DG Q&A: Stephen G. Bloom On The Allure Of Pearls

The DG Dozen

1) How do you define glamour? Feeling very cool in a tuxedo.

2) Who or what is your glamorous icon? Miranda Priestly

3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity? Is the Pope Catholic?

4) Favorite glamorous movie? Hands down: Breakfast At Tiffany's

5) What was your most glamorous moment? Sipping cocktails in the grand, glass-ceiling lobby of the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville December 18, 2009, with our dog Hannah lounging on a Persian carpet. The scene would have made Scott and Zelda proud.

6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)? A pressed linen handkerchief (inside my antique leather handkerchief carrying case).

7) Most glamorous place? Shanghai

8) Most glamorous job? My very brief career as press secretary to the Mayor of San Francisco (it lasted 71 days).

9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't. Perfume. Being a foreign correspondent.

10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized. Spending a month writing at The MacDowell Colony, the oldest artist’s colony in America. They deliver a gourmet lunch in a picnic basket to your cabin every day.

11) Can glamour survive? Yes, but it’ll take on a different form as we get more and more casual.

12) Is glamour something you're born with? No, but looks are.

EITHER/OR

1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? Catwoman’s pouty lips still spook me, and Cate’s bony hips and teeny shoulders scare me. Anyone for Maria Bello?

 2) Paris or Venice? Paris. Impossible to get away from the legions of lost tourists in the City of Canals.

3) New York or Los Angeles? Definitely New York, although LA’s weather beats New York’s any day.

4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Totally Grace.

5) Tokyo or Kyoto? Kobe.

6) Boots or stilettos? Stilettos (What straight guy wouldn’t prefer ’em ?)

7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Deco. Absolutely.

8) Jaguar or Aston Martin? A.M., The Spy Who Loved Me’s fab fav.

9) Armani or Versace? So très yesterday. Long live the new kings and queens: Narciso Rodriquez, Azzedine Alaia, Naeem Kahn, Thakoon Panichgul, Maria Pinto, Maria Cornejo, Tracy Feith, Peter Soronen, Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo

10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? Diana for the ages.

11) Champagne or single malt? MacAllan single malt is nectar from the gods. If you can afford the 18-year, go for it. Better: MacAllan 25.

12) 1960s or 1980s? ’80s despite Reagan and Bush I. RIP go-go boots and plastics.

13) Diamonds or pearls? C’mon!

14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell? Project Runway babe Heidi Klum rocks my world. Auf Wiedersehen to the rest.

15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig? The one and only.

[The Girl with Pearl Earring from Wikimedia Commons. Pearl photos by Stephen Bloom. Barbara Bush portrait from the Library of Congress. The Obamas dancing by at the Governors Ball by Pete Souza, from The White House Flickr stream.]

The Glamour And Peril Of Getting Gifts

In a 1993 article in the American Economic Review, Wharton economist Joel Waldfogel estimated the “deadweight loss of Christmas,” arguing that “holiday gift-giving destroys between 10 percent and a third of the value of the gifts.” That loss is basically the difference between what givers pay to buy the gifts and what recipients would be willing to pay for the same items. Waldfogel has now developed his argument into an adorably packaged little book called Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays. Here’s an excerpt from chapter one, which you can read in full here):

When the day arrives, families—and extended families—gather around a tree or a hearth or a menorah to exchange holiday gifts. Kids squeal in delight as they open their dolls and trucks. With young children especially, the gifts matter less than the ritual of ripping off wrapping paper and bows. Teenagers feign surprise—for grandma’s benefit—and register actual approval for the gifts they specifically requested. They roll their eyes at the music and movies you buy them. Because you’ve raised them well, they manage a smile for grandma’s gifts. What kid doesn’t need a candle? But the fabricated smiles aren’t limited to the teens. The adults all arrange their faces into expressions of pleasure as they unwrap items they would never buy for themselves. “A cribbage board? You shouldn’t have,” we tell our mothers-in-law. Indeed

O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi is a tale of another sort of deadweight loss. I’ve always hated it for the cruel joke the author plays on the characters, doubly so since he declares their gifts a model of wisdom rather than heartbreak. How can that outcome be good? Everyone is worse off! Even as a child, I thought a bit like an economist.

