Glamorous Gifts

With shoppers in a frenzy preparing for DG's four-month anniversary on December 25, we asked a number of contributors to recommend glamorous gifts that don't require braving the malls. Save gas and aggravation. Let your broadband do the walking.

GET POSITIVELY I am obsessed with Ippolita jewelry. Just one plain gold hammered bangle is so fabulous and the gift of gold these days is a safer investment than anything else! This is for any women with expensive taste who likes chic simplicity instead of over-the-top bling.

The other gift I would recommend is a stocking stuffer and it's Plumeria Blossom incense by Maui Lani Incense. This is my favorite flower and I have never seen this scent anywhere else. 

Carmindy, interviewed by DG here, is a makeup artist best known for her work on TLC's "What Not to Wear" and the author of Get Positively Beautiful and The 5-Minute Face.  

Kate Coe
Copperpot Mauviel Copper: Nothing says "serious cook" like French copper. It's the kitchen equivalent of mine-cut diamonds--everything else looks more expensive.   I think the jam pan is actually the most useful--centerpiece, drinks cooler, logs for the fireplace..... 

Less expensively, a Diablix bottle opener by Alessi.  You or your pals can feel naughty, even when opening plain seltzer water. 

Kate Coe is DG's chief correspondent.

Jackie Danicki 
Tarte Glam on The Go Kabuki Brush: Soft, luxurious, makes you gorgeous and comes in ultra-glam violet croc case
Jackie Danicki, who was interviewed by DG here, is the director of marketing for Qik and blogs, with Hillary Johnson, at Jack & Hill.

Groomzilla Tomfordbig1
Tom Ford for Men cologne. Tom Ford has been unstoppable this year, both at the helm of his eponymous high-end clothing and accessories line and at the center of his full-court press both behind and in front of the camera. One of the most sensual (and arguably glamorous) images of the past year was the sight of a Tom Ford cologne bottle pressed invitingly into the recesses of a woman's pelvis by her red lacquered nails (Jungle Red, no doubt). Sex sells, and for that reason alone, this cologne should go flying off the shelf. But more importantly, it actually smells wonderful. With just a few strategic squirts, you can undo one more button on your shirt, bare your immaculately-manscaped chest, and begin a Holiday party filled with models and bottles.

Ren Mayblossom and Blue Cypress Balancing Facial Cleansing Gel. I love ridiculous products for my skin, and the more outrageous the claims (unicorn horn! chirically correct molecules! fair-trade alpha-hydroxy!), the more excited I become. In the case of Ren's wonderfully-effective cleanser, I can delight in the absurd ingredients (mayblossom? blue cypress? I'm sure these foods promote proper unicorn horn growth!) and experience noticably cleaner, fresher skin. Also, I can torture my husband that I spent $32 on "soap" that can only be used on one part of my body.

Groomzilla is the nom de plume of a newlywed Los Angeles attorney who chronicled his adventures in gay wedding planning in a series of DG posts.

Joan Kron
51fB3GruSoL._SL160_ Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 1 (Top Hat / Swing Time / Follow the Fleet / Shall We Dance / The Barkleys of Broadway): Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers are always glamorous. Check out the Super glam sets in "Swing Time," featuring crystal clear cellophane used as slipcovers on the chairs and as tablecloths in the nightclub scene. The big white sets of these early Hollywood movies--inspired by the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes--were the epitome of Art Deco.

Another movie with glamorous Art Deco sets is the original version of The Women, starring Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, and Rosalind Russell--especially the fashion show scene. I've been playing both these films on a big screen without the sound, and they are like art installations. 

Joan Kron is contributing editor at large for Allure magazine and the author of books on plastic surgery and home interiors. She was interviewed by DG here.

Paige Phelps
Sigerson Morrison for Target Lustra D'Orsay Pumps: Siegerson Morrison is a terrifically expensive, wonderful shoe brand that I usually drool over but can't afford. If you're not giving this to yourself, consider it for your hip sister or sis-in-law. It's funky and fun and can be dressed up or down. And for those who think these capsule brand promos don't offer the goods, think again. Everytime I've worn my Lela Rose for Payless or Target's International Go collection clothes, I've gotten compliments, so they do deliver.
Also for your friend/sister type, a fun cocktail ring that screams FAKE is fun for the holidays (and don't limit yourself to wearing it on the traditional ring finger). Try this  Zirconite enamel ring: great with the little black dress or even jeans and a cute top. If they're not into rings, this can be a fun stocking stuffer: 

For your more erudite friend, boy or girl, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster is one of the best fashion books I've read in a long while. But warning to glamourpusses: it breaks down the myths behind the magic. Trust, after reading this, you'll NEVER scoff at Target capsule collections--in fact you might think of them as just as good as high-end brands. 

