess), an interesting theme emerged. If Leibovitz forfeits the copyrights to her work—part of the collateral she put up to borrow all that money—what might the new owners do with them?
My hope is that they’ll make reprint rights easily and cheaply available to authors working on books about glamour. (I’m particularly interested in this photo.) But the speculation involves a much larger market.
“Until now, Ms. Leibovitz has closely guarded the right to reproduce her photographs,” the NYT’s Allen Salkin wrote. “But should she lose control of her archive, her famous portraits of Whoopi Goldberg, Jack Nicholson and the like may one day be found on postcards in Times Square.”
Losing the copyrights, wrote the LAT’s Paul Lieberman, “could result in the outright sale of her photo copyrights to a party who might decide it’s better to market her images in lots of 1,000, or on postcards, not the fine-art limited-edition approach she has embraced.” And in a Sunday Times piece cobbled together from pieces of American journalism, the unbylined author referred to “the worst-case scenario” in which “her classic portraits of the likes of Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper may end up on postcards.” (Emphasis added.)
What’s so bad about postcards?
One argument is that postcard printing is usually less than ideal and therefore makes the photo look worse than the artist intended. Some of Leibovitz’s photos are already available as postcards, however, as the photo of the boxed set above demonstrates; singletons are plentiful on Ebay and also available on specialized sites.
Besides, postcards aren’t a substitute for fine-art printing. They’re made for an entirely different market, one prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single picture. Berenice Abbott’s photos of New York, particularly Nightview, have become iconic, and literal, “postcard clichés,” but collectors still buy original prints. (And let’s not even talk about Ansel Adams.)
What’s especially interesting about the objection to Leibovitz postcards is that her famous portraits, like this one of the pregnant Demi Moore, were originally made for mass-market magazines printed in large quantities on relatively cheap paper with type surrounding the portrait. The difference between an Annie Leibovitz photo in Vanity Fair and an Annie Leibovitz photo on a hypothetical Times Square postcard would be noticeable, but it’s not exactly the difference between The Birth of Venus on the walls of the Uffizzi and The Birth of Venus on the corner tabacchi’s souvenir rack.
The postcard problem—which may or may not be something Leibovitz herself is concerned about—suggests that the value of art, particularly of photography, lies in its physical scarcity. Postcards are just too cheap and common. Unlike magazines, which have limited circulation, they keep getting printed as long as the demand is there.
Now there is, of course, an economic calculation to be made by whoever owns the rights to an image. What sort of licensing will maximize revenue? That's a pragmatic question that requires some market research and educated guesses.
But for artists and critics, postcards ought to be unalloyed good news. They enlarge the audience for the image and embed it more lastingly in the culture. Most portrait photographers can only dream of creating an icon like Alberto Kordo’s photo of Che Guevera or Sam Shaw’s photo of Marilyn Monroe with her white skirt flying up.
Putting Annie Leibovitz’s photos on widely distributed postcards would provide a tough artistic test: Can these images hold up as icons? How much does the celebrity of their subjects matter to their appeal? Does Leibovitz’s composition rely too much on gimmicks? Take a look through some galleries (here, here, and here) and see what you think.
Tuesday, September 8 is the last day to order your copy of Kate Hahn's witty romp through fashion history, Forgotten Fashion (excerpted here and here), signed by Kate and illustrator Andraé Gonzalo. Each copy is $9.95, plus postage.
10. Though in recent years it has come to symbolize the ubiquity of the middle-market status-seeking known as masstige, Tiffany blue has an undeniable place in the pantheon of the most glamorous colors. The color was introduced on the famous boxes not long after the company’s founding. (In fact, the custom robin’s-egg hue has the same Pantone number as that year: 1837.) Charles Lewis Tiffany shrewdly increased the prestige of both company and color with his famous rule: that no Tiffany box could bought, and that it could never leave the store without containing a purchase.
9. The inky, bloody red of Chanel’s Vamp nail color should be coming back into vogue right about now, with our culture currently in the thrall of a deep vampire fixation. Immortalized on the nails of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, and going on to sell $1 million in the first year alone, Vamp became an iconic color symbolizing a slightly dangerous, edgy form of Fin de Siècle glamour.