But O. Henry did perceive one thing correctly: that the characters’ gifts were at least proportionate to each other, and each was—and was perceived as—an expression of great love. Imagine how much worse it would have been for Della to have sold her hair only to receive an ordinary tin of tea in exchange. (Diet Coke hadn’t yet been invented).

Cash, the favored alternative of Scroogy economists, lacks the glamorous promise of perceptively fulfilling an unarticulated longing. (Scrooge, of course, did not give cash. He was too stingy.) It also lacks the license to enjoy yourself that comes with a gift chosen by someone else. Cash is fungible. You may use it for something routine or responsible rather than something fun.

But suppose you’ve said you want the cash for a particular purpose, to get something you want but couldn’t (or wouldn’t) buy without the presents. Your friends and family could chip in to fulfill your wish, and you’d feel at least a moral responsibility to use their gifts the way you said you would. It would be just like cash, but it would feel different: a little more sentimental, a little less crass. Plus instead of, say, four OK presents for $25 each, you could get one great $100 present. It might not be glamorous, but it could be fun—and a lot less disappointing than letting people guess.

That’s the idea behind Lottay (pronounced like the drink), a gift-giving site started by some of my husband’s former UCLA MBA students. Their biggest problem, as Professor Postrel warned them, is getting people used to the idea of giving, and asking for, cash. It’s a tough challenge, one they’re trying to solve by encouraging givers to specify what the cash is for (with the understanding that recipients can spend the money as they choose) and by using “e-greeting cards, private messages, images and pictures to wrap money in the emotion of the occasion.” For those who don’t find that approach convincing, they have a blog with a glamour-puncturing message: Hints Don’t Work.

[Woman opening iron from iStockPhoto. Five-year-old by Flickr user edenpictures, used under Creative Commons license. Theft of the Magi cartoon from the wonderful XKCD. For sweet, funny, geeky gifts, visit the XKCD store here.]

Ralph Lauren's Timeless—and Endangered—Glamour

Ralph lauren book cover Ralph Lauren, who turned 70 last week, is the most successful purveyor of glamour since the golden age of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Like studio-era movies, Lauren sells dreams of transformation and escape—all those green lawns and polo fields, safari tents and Rocky Mountain ranches. His designs transport the audience out of everyday experience and make the ideal life seem palpable.

Critics may mock him as a faux WASP parvenu and dismiss his customers as “yuppie arrivistes” (as a New York Times letter writer put it in 1992), but Lauren’s work has authentic emotional power. It expresses his own “yearning for something beautiful and timeless that conjures up a world and takes you there.” His genius as a designer and businessman was to find a huge audience that shared his yearnings.

If fashion is of the moment, Lauren is an anti-fashion designer. “I’ve never designed for obsolescence,” he wrote. “I’ve designed for longevity.” Flip through the massive volume of photographs and reflections he published two years ago to mark 40 years of designing and you see what he means. Only the most subtle differences in silhouette distinguish today’s clothes from those of decades past.

A brand built on timeless glamour faces special challenges. Glamour is eternal, but its embodiment changes with the audience. Aspirations and tastes formed in one era may not suit the next. Lauren writes that the songs of Frank Sinatra “have no time.” A child of the ’60s—or the ’90s—would disagree.

And glamour is a delicate illusion. Anything discordant can break the spell. Lately, Ralph Lauren the brand seems determined to puncture its audience’s reverie.

Read the rest at Forbes.com.