Paige Phelps is a Dallas-based writer and regular DG correspondent.

Virginia Postrel
With all due respect to the lure of perfume and jewels, some of us spend most of our glamour budget on books. Here are some favorites.

Woman in the Mirror: 1945-2004: A book of Richard Avedon's iconic photography is appealing enough, but this one has the bonus of a lengthy essay by the brilliant fashion critic and art historian Anne Hollander. Not just a coffee-table book.

NSAP1717_LARGE Athlete: Some people think great athletes can't be glamorous, because they too obviously work hard. Walter Iooss's photography finds glamour as well as grit: great faces, great bodies, great moves. (With a four-figure budget, you can buy a signed print of his magnificent Blue Dunk photo of Michael Jordan through the New York Times store. Hence the NYT logo marring the illustration here.) For the lover of sports, photography, or both.

Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies: A smart history of the imaginary version of the real city, perfect for either movie buffs or New Yorkers.

For travelers, art lovers, and people who wish they traveled more or knew more about art, Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel is an entertaining read that smuggles in a remarkable amount of cultural education. After discovering it in London, I bought copies for several family members.

Whimsical, sweet, and knowing, Edward Monkton books make great stocking stuffers for glamoristas. I'm particularly fond of Shoes, Chocs, Bags, and Frocks. (For samples of the art, check out the Edward Monkton website.)

Finally, I never miss an opportunity to plug my favorite book about glamour (though I'm not sure anyone else thinks of it that way): Michael Chabon's Great American Novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

Virginia Postrel is a Los Angeles-based columnist and author and DG's editor-in-chief.

Diego Rodriguez
414F25FMAJL._SL160_ For people who want to counter the "Do you have an iPhone?" question with a "No, but I pack a M8" answer: the Leica M8. Nothing makes me wonder "Just who is that person" more than a Leica M8. Tucked discretely under one's arm, or brandished boldly across a chest, the M8 is a soft-spoken yet potent beacon of technological glamour.

TAG Heuer Men's Monaco Automatic Chronograph Watch: If the names 911, R8, M3, or GT-R make your heart race, this is your timepiece. McQueen wore one, and it's named after the most glamorous kingdom left in the world. Royalty, speed, sex, adrenaline, and crisp, elegant aesthetics, all together on your wrist.

Diego Rodriguez is a partner at IDEO, a professor at the Stanford d-school, and a regular DG contributor.

Nancy Rommelman
41ART0XDYNL._SL160_ Salvador Dali perfumes The Dalissime [Nancy's husband] Din and I originally bought for Hillary [Johnson, his sister] back in 1997. When I literally could not keep my nose out of her neck, I bought myself some. It's very feminine, as in, men go gaga for it.

I also really, really like the Laguna, which is "fresher," faster, and always make me feel very racy and ready. Also, can you beat these bottles? No, you cannot.

Nancy Rommelman is a Portland, Oregon-based writer, blogger, and the author of several books. She was interviewed by DG here.

Anne Stewart 
The stationery set: This is the perfect fashionable gift for young romantics, or for glamour gals who still remember when Casablanca was first released. Because there’s nothing more glamorous than sending a goodbye forever note to a lover on your own stationary, except maybe sending the next note… 

The personalized child's calling card: A super-cute stocking stuffer for those just initiated to the world of glamour (or for their fashionable moms). Personalized children’s calling cards are a chic way to make introductions and organize play dates. Stylish, convenient, and they make you feel all grown up, in a good way. 

Anne Stewart is a Cleveland-based writer and graphic designer who recently wrote a DG post on the cover art of hip-hop mixtapes.

Regina Walton
I like to give people very pretty mother-of-pearl Korean business card holders like this one on Ebay. Here is a similar product on Amazon by Swarovski - pave crystals. They don't seem to have  a lot in stock so maybe it's last season's. There is a zebra print one and a leopard print one. You need to exercise caution with animal prints, but I think these cases hit glamour and not tacky. Card case

Another, with green crystals. Another, that has a little Monet painting on it . (I link these two because they seem to be well stocked - the Monet one I really like.)

