Just when you’ve packed away the glitter of Christmas, a season nearly as glitzy is underway. Hollywood is on parade, and many of us revel more in the fashion extravaganza than the awards (I don’t know most of the shows and players, anyway). In the ugliness of the world, who can’t use an occasional foray into glamour?
From last week’s Peoples’ Choice awards and Sunday night’s Golden Globes, through the SAG Awards, the Grammys, the Oscars, the Cannes film festival, up to the American Theater Wing’s Antoinette Perry Awards in June, it’s a treasure of the good and bad, the sublime and the outrageous in fashion. If you throw in the Met Costume Gala, you’ll see everything au courant in the “World I Will Never Inhabit.”
Essentially, actors are just ordinary people, like you and I, dressed by costumers to create a character. In my very small pond of theatrical endeavors, I’ve been dressed inappropriately by costumers on very limited budgets. (Of course, I’m also pretty good at sweet-talking costumers into working with me.) So, given the enormous budgets of Broadway shows and movies, I expect near perfection. Still, I would never blame the actor for their on-stage or on-screen appearance.
However, in their “red carpet” lives, actors turn themselves over to stylists to dress them as their “real” selves. If they don’t like the stylist’s concept of them, they can refuse to wear it. When they show up on my television looking goofy at a media or promotional event as their “real” selves, they’re fair game for my expert analysis. As My Mother says, “Don’t they own a mirror? And don’t they use it?”
At the awards shows, they teeter on their sky-high stilettos and platforms (like I should talk), trip on their trains, and fall out of their bodices, accidentally. (Or is it part of their publicist’s plan?) They flash their borrowed diamonds, reveal their manicures and pedicures on tiny cameras, and show the contents of their evening purses. All in front of millions of people, just waiting to see the show. When, someone says their dress is unflattering or doesn’t fit or they look like a teenaged hooker, they protest our scrutiny.
“We’re expressing ourselves,” they say.
“Me, too,” I reply.
Frequently, they blame it on dehydration, stress, Botox, starvation diets, and herbal supplements (wink, wink). I’m not going to criticize them when they’re photographed coming out of Ralph’s pushing a grocery cart with a giant zit on their famous forehead. That’s their private time, and, God knows, I’m forever running into acquaintances in the store when I have a zit and didn’t bother to conceal it because I’m just running to the store to pick up milk. I understand. My high school graduation photo was retouched to remove a blemish…or two.
Anyone can be glamorous, despite the efforts of fashion and media to tell us otherwise, especially in the past 40 years, because contemporary fashion has very little to do with real women with real bodies. Fashions are hung on girls over 5’ 8” tall and under 120 pounds. On the Center for Disease Control’s BMI scale (body mass index), that’s underweight. Basically, they’re clothes hangers for clothes with nothing to fill them out.
Fashion has become about revealing a woman’s “goods,” which, if they aren’t pristine, destroys the mystery that is glamour. She got that impossible body from old-fashioned American work and healthy eating — yoga, Pilates, running, kale — didn’t she? Or did it come from smoking, appetite suppressants, stomach bands, liposuction? Or was their some “digital enhancement” involved?
Glamour is an illusion. Real women create their own charm with what they’ve got to work with, and that’s glamour. We enhance our best features and minimize the questionable. I use eye-catching earrings to focus on my face and distract from my pudgy tummy, even when I don’t wear make-up. I wear black, so you’ll think I’m thinner (ha! like that works!). I’ve been told I have a good smile, so I’ve learned how to make myself smile credibly, even when I’m terrified. Dancing taught me to stand up straight, which makes me appear confident, even when I’m a wreck. It’s all an illusion.
I choose to show what works for me and what doesn’t. Unless it’s hot or I’m wearing a bathing suit, I don’t even willingly expose my upper arms outside the privacy of my own home. Well, I will if I’m certain you aren’t going to get too close to see those crepe-y little dimples under my arms. I’m going to camouflage my shortcomings, if I can, but I’m still going to be short and a little bottom heavy and have lines in the corners of my eyes. Meh. If I can’t fix it, I’m not going to sweat it. I also have freckles, which I prefer to think of as “memories of happy days,” much as the faint red wine stains on my white dinner napkins are “happy memories.” Not “sweating it” exudes glamour.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think we are more likely to agree on what is beautiful than what is glamorous. Beauty is classic. Glamour is fleeting, a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t moment. One woman’s glamour may be another woman’s tacky.
When I was a girl, I used to pore over an album that My Mother created when she was a teenager in the 1940s. She filled it with sketches of clothes, sportswear, day dresses, and evening dresses. I would dress up in her old prom dresses and stride around the house in the flimsy creations, straps slipping off my t-shirted shoulders. Her jewelry box was a treasure trove of glitzy costume jewelry that I never saw her wear in real life.
“You should wear this rhinestone necklace,” I would encourage my pedal-pusher-wearing PTA mom.
“Oh, yeah,” she would answer, “I’ll wear that to the next hot dog luncheon.”
Glamour is all about flair, a glance, a laugh, a sway in the walk, a catchy phrase. I read an article recently that said Ava Gardner was unremarkable in her first years of modeling, just another sweet pretty, small town girl with fabulous legs.
Eventually, she developed an expression that set her apart; she tilted her head back, narrowing her eyes so that she was peering at the camera from the bottom of her lashes. According to the article, that became her signature look. Fame soon followed, along with a series of tempestuous marriages and relationships, a small town girl plagued, according to the article, by her glamorous image for the rest of her life.
There is no glamour in falling off your shoes or exposing body parts that no one wants to see or being outrageous (Lady Gaga seems to have hung a certain dress permanently in her meat locker, because she’s been looking swell, lately). We’ll talk about you, that’s for sure, but I don’t think that’s what you have in mind.
I look at my Match.com photos and see a sweet, smiling lady in every one of them. 99.99% of respondents mention my smile. It could be the opening line that they all use, but it may be what they see. I’m pretty sure it’s not who I am. I tried Ava’s signature, seductive look, but I appeared to be on the verge of sneezing. And we all know what happens when you put a glamorous wig and slinky dress on me: comedy. I’m much more comfortable making people laugh than I am trying to seduce someone. I suspect this is yet another reason why I remain dateless. I depend more on my wit, which doesn’t translate well in online dating.
While I admit that I updated my profile photo, because I don’t want to mislead men that I’m not as young as I was last year, I kept four others from earlier in 2015. Imagine my surprise when two men with whom I had previous contact wrote to me, as if they had never seen me before. One of them sat across from me at dinner twice in four days just five months ago! Wow! Nice to know I’m so memorable. It was that serial dater who told me about his “friend” who tries to see if he can get attractive women to date him. Here’s what I wrote to him this time before I blocked him:
I may not be a glamour puss, but I’ve got a way with words that can put a smile on his face or put a jerk in his place, so, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo gloria!