Mystery, Mad Men, And Prom Season Success

Mad men unique vintage dresses Long before American went Mad Men mad, Katie Echeverry was a pharmaceutical sales rep with a passion for vintage fashion and a workaholic boyfriend. Instead of nagging him to spend more time with her, she decided to develop a hobby that would generate a little spending money—finding cool vintage pieces and selling them online.

That was nine years ago. Katie and her boyfriend are now married and expecting their second child. And what started as a hobby has become a real business, with 12 employees and sales that are thriving even in the midst of the recession. When you Google "vintage dresses,” the first site that pops up is her store, Unique Vintage, which opened a bricks-and-mortar shop in Burbank a year ago and expanded last December.

These days, few of the shop's wares are true vintage items. When she turned her sideline into a true business three and a half years ago, after her daughter was born, Katie switched from vintage to “vintage-inspired”—contemporary designs based on styles from the '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, and '60s. Other vintage lovers may cringe, but the switch was essential to the store's success.

When she was selling true vintage, she says, “I just had so many people request a dress in a different size. They obviously didn’t understand that it was one-of-a-kind vintage." Plus, she says, “Vintage is so small, and most people are not size double-zero. I’d feel really lucky if I found a size six in anything cute.” The switch allowed her to offer a full range of sizes and keep popular items in stock.

Red marilyn halter dress unique vintageIts high Google rankings, a result of being an online pioneer, are a major reason for Unique Vintage's success. They not only drive traffic but provide market research. When “vintage wedding dresses” searches kept sending people to the store, Katie decided she'd better add a wedding line. The same thing happened with flapper dresses, which are some of the store's most impressive wares. The meticulous beading is done in India by a company whose proprietor found Katie online.

Beaded flapper dress detail
Beading detail.
Click for larger view.

Despite its history-based styles, Unique Vintage isn't catering primarily to nostalgia buffs. Rather, the store's wiggle dresses and Marilyn Monroe-style halter styles appeal to young women looking for something that can be hard to find at the mall: dresses that are sexy but don't show too much skin. It does its biggest business during prom season, when Monday sales reach 500 dresses a day. These customers, says Katie, “want something unique without being too revealing.” Glamour, after all, requires a little mystery.

Is California Still Glamorous?

With the state’s never-ending budget crises, jammed freeways, and high cost of living, California dreamin’ is out of style. “We are now the state that can’t,” Stephen Levy, the go-to guy for quotes about the California economy, told the NYT earlier this week. Calling the state “increasingly ungovernable,” the WaPost's Dan Balz writes:

The rest of the country has long looked to California as the future. It was once a leader in developing public infrastructure, and it created the most enviable system of public universities in the nation. Now the nation sees California and worries that its economic and political troubles will infect other states.

So the answer to the question at the top of this post would seem to be NO WAY!

But consider the Ferrari California, released last year. Why would Ferrari name its hot new car the California if California symbolizes traffic jams and screwed-up government? (For a higher-resolution version of the video, directed by Michael Mann, see the Ferrari California site.)

And why would Apple label all its products “Designed by Apple in California”? (This unaffiliated Apple reference site even adopted the slogan as its domain name.) Ferraris and iPods are both glamorous products. Why connect them to an unglamorous place?

In a post from 2007, Joel Spolsky gets the psychology exactly right:

Designed by Apple in California

You think of California, not the actual state, with its endless dismal boulevards full of muffler shops and donut stores, but the California of memory: the Beach Boys, the Summer of Love, and the beatniks, a utopian land of opportunity, an escape, where you go when you leave behind the cold winters and your conservative parents back in Cleveland.

And “Apple” in California is, of course, on the literal level, a computer company, and not a very nice one, but put those words together and you think of apple orchards, and the Beatles, and you think of how Forrest Gump got rich off of Apple stock. And “designed in California...” It's not made. It's designed. In California. Like a surfboard. Or a Lockheed XP-80.

And, of course, it might distract your attention from the fact that we no longer make things like this in America. We design them, but they pretty much have to be made in China.
Either way, the iPod slogan Designed by Apple in California triggers a flood of emotional responses that just make you happy to have selected this MP3 player.