8. The color of deep seas, dark sapphires, and the city sky over a night on the town, midnight blue stands for an elegant, nocturnal glamour. It’s also more masculine than many others. Midnight blue is the only respectable alternative to black for a man’s evening suit, introduced in the 1920s by the Duke of Windsor because it was more photogenic than black. It proves to be equally camera-friendly on red carpet gowns; witness exhibits A (Heidi Klum), B (Marion Cotillard), and C (Anne Hathaway).
7. The color of precious metals and mirrors, platinum evokes old Hollywood glamour. It calls to mind the films of the silver screen and smoke trailed in lazy tendrils from endlessly burning cigarettes. It’s the color of the light that shimmers in chiaroscuro portraits of 40s starlets, the hue of a hit record, the tint of the boldest blond. Impervious to tarnish, platinum is always radiant, brightening up diamonds and bringing the gloss of luxury to whatever it touches.
6. Synonymous with old luxury, Hermès orange is an unlikely hue for glamour. Orange is normally associated with a sunny energy (and my other specialty, joy), but tempered with burnt caramel it becomes a sophisticated signature color. Originally, Hermès boxes were cream-colored with a gold lining. Pretty, but hardly as distinctive as the current hue. Legend says the color was chosen during World War II, when the printers ran out of stock for boxes. The only color left was an unpopular orange, and when Hermès decided to take the entire stock off their hands to prevent future shortages, the color stuck. In the 1960s, three Hermès cousins were leaving a luncheon when they noticed some ladies carrying their bright orange bags, standing out in a crowd of thousands. “We absolutely must keep that color!” they all agreed, and the rest is history. Of course, the distinction of luxury is not always welcome in a recession. Recently, the media has been reporting a trend towards "brown bag couture", where stores including Hermès have been offering plain bags to allow their customers to leave the store unmarked by their excesses of consumption.
5. The luminous, sparkling shade of the world’s most celebratory libation, the color champagne is a translucent wonder. Like liquified gold, it glitters and reflects, shimmers and glows. Champagne brings a certain opulence to horses, roses, satin, and diamonds. In fashion, it manages to suggest skin without being racy. In interiors, it brings a cool incandescence to garden variety beige. In any context, it’s a novel alternative to white that balances restrained elegance with joie de vivre.
4. “The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography,” said Fellini, and in its nacreous white surface we find a world of mystery. The iridescence of pearl white epitomizes many aesthetic features of glamour: elusive depth, richness, reflectivity and luster. Like the looks of many glamorous icons, it is widely coveted but difficult to replicate, though that hasn’t stopped paint manufacturers, cosmetics companies, and textile designers from trying, often with beautiful yet imperfect results.
3. Color of royals and the occult, deep purple has perhaps the longest history of any glamorous color. Purple dyes date back nearly four thousand years to the Minoan civilization in Crete, and were produced by extracting mucus from certain species of mollusks. The dye was extremely costly to produce; just to get 1.5 grams took over 12,000 shellfish, which explains why it became the definitive royal color throughout the ancient world, including Egypt, Persia, and Rome. Purple became democratized with the discovery of aniline synthetic dyes in the 1850s, but its glamour has never faded.
2. No color could be more intensely effective at focusing the attention than a pure, scarlet red. Most glamorous in small pops — a Dita von Teese pout, a trenchcoat lining, or the soles of a pair of Louboutin stilettos — red is dramatic, sensual, and intense. Red is also easier to get away with than you think. With enough confidence no one looks bad in a red dress, and there are dozens of websites designed to help you choose the right red lipstick for your coloring. Red was also all over the runways for fall, so there’s no time like the present to pluck up your courage and brave this boldest of hues.
1. Little need be said about black, the essential non-color of fashion, mystery, and rock and roll. Since the little black dress was invented by Coco Chanel in the 1920s, black has never wavered in its position as the sartorial equivalent of oxygen. Its purity allows us to focus on form with no distractions; cut, draping, and fit carry the concept. Black is slimming, timeless, and endlessly relevant. It transcends context. It is elegant everywhere, from boardroom to beach, from dawn until well past dusk. Unlike most attributes of value, its desirability is not compromised by ubiquity. Perhaps this is because black is so adaptable, reinforcing without contradiction the full range of glamorous identities. Black manages to be both understated and dramatic, traditional and contemporary, mainstream and edgy, runway and real world. It is not subject to diktats of seasonality or the whims of fashion. Though many a trend claims to supersede it, when it comes to glamour one thing is clear: black will always be the new black.
