Glamour, the magical power of persuasion
This season, more is more as glamour is back with a glittery vengeance. But was it ever really away? Not for me! From Marlene Dietrich in a top hat to Beyoncé shaking her booty in glittery thigh-high boots; to me, glamour is timeless and has many faces. It is the magical dust that gives everyday life that golden sparkle. More importantly, when used well, glamour can actually change your life. It has definitely shaped mine…
I had my first taste of glamour when I was only 8 years old. As a Catholic girl, born and raised in the South of Holland, my First Holy Communion was a very big deal: my first date with the most powerful man I knew, God. To prepare for it, I pulled out all the stops. Seriously, I was like Elizabeth Taylor getting ready for the Oscars, but worse! On the big day, I was completely glammed up. Mini skirt? Check. Flowers in my updo? Check. High heels? Check. As I stood by the altar, I felt close to God (the big hair definitely helped). But I also felt the transformative power of glamour. I had a hot date with destiny.
The word ‘glamour’ is not, as many people think, French in origin (pardon, mademoiselle Coco!). Rather, it derives from the Scottish word ‘glammer’, meaning a literal magic spell. More specifically, it was a spell that made you see things that weren’t there. Popularized in English by Sir Walter Scott at the turn of the 19th century, he wrote that glamour could “make a ladye seem a knight”. And in Charlotte Brontë’s master piece ‘Jane Eyre’, when Jane calls Mr. Rochester’s dilapidated mansion ‘splendid’, he tells her sternly: “The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes, and you see it through a charmed medium.” We may not believe in witches and magic anymore, but we still call people or performances ‘spellbinding’; meaning that they caught our attention, as if by magic. Watching Dafne Schippers stretch her body over the finish line, for example, transports us to a special place where can imagine ourselves being Dafne. Seeing Marilyn Monroe sing ‘Diamonds Are a Girls’ Best Friend’ we can feel her heavy diamond collier around our neck. We are bewitched. As Virginia Postrel writes in her book ‘The Power of Glamour’: “Glamour is an illusion, known to be false, but felt to be true.” And the best part: sometimes the illusion does become true…
After losing her parents at age 3, a little girl with a skin pigmentation condition grew up in an orphanage in Sierra Leone where she lived under horrible circumstances. One day, she found a magazine with a photo on the cover of a white ballerina in a pink tutu, standing on her toes. It was the most beautiful, the most glamorous thing she had ever seen. And even though it was against the odds, the glamour of the picture enchanted her to believe that she could actually be this ballerina. When she got adopted by an American couple, the first thing she showed her new mother was this picture; this is how she envisioned her new life. The little girl, also known as Michaela DePrince, is now a soloist for the Dutch National Ballet. It may sound like a fairytale, but this is the story of a self-made woman. And it shows us that yes, glamour may be a beautiful illusion, but it does reveal the truth about what we desire and, sometimes, what we can become. In other words: glamour as a persuasive power.
Similarly, when we ‘glamorize’ our outer selves, like I did for my First Communion, we actually express our inner sense of self. To quote Virginia Postrel: “’I like that’ becomes ‘I’m like that’. I truly believe that my mission to empower women through my designs can be traced back to that day; the day that I stood at the altar in my heels and flowers and realized that the way we look strongly affects the way we feel and behave. Just think about it: when you look in the mirror in the morning and you’re wearing some amazing, ultra flattering lingerie, you will feel confident the rest of the day. In a way, with my design, I have put a spell on you -a ‘glammer’- to make you believe you can do anything! People are born with beauty and charisma, but glamour is something you can manifest through willpower and dedication. To quote one of my favorite divas Joan Collins: ‘No one is born glamorous, but anyone can acquire glamour.”
After a few years of streetwear dominating the catwalks, over the top glamour -think a heavily bejewelled Elizabeth Taylor or Bianca Jagger entering Studio 54 on a white horse- is back. Sequins are hot, overdressing is in and glittery selfies are posted with hashtags like ‘too glam to give a damn’ and ‘more is more’. Trends may come and go, but when it comes to glamorous dressing, my own taste has never changed. A sharply-cut tuxedo, a simple black dress with a dramatic collar; I’ve loved and worn these looks for years, sometimes even decades, proving that ‘glamour’ and ‘slow fashion’ are not mutually exclusive. And how I love seeing my daughter Zilver now wearing these very same items, creating new glamorous memories in them! Because if there is one thing I have tried to pass on to her -besides my fashion collection and a sense of self-worth- it is something that is perfectly expressed in this famous Dutch saying: life is a party, but you have to do the decorating yourself.
An interesting thing happened when I did Nadia Narain’s yoga class the other day. I had checked myself in the mirror beforehand, and thought I looked fine, but when I looked again afterwards, I fell utterly in love with my reflection!
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