I think there’s something else operating as well. California may seem too familiar and troubled to Americans in other states, but it still has glamour abroad. The UCLA student store attracts Asian tourists stocking up on souvenirs. The Ferrari California is aimed particularly at buyers in China and Russia. Is the Golden State still glamorous when seen from afar? And, if so, does distance explain the glamour, or is there something more?

[Designed by Apple photo from iPod Nano by Flickr user ume-y under Creative Commons license http://www.flickr.com/photos/ume-y/ / CC BY-SA 2.0]

DG Q&A: Karen Robinovitz

Karen Robinovitz When Marie Claire magazine challenged Karen Robinovitz and her friend Melissa de la Cruz to make themselves famous—defined as having their photos and bold-faced names in the gossip columns—in just two weeks, the assignment led to a book which in turn led Robinovitz to a career-shaping revelation: She knew and cared more about marketing than her publisher. A lot more. She was, in fact, “a marketing person,” born to come up with clever ways of attracting attention, not only to herself but to all sorts of paying clients.

Nowadays, her favorite brand isn't a corporate client but her own company Purple Lab and its line of stylish lip glosses, Huge Lips Skinny Hips (available online here). On her PurpleBlab blog, Karen chronicles the not-always-glamorous process of taking her venture from idea to reality, promising to “dish all the dirty secrets I learn from labs and manufacturers and what we go through to line up distribution, financing, PR, events, etc.” She kindly agreed to dish a bit with DG.

Read to the end of the interview to learn how to win a sample of Purple Lab's Worship Kate lip gloss.

DG: In blogging about your company and in How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less, you’ve taken some of the mystery out of things readers find glamorous, whether that’s starting a beauty-product company or getting your name in boldface type in the gossip columns. Do you think readers find the things you write about less glamorous after reading your behind-the-scenes depictions? Do you yourself find them less glamorous, or perhaps glamorous in a different way?

KR: I don’t really know if readers find that the true behind-the-scenes moments kill the glamour factor. I think that all of the things that seem glamorous are not ever as glamorous in reality — models always say how their lives are trying and hard and yet, they seem so full of fantasy. I am just sharing my own experience, which is sometimes glamorous and sometimes just the opposite, and I can only hope that people find a bit of themselves, something to relate to or an inside look at something they want to know more about, in my experiences.

I am anti-velvet rope so for me, the blog about the making of Purple Lab is about breaking that rope down and giving, in a sense, a blueprint of starting a business. I would hope that someone can find it useful and know the pitfalls I fell into so that they don’t.

DG: In How to Become Famous, you and Melissa write, “We have been obsessed with fame and those who are famous for as long as we can remember. We longed for attention — glamorous dresses, standing ovations, and a reason to thank the Academy.” Why do you think people (including you) long to be famous? Are those dresses glamorous by themselves, or is it the fame and attention that makes them glamorous? Has your fame lived up to your dreams?

How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less KR: I would never say I am even remotely famous. But I can’t lie and say I don’t like a little attention! But the reason I think that fame is so addictive for everyone — and the millions of celebrity blogs and magazines are a testament to that — is because it represents fantasy, escape, the ability to have whatever you want, go wherever you want, buy whatever you want, go to the most exclusive events, and connect with amazingly talented people. Plus, there are the perks that come with fame — swag, travel, private jets! I would not say that now, as someone in her “early late thirties” I crave the same things I did when I was younger — i.e., that kind of fame. But I do still crave the fabulous dresses.

DG: Since discovering your calling as a marketing person, what have you learned about business that surprised you?

KR: I could go on and on about this. Really, the back end of the business and how much is involved was a huge surprise for me... what it takes to manufacture, ordering minimums, branding packaging, deadlines, working a year in advance to launch a product (and that is considered a tight deadline!), what goes into shipping and not just sell in with retailers — but sell through. There are so many aspects to it that it is often overwhelming, but I welcome the challenge and am excited to see where it all takes me.