P.S.: This proved to be a hotly debated topic! A few runners up:
Rich, sophisticated chocolate brown
Gold, warm and radiant
The deep swirling green known as malachite
Any others? What's your most glamorous color?
[Images: Tiffany box courtesy of Tiffany & Co., Chanel Vamp nail color courtesy of Chanel, Hermes box courtesy of Hermes. All others via Flickr used under the Creative Commons license, in order: Pesterussa, puss_in_boots, chrischapman, amboo who?, VampzX_23, luca pedrotti, Danielo_Bolo.]
At Deep Glamour's first birthday party, fabulous hats weren't the only glamorous accessories - the drinks served were pretty amazing, as well (if we do say so ourselves).
Thanks to decidedly unglamorous insurance and licensing issues, we weren't able to serve any alcohol at the event. That meant no delicate flutes of champagne, no swirling snifters of brandy, and no martinis - shaken or stirred.
Fortunately, there's no rule that says that drinks have to be boozy to be fabulous. Enter the "mocktail." I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of the term - I think it's silly, at best. Plus, most mocktails I've come into contact with have been more appropriate for an eight-year old's birthday party than for an evening with adults.
But it doesn't have to be that way. When they're built on the right foundation, non-alcoholic drinks can be just as sophisticated as their 100 proof counterparts. Creating glamorous drinks is simply a matter of focusing on the basics: color, texture, movement, and balanced taste.
Much of champagne's allure is locked up in the bubbles - club soda can add the same effervescence. Certain juices (including pineapple and pomegranate, which we used, thanks to two of our sponsors, Dole and POM Wonderful) echo the rich colors of good wine or Scotch. A few dried blueberries or cranberries at the bottom of a glass are as elegant a garnish as any olive or onion twist.
And then there's the power of the name. In keeping with the theme, our drinks were named after hats - the "POM Pillbox" and the "Pineapple Panama." We borrowed the alliterative approach from the golden age of the cocktail, with its Singapore Slings and Moscow Mules.
Want to drink like the glamorous, with all of the elegance, none of the hangover? Here are our recipes:
1 part pomegranate juice
2 parts ginger ale
2-3 small pieces of candied ginger, chopped just a little
Put the ginger in the bottom of the glass and top with the POM juice, then the ginger ale. Stir and serve.
2 parts pineapple juice
1 part cranberry juice
1 part sparkling water
Pour the pineapple juice in the glass first, then top with the cranberry juice and sparkling water. Give the whole thing a stir to swirl the juices, and the colors.
And, just for good measure, a couple additional drink recipes we weren't able to include at the evening's bar.
2 parts lemonade
1 part blueberry juice
1 part sparkling water
5-10 dried blueberries
Place the blueberries in the bottom of the glass and top with the juices, then add the sparkling water. Stir and serve. The dried blueberries dress this drink up.
2 part lemonade
3 parts sparkling water
1 mint sprig
Place the mint in the bottom of the glass and cover with the lemonade and water. Stir, muddling the mint leaves a bit, to release the leaves' natural oils, and serve. This recipe also works with iced tea - both versions smell great and look pretty and summery.
[Photo of the POM Pillbox by Kit Pollard. DG bartender mixing POM Pillbox by Karol Franks from DeepGlamour Flickr pool.]
This little guy seems to have no lack of confidence, but many of us feel a bit overwhelmed when faced with the supposedly simple task of blow-drying our hair. The blow dryer too often seems like a tool designed to be used by multi-armed Shivas or at least third parties with professional training.
Help is on the way: Kimberly Clo's DIY DVD, Now You Know How... To Blow Dry Your Hair, which offers step-by-step instructions in what one reviewer calls Clo's "unpretentious delivery and warm, soothing Earth Mother presence." The DVD retails for $39.95 (cheap, compared to regular professional blowouts), but one lucky DG reader can win a free copy. To enter, just send the following message from your Twitter account:
RT @deepglamour: #Win Now You Know How...To Blow Dry Your Hair DVD #giveaway #contest RT to enter
Winners will be selected using Random.org. Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, September 14, 2009.
[Boy with hair dryer by Flickr user redjar under Creative Commons license.]