I've got a theme: I like pretty card holders that aren't just these plain boring things.  I've even attached a pic of the one I carry.

Also, I'm big on nice pens.  I use Waterman fountain pens exclusively (I've been a fountain pen fiend since middle school and cut my teach on how to use them when they made the cheap ones with colored ink). Anyway, I know Amazon has a good selection of those. For those who are scared of ink leaks there is always a nice fountain pen.  Either way, a nice pen is distinguished, stylish and definitely glamourous. This is the one I use now. But, yeah, I've got a few of them.

Regina Walton is a Seoul-based journalist and blogger. She interviewed fashionista Diane Pernet for DG.

Ugly Is The New Pretty

Gray, for fashion and for home, is  the color of the moment. And while some might not immediately associate that color with traditional beauty, it can be truly gorgeous.

"Grays have been stereotyped as indicative of an economic slowdown but in the last 10 years gray has moved away from a poor color or a drab color to a sophisticated one," said Leslie Harrington, executive director of the Color Association, a New York Marketing company established in 1915.

Now, combine the abundance of gray with the strange black lipstick trend Kate blogged about and the chic set embracing goth and you might think we're a nation of consumers obsessed with doom and gloom. And though that might be warranted, consider it part of a larger trend. Didn't you know, kids? Ugly is the new beautiful. Sure in certain circles ugly has always been a marker of beauty, but now we're all kinda catching on. Why, Ms. Harrington said so herself:

"We don't want to be perfect anymore. In fact, there's a strong need not to be. We're realizing now that beauty actually lies in things that aren't perfect, things that have a unique character unto themselves."

Which segues so nicely into the example of the UGLY agency, which recently teamed up for a casting call for an Ed Hardy ad campaign. Press release coming at ya:

"UGLY was formed in London in 1969 by two forward-thinking photographers who recognized the need in print advertising for models who were not traditionally beautiful and the UGLY idea was born."

(Other ugly-as-beautiful fashion campaigns: Benetton and Kenneth Cole, both pretty cool.)

GraffitiPunchPlw20PinkF8 So here we are; ugly is back and this time it's GLAM! Unlike the dreary grunge look the 1990s gave us, this time around dirty is "sophisticated" and shiny and silver and high-tech (high-tech will save us, right? It just has to save us. Right?) Ugly is the new coffee table book. No, really, it literally is--check out Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore's interiors book Punk House. It's also in upper crust bedrooms, with Douglas Homer's Bronx Project graffiti 18th century highboys, which cost a pretty penny, and on dining room tables with Areaware's Delft dinnerware with taggings from New York City. Hey, even affordable CB2 wants you to graffiti your couch.

It's all very clever, this ugly. Does it mean we're embracing the urban environments we've fallen back in love with? Does it sneer at economic hardships and give a tongue-in-cheek eff you to whatever the world can throw at us because ha! We can take it on!? Or, god help us, is this just a sign of the times saying we can barely keep our heads above water.

Whatevs. Maybe it's just that we're bored with the same ole, same old. Hey, Yo Soy Betty, La Fea.

Glittering Glamour

In Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore, for instance, historian Brettany Hughes puts the legendary descriptions of "radiant" Helen in real-world context:

The Mycenaeans’ was a magpie culture. Great sea journeys would be undertaken to bring the finest raw materials and manufactured goods back to the Greek mainland. The more successful a clan-leader was, the more his palace would have glittered—storerooms and tombs would have been stacked with relucent treasure. Cult images were dressed in cloth that had been impregnated with olive oil to give the material a distinctive sheen; privileged mortals too would have worn clothes treated in this way. Those of the highest rank are—for the first time—literally, illustrious. Perhaps this is what the bards meant when they recalled that Helen was ‘radiant’, ‘fair’, ‘shimmering’, ‘golden’....

The ruling classes of the Myacenaeans had access to precious raw materials from across the Eastern Mediterranean—of a calibre and variety never before imagined. And so in marked contrast to the rest of the population, the high-born made sure they gleamed, perpetually, with an artificial lustre. A girl like Helen, sparkling and glinting as she would have done, would have had it reinforced day in and day out, from a very early age, how important, valuable and desirable she was.

Similarly, "Light was both coveted and inspiring in the high Middle Ages," writes Sarah-Grace Heller in an article on Roman de la Rose titled "Light as Glamour." (My thanks to Manolo commenter Nicola Masciandaro for the reference.) Heller argues that luminescence is a central quality of  fashion and allure in medieval literature.