Purple labs huge lips skinny hips lip gloss


DG: You write that your lip gloss/plumper, Huge Lips Skinny Hips, which contains the appetite suppressant Hoodia, is “NOT about being skinny.” What is it about?

KR: I think we all — as women — think about our hips (and our lips!). Skinny for one woman may not be skinny for another, but regardless of size, we all want to wear our “skinny jeans,” be they a size 2 or a size 20. So the name is cheeky and playful but not intended to be taken so seriously as far as a directive for women to be skinny. There is a color in the collection called “Love Your Thighs,” which is my hope for all women — we need to embrace ourselves and stop being hard on ourselves.

The fact that the gloss contains an ingredient that has been known for centuries for its appetite suppressing qualities does not mean I am suggesting that women don’t eat. The point is that this is to act as your intention setter, perhaps something that helps keep you conscious and mindful of what and how you eat. At the end of the day, it’s not good for anyone to be double fisting cupcakes when they’re full! And if this gloss is something that enables someone to feel like she has some support at a cocktail party or a trip to the bakery, that’s the point. Plus, it’s a deliciously amazing gloss that is light, moisturizing, and yummy.

DG: You spent a lot of time and money on the packaging of your products, both the “components” that actually hold the gloss and the boxes that it comes in. Why did you decide to spend a few dollars on a box when most beauty products spend 50 cents or less?

Hlsh-box KR: I am driven and inspired by design and for me, it’s a very important aspect of Purple Lab. The products themselves have to look and feel good and every touch point of every aspect of it should too. I would rather make less money and deliver a fantastic product that women will love the look of, love the feel of and have fun buying. The price of the box will eventually drop as we order it in larger quantities — right now, we’re ordering at the minimums because we’re a small brand. As you order more, the price goes down. Besides, I wanted this to be fresh, different, and sexy. That’s worth the extra money for me — and I would rather pay for it than the buyer.

DG: I almost never wear lip gloss, as opposed to lipstick, because I don’t like the sweet flavors it comes in. Why does lip gloss always have a flavor? Why can’t I buy flavorless lip gloss?

KR: Every product is not meant for every woman. We all have different tastes. I happen to like a sweet tasting and smelling gloss. We may go into a product with no scent or flavor at some point and hearing that definitely inspires me to create that, because glosses don’t HAVE to have a flavor.

DG: You had a lot of fun naming your gloss colors. What’s your favorite and why?

KR: That is like asking a mother which child she likes better! It’s impossible to answer because I’m so emotionally attached to all of them. They are my babies and the names of each shade are tributes to what inspires me everyday.

The DG Dozen

1) How do you define glamour?

It can be understated or in your face and it is impossible to make one clear definition because ultimately, glamour is in the eye of the beholder. You can feel glamorous which is really about evoking confidence, positive energy, and eye-popping style. You can buy something glamorous — be it a crystal chandelier or a pair of python shoes — that takes your breath away. You can wear a dress that adds instant glamour to your life.

Kate moss cape town 2) Who or what is your glamorous icon?

I have so many — Kate Moss for the effortlessly chic way she wears clothes, Jane Birkin for her relaxed studied casual beauty, Bianca Jagger for her va-va-va-voom 70s appeal in YSL and Halston, Carine Roitfeld of French Vogue for her hard femininity and extreme shoe choices, Warholian icons like Edie Sedgwick and Baby Jane. There are plenty more!

3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?

Glamour is a state of mind and I don’t believe it should be a luxury — I think every woman should have her glamour moments whether she has a red carpet life or not.

4) Favorite glamorous movie?

Rear Window— Grace Kelly makes me melt!

5) What was your most glamorous moment?

My wedding. Not only was it the happiest moment I can imagine, but it was full of love, joy, excitement, wonderful family and great friends, but perfect makeup and the most beautiful custom Zac Posen creamy silk gown, trimmed in hand-dyed pompoms and a hint of curly ostrich feathers!

6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)?

A private jet with Hermes interior —I have yet to see one but, OMG!, THAT is glamour!

And any piece of furniture at the Moss store (www.mossonline.com)

Amanpuri pool phuket 7) Most glamorous place?

Amanpuri in Phuket — beautiful, peaceful, remote and where I honeymooned so it’s full of romantic memories

8) Most glamorous job?

Any job that inspires. For me, it’s being able to create a beauty brand inspired by everything I’m passionate about. I am truly appreciative of the path I’m on, no matter how hard and overwhelming it is - and it is!

9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don’t?

Wearing too many diamonds at once.

10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized?

I’m stumped right now!

11) Can glamour survive?

Absolutely. It doesn’t need to be expensive to be glamorous. Some of my most glam moments are when I am home and realize I have nowhere to be, no deadline to meet and total freedom. That is my ultimate luxury and glamour moment. As long as women want to feel special, glamour will be there, waiting...

12) Is glamour something you’re born with?

Yes and no. You can be born with a glamour state of mind and tastes and lifestyle but you can create it for yourself as well. Glamour doesn’t have to have a price tag - it can be a cheap leopard print vintage hat.

EITHER/OR

1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? Can I say both? They are opposite sides of the same coin and I appreciate each equally.

2) Paris or Venice? Paris

3) New York or Los Angeles? NY (actually, bi-coastal!)

4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Di

5) Tokyo or Kyoto? Tokyo

6) Boots or stilettos? Stiletto boots!

7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Deco (but only in doses)

8) Jaguar or Astin Martin? Astin! No question.

9) Armani or Versace? Versace

10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour? Oh, that is a cruel question! They’re both two icons of glamour who have influenced fashion and design tremendously. I like quoting Diana more than Anna though.

11) Champagne or single malt? I don’t drink. If I had to say, champagne.

12) 1960s or 1980s? 60s

13) Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds!

14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell? Kate, Kate, Kate!

15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig? Sean

Karen has generously offered to give one lucky DG reader a tube of Huge Lips, Skinny Hips gloss in the appropriately glamorous Worship Kate tint, a rich pink with a warm mauve-ish hue and just a hint of glitter. For a chance to win, link to this interview or to the DG home page from your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter. Then post a comment below with the URL or your Facebook or Twitter name. The winner will be chosen on Friday, July 10, using Random.org.

[Kate Moss by Flickr user Deon Maritz under Creative Commons license. Amanpuri pool by Flickr user erm. under Creative Commons license.]


How Barbie Lost Her Glamour, And How She Might Get It Back

Grace_look Barbie was never meant to be naked, anyway. The countless accessory packs filled with every imaginable wardrobe need affirmed that the point of the doll was the clothes, and not the other way around. Fashion provided the details that gave life to Barbie’s world, inspiring girls’ play with scenarios of lavish shopping excursions and elegant cocktail parties. The molded stiletto sandals, fur-trimmed sleeves, and velvet pocketbooks all suggested, but didn’t proscribe, starting points for a fantasy.

The tiny clothes were glamorous in their own right, modeled on the real-life wardrobes of icons like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy. It helped that they were designed by a fashion designer and hand-sewn by Japanese home-workers under her supervision. Paris’s haute couture was the inspiration through the early 60s, with designs modeled after those by Hubert Givenchy, Coco Chanel, and Cristobal Balenciaga. Paris was supplanted by London mod later that decade, and the Twiggy look was a natural fit for Barbie. She had more casual outfits as well, but they were tailored and adult, never too girlish.