The thirteenth-century French vernacular vocabulary included an even broader collection of descriptive terms conveying light-producing and reflecting properties: clere, luisant, polis, blanc, sors, not to mention a constantly varying repertoire of similes to snow, metals, gems, and so on….examples of light imagery and terminology in vernacular literature, from the light reflecting off armor in battle to the gleaming blond tresses and bright complexion of the lady in cansos and romances.

In the Middle Ages, Heller reminds us, "Light was a tangible experience, something that could be purchased by individuals rather than something provided without cessation by anonymous public power companies." As I've noted previously, many glittering objects that seem gaudy under today's electric lights were more mysterious--and, hence, glamorous--in the half light for which they were designed, and in which they represented rare and precious illumination. Nowadays, we create glamour by dimming the lights to add mystery and heighten the specialness of the scene. Once, though, light itself was a special effect. (And even today shiny accessories, though apparently not the Marc Jacobs bag, are generally reserved for evening.)

Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a psychologically astute work that has much to say about glamour (without using the term*), refers to "the most glittering and exalted situation that our idle fancy can hold out to us"--a phrase that suggests the illusory glimmer of a mirage. We are drawn to the light of glittering objects, but they flicker and change. What is real, and what is an illusion?

Unmistakable glamour indeed.

[*Glamour wasn't an English word at the time and meant a literal magic spell in Smith's native Scots.]

Hip Hop Glamour: The Mixtape

 DG welcomes guest blogger Anne Stewart, a writer and graphic designer in Cleveland, who regularly blogs for Hotcards, a print and design house whose work illustrates this post.--Virginia

MixtapeglamourAt a time when our Hollywood stars are Colin Farrell and Lindsey Lohan, and pop diva status is conferred on Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears, many people are turning to hip hop in their search for glamour. The superstars of hip hop are carefully groomed, fashionably dressed, and portrayed through music, videos, and album covers as fabulously wealthy, mysterious, and often dangerous (although not in a bad way).

By inviting people into a world of dark, gritty origins, meteoric rises to stardom, and dreams realized and indulged, hip hop is redefining glamour in popular culture. And for the ultimate crash course in hip hop glamour, the best place to look is the mixtape cover.

 Mixtapecovervivalahova Architects of Glamour

Whether it’s a playlist put together by J-Love, a remix, like the recent Viva La Hova from Mick Boogie and Terry Urban, or a random blend of Lil Wayne’s latest studio work, a huge number of hip hop mixtapes are constantly being released as free promotional tools.  And, along with the albums – even if they’re exclusively released online – comes cover art, the frontline of mixtape advertising, and the embodiment of the creative process behind hip hop glamour.

The best mixtape cover artists are not unlike old school Hollywood photographers à la Geoge Hurrell, using the tricks of the working artist’s trade to raise their subject matter to incredible heights. Both are the architects behind a very specific story of glamour, both depict worlds so perfectly enchanted that they could only be the products of imagination.

Mixtapecoverclassic Anatomy of a Mixtape Cover

The typical mixtape cover includes elements like piles of money glowing softly along the bottom edge of the design, and a city skyline in the background, often at sunset, often with birds taking flight in the distance.

In between we find hot cars, beautiful women, cool shades, and massive bling that would definitely look tacky if it wasn’t being worn so audaciously.

But beyond these material trappings, we find the true genius of the cover artists in the idealization of their subjects. The rappers and DJs featured on mixtape covers, famous or not, are portrayed as superheroes, heads of state, gods and goddesses, and otherworldly beings capable of holding this world in the palms of their hands.

All this opulence and braggadocio is the more glamorous, because it’s purely the stuff of dreams. The mixtape cover is little more than the desires of the musicians themselves, assembled by cover designers in Photoshop, constructed to sell an idea in the hopes of making it a reality.

The Facts Behind the Fantasy

The truth is that the entire glamour of the endlessly wealthy, powerful, and indulgent hip hop world is a story created by designers sitting behind desks, splicing together this publicity photo and that stock image of a Ferrari, or a set of wings, or a helicopter. Rappers that have never met are cut and pasted together, sometimes heads are placed on different bodies.

Mixtapecovermoney The mixtape cover is a contrivance of such epic proportions because mixtapes are created by musicians releasing material to create hype, not to make a million bucks. This means that there’s never the cash, or the time, to actually assemble the DJs and emcees involved for a photo shoot, complete with props and costumes and dancing girls.