This aspirational adulthood at the core of Barbie’s glamour started to fade in the 1970s, a direct result of evolution in the design of the doll and her accessories. Barbie started going in for regular plastic surgery as early as 1961, and the result was that she got younger and younger looking over time. Looking back, Barbie #1 was probably too old (“the face of a 40 year-old woman whose seen a lot of action” in the words of one collector), but as they say, cosmetic procedures can be addictive, and by now Barbie has had so many that she looks barely 15. Likewise, her fashion sense has gotten more casual, more girly, and less couture over time. No doubt this movement reflected trends in real-world fashion, but it made Barbie less of an elegant model. Mattel amped up the youthful girlishness with the introduction of liberal doses of pink, which though now ubiquitous was never a major influence until the 70s.

Barbie_faces_timeline

This younger, brasher form of femininity made Barbie more relatable but less aspirational, and her audience has steadily down-aged with her. Ruth Handler originally intended the doll for girls aged 8-13, but for a 13 year-old, there’s nothing glamorous about a doll that’s pretty much just like your older sister. Now girls are done with Barbie by age 6.

The other essential aspect of Barbie’s glamour was a certain aura of mystery that allowed you to fill in the details of her life in whatever wonderful ways you pleased. But Barbie got a little less mysterious in 1972, when designers traded her classic downward gaze for a direct stare. This made her more open and less enigmatic, and I think that had to change the relationship girls had with her. Now Barbie engaged with you; she was a friend and a playmate, like your favorite babysitter rather than an icon from the movies or TV.

Gaze

Lately, Mattel has taken Barbie into uncharted territory — the realm of pure fantasy — which crosses the line from aspirational into imaginary. With dolls like Barbie Fairytopia and Mermaidia (complete with mermaid tail), they contradict her original purpose of working through real-life desires by projection, and offer something more akin to fairy tales. Other Barbies, such as Birthday Barbie, seem to have absorbed this influence, and are starting to look a lot like Disney characters. This may make them magical and enchanting to her now very young audience, but the loss of a connection to reality makes this least glamorous evolution so far.

Fantasybarbies

Of course, none of this is to say that any one incarnation of Barbie is better than any other, or that glamour is necessarily even still relevant to Barbie’s role in American girl culture. After all, I came of age in an era when glamour was largely gone from the brand, and yet I loved my campy Barbie in her hot pink spandex and her fuschia dream house. But while my loyalty to 80s Barbie is unquestionable, there is little part of me that can’t help but wish for a renaissance of that old-school Barbie, the kind of doll that would grace the pages of the The Sartorialist, rather than the aisles of Forever 21.

Barbie80s

Plus Sizes: The Big Picture

Plus-size-shopping The malls are empty, and retailers are crying for customers. American women are getting heavier by the day. Yet stores like Ann Taylor and Bloomingdale’s, and lines including Liz Claiborne and Ellen Tracy, are slashing their plus-size offerings—turning away potential sales and generating angry denunciations of “sizeism.” What's going on?

As I explain in this article on Double X, the new women-oriented spinoff of Slate, there's a perfectly rational explanation that doesn't require an animus toward larger women. It does require graphs to explain, however, and The Washington Post, owner of Double X and Slate, has saddled the ladies with a design that can't handle more than one graphic per article, let alone multiple bar charts.

Here at DG, however, we have an ace technical and design staff. So here are the missing pictures, courtesy of David Bruner at TC[2]. (Click to see the full-size version.)

USA Female Weight Distribution

Height, by contrast, looks more like a bell curve.

Height distribution

Here are weights for the same two age groups:

WeightDistribution

Read the article here.

[Photo from iStockPhoto© Claudia Dewald]

Maureen Kelly On Mom Glamour, And A Tarte Makeup Giveaway


C12008_sm Like many entrepreneurs, Maureen Kelly found her niche out of frustration. She loved makeup--she calls herself a "natural-born product junkie" and has confessed to giving her sister's doll an unrequested makeover as a preschooler--but she didn't like what she considered unhealthy ingredients and "boring, unglamorous black pots." In response, she left her doctoral studies at Columbia (where she received a master's in clinical psychology) and created tarte, debuting her first products in 2000 at Henri Bendel. The company's hit products derive their glamour not only from makeup's eternal promise of "hope in a jar" but from ecological ideals and sensuous packaging.

As Mother's Day approaches, we asked Maureen about motherhood and glamour.

DG: Has your definition of "glamour" changed since you became a mother? How?

MK: Since I’ve become a mom my definition of glamour has changed a bit—I still think of Grace Kelly and Aubrey Hepburn as iconic definitions of the term glamour, but I’m also noting more mother-figures as having that 'je ne se quoi'.

DG: How do you incorporate glamour into life as a busy mom?

MK: As a busy mom of two boys, I try to incorporate glamour into my life through makeup! A new shade of lipstick or a pretty pop of color on your cheek instantly updates your look and helps you stay current. I love makeup because it’s an inexpensive and easy way to update your style-these days we can all appreciate that! Being a mom means we don’t get to spend as much time on ourselves as we’d like so whether it’s a pretty pucker or a smokey eye, makeup is a quick and easy way to feel better about ourselves. It’s all about the little things these days.

DG: Who is the most glamorous mother you know of? What is it about her that makes her glamorous to you?

MK: Salma Hayek. She’s not only beautiful, but smart. Her work with UNICEF helps pregnant women get tetanus vaccines—to me that’s the epitome of glamour.


Spring Greening Tarte has generously agreed to give one of its scrumptious-looking Spring Greening makeup palettes to a lucky DG reader.

The Spring Greening palette includes six vibrant eyeshadows, three lip glosses with the company's t5 super fruit complex™ to keep lips soft and smooth, and a bamboo eyeshadow brush—all in a reusable compact made of straw and recycled materials.

The Spring Greening palette retails for $38.50 at Tarte.com, Sephora, Sephora.com, and Beauty.com.

To win yours, be the first reader to email me at virginia-at-deepglamour.net with the subject line TARTE. Please include your mailing address.

[Contest open to U.S. residents only. Prize will be shipped directly from Tarte.]

Is Econ The Anti-Glamour?

In the unlikely event that they remembered me (and my mediocre grades), my college economics professors would be, no doubt, thrilled to hear that I’ve finally developed an interest in their subject. Thanks to proponents of “pop economics” like Freakonomics authors (and bloggers) Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, these days I’m downright entertained by the discipline. The freaky duo and their pop peers apply economic principles to practical subjects – like baby naming – creating accessible, but academic, discussions of everyday problems.

Accessible, academic, and entertaining, but seriously lacking in the glamour department.

In fact, I think economics might just be the polar opposite of glamorous. Where glamour invokes mystery and seduction, econ seeks to compartmentalize, deconstruct and explain.

The differences between the two are readily apparent, even in their language. For example, compare this:

As my research agenda has turned lately to thinking more about business and how companies can maximize their profits, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering customer service.

Shoes With this:

Manolo says, the Manolo is not surprised by this story about the Zappos extraordinary customer service.

Those are the first sentences of blog posts by Freakonomic’s Levitt and the undeniably glamorous Manolo the Shoeblogger (interviewed by DG here). The subject of both posts is exactly the same: this tale of amazing customer service on behalf of online shoe retailer Zappos. Zappos sounds like a pretty impressive, well-run company - plus, shoes! - and both blogs regularly sing its praises, for exactly the same reasons. But in such a different way.

The Manolo’s opening sentence might be short and to the point, but its tone very quickly conveys that the blog as a whole is fun and funny and just a little bit exotic, sort of like a tongue-in-cheek romance novel (for more of that, and another Zappos link, check out this post). Levitt’s tone, on the other hand, is a combination of academic and businesslike – pure economist. And he’s one of the accessible ones!

This isn’t a criticism of the world’s economists, by the way. Not everybody can - or should - be a super-fantastic shoeblogger. But I can’t help but wonder if there’s somebody out there who has the capability to glam up economics. Of course, given the current state of the economy, glamorous intrigue and mystery might not be the recipe for recovery. Then again, it just might.