And so the whole thing is made up. And the beauty of it is that hip hop glamour only becomes a reality if it can first sell the fact of its existence. The artists are often just as desperate for the fantasy to become real as are the fans gazing up at posters on our bedroom ceilings.

Rappers and DJs may be the antithesis of the Golden Age cinema goddesses who once defined glamour, but they are pop culture’s new school, and that means a whole new kind of glammer.

This new incarnation can be over the top and often crass, but it’s also mythic in narrative and proportion, magical in its ability to embody the exoticism of the mundane, and unapologetically enamored with fabulousness. Who among us can ask for more glamour than that?

All mixtape cover art provided by graphic designer Glen Infante of

James Bond Without The Glamour

Quantum_of_SolaceJames Bond is an icon of glamour: sexy, good looking, utterly competent, effortlessly seductive, and equipped with the coolest cars and gadgets. Equally important, he is unflappable and self-contained. We see the glamorous Bond from the outside, projecting ourselves into his adventures without identifying with his emotional life. He makes his exploits look easy.

The new Bond movie Quantum of Solace, however, abandons the sprezzatura that has for so long been central to Bond's appeal. Bond is still competent and deadly, but he gets almost as banged up as John McClane, without McClane's esprit or wisecracks. He's not graceful or self-contained but damaged and emotional. The emotion is all the more problematic because it assumes the audience not only remembers plot details from Casino Royale but is emotionally invested in them. (Bond films may be blockbusters, but they aren't exactly Star Wars, when it comes to fan involvement.) Plus the fight scenes and chases are so choppily edited you can't tell what's happening or, in many cases, who's who--thereby eliminating even the appeal of Bond's physical grace.  With a thin plot, even for a Bond movie, and a less-than-compelling villain, it wasn't surprising that the theater where I saw Quantum of Solace was only half full. The movie was entertaining, but it didn't deliver on the Bond brand promise.

Emmy Sketch: Modern Medium, Classical Icon


Done by Lou McManus in 1948, this conceptual design for the Emmy statue (left) is up for sale at the LA Modern auction on December 7, with the sale price estimated at $5,000 to $10,000. (Auction previews begin next Saturday, November 29; see link for details.) For a modern piece, the concept is extremely unstylized, with feathery wings, specific facial features, and lots of drapery folds. Television may have been a new medium, but Emmy looks like a 19th-century version of classicism. And the shadow is a nice touch.

Angelina Jolie Outwits Journalists--Sign Of End Times? Or Business As Usual?

Angelina.Jolie.MagazineCover.022 (Small) Angelina Jolie continues to confound. In a NY Times piece by Brooks Barnes, we learn that she can make some magazine editors jump through hoops,  write big checks for exclusive photos of her and her family, and to not use Brangelina when referring to her and her husband, Brad Pitt. I hope you're all sitting down when you read the whole story. Breathless quotes abound:

“She’s scary smart,” said Bonnie Fuller, the former editor of Us Weekly and Star magazines.

Fuller knows scary like the back of her hand, but smart? Let's ponder the impossibility of that, shall we?

Ms. Jolie expertly walks a line between known entity and complete mystery, cultivates relationships with friendly reporters and even sets up her own photo shoots for the paparazzi.

And as both the paparazzi and their customers make money off those photos,  she's been very savvy about making sure she or her favorite charities get paid.

And with the kind of keen insight that gets you a job at the nation's most important paper, Barnes surmises:

The persona that Ms. Jolie projects on screen tends to be intimidating and physical. She is not the girl next door.

No shit, Sherlock, as the kids say. Or used to say.

Jolie either grew up or remade her image, after her divorce from Billy Bob Thornton, depending on your POV. Writing about her meeting with Kashmir earthquake victims,  Barnes tosses in a quote from ancient flack, Michael Levine, who was probably the only person around willing to give a mean-spirited statement:

“Presto, they come out looking like serious people who have transformed a silly press obsession into a sincere attempt to help the needy,”

Except for those needy publicists and PR firms--does she think about them? Does she?

With a Q score of 24 ( a likeability scale), Jolie is a popular movie star. Want proof? This piece is the most-emailed story in the Business section (but only 17th  in the whole paper.)  Readers vary in their opinions of Jolie, but most agree that this piece was feeble.

Slideshow from an earlier story here.

Editor's Note

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