Vintage Week: DG Q&A With Vixen Vintage Blogger Solanah Cornell

Solanah pink wallAmong vintage enthusiasts, Vixen Vintage blogger Solanah Cornell is a first-name-only celebrity and a go-to source for advice on such lost arts as how to set your hair in pin curls and how to buy vintage lingerie. As a model for online vintage shops and a vintage-fashion blogger she's also famous for her ability to strike a vintage pose. 

DG: How do you define vintage?

Solanah: Everyone will give you a different answer, but I define it as anything made approximately 20-80 years from now. Antique is anything older than 80 years old, and newer than 20 is second hand.

DG: Who does wearing vintage appeal to?

Solanah: A variety of different people, whether they are interested in alternative fashion or want to outwardly express their interest in nostalgia.

DG: What do you think of mixing vintage and contemporary pieces? Do you ever wear contemporary outfits?

Solanah: I love it, and yes, I do! Though the farther I get into vintage fashion, the more difficult it is for me to mix decades. I admire it on other people, but often find myself feeling a bit “off”. Lately I’ve been trying for a more classic look by mixing vintage and modern garments. And I do wear modern jeans and cozy sweaters pretty regularly. I’ve been loving some classic/modern fashions lately and hope to balance some with my vintage wear.


Solanah-greendress-leopardDG: Beyond the character of any specific garment, is there something glamorous about the idea of “vintage”?

Solanah: There is something glamorous about vintage, and I think it reaches back to the image women used to live up to. It was very glam, very ideal, especially if you’re talking about the mid-century. Even in camping gear women were supposed to be perfectly coiffed and pretty. At that time it was oppressive, but I think women are starting to own glamorization again. They choose it because it makes them feel good, not because they are expected to be glamorous 24/7.

DG: You’ve said that you “love to be authentic” in your style. What makes your style authentic?

Solanah: For me it means “real.” Not so much about having all the items in an outfit perfect, right down to the correct dates, but more of wearing things the way women wore them originally. And wearing what they really wore, not what Hollywood portrayed. I love slacks, and sweaters with the sleeves rolled up, and comfortable shoes like loafers and flat boots. For me, that’s authentic, because I feel more connected to the everyday woman.

DG: Some people treat vintage as an overall fashion look, some as a lifestyle, and some as simply the characteristic of a given piece. What’s your approach?

Solanah: I would say a little of each! For me it can and often does take over my entire outfit, and others it’s and accent, or a nod to yesteryear. As far as lifestyle goes, I have adapted some old fashioned ways of life into the modern world.

Solanah croquet kerchiefDG: What does dressing in vintage mean to different groups of people? To you?

Solanah: It can mean very different and often opposing things to different people. Some people, mostly those in western religious communities, view it as a traditional, and modest form of dress. It re-enforces traditional gender rolls. This situation seems like a minority.

For the most part vintage is a rebellion against the negative aspects of modern society. Not to be confused with completely turning back the clock, but rather bringing forward the attractive, and leaving the negative behind. Lately fashion had quite a few hiccups, when viewed objectively it’s so confusing and really has no collective foundation. I think people crave clarity and originality, and vintage fulfills that. It’s also something that is obtainable for all social classes, it can be found in high end boutiques, or discount thrift stores.

DG: What are some of your favorite vintage garments?

Solanah: Casual wear is my favorite find. Slacks, denim, sweaters, and coat. Though I have a huge and never ending collection of 1940s hats, I just can’t say no to them.

DG: In 20 years, today’s clothes will be vintage, at least by some definitions. Can you imagine yourself wearing any of them in 2033?

Solanah: This is a really tough question, because on one hand we have so much in terms of clothing, it’s difficult to imagine it being treated the same way we treat vintage clothing today. Right now much of our decades of clothing is rare. It was made of natural fibers, which can decay and be recycled, these garments have an expiration date. But clothing today is completely different. The fibers are so synthesized or combined with natural fibers, there really is no organic circle of life for these garments. We’ll have them for much longer than what we’ve been previously accustomed to, and I think they may come back into our wardrobes as necessity more than anything. What else are we going to do with all these garments? They won’t die.

DG: Is wearing vintage more popular among younger people (however you want to define “younger”)? If so, why?

Solanah: I think simply because people don’t want to look like they’re still wearing fashions from their heyday. It can be difficult to pull off, but honestly I think the older you get, the better you can wear vintage! I’ll always remember an elderly woman I saw walking down the street who was dressed to the nines in a 60s suit, pillbox hat, and matching gloves, pumps, and purse. She was the best!

Solanah wwii jeep overalls
DG: What’s your favorite era? Is that because of the styles, the history, the culture, or some combination?

Solanah: My favorite era can be defined as the years controlled by the second world war. It appeals to me for so many reasons, much of it not being fashion related. Mostly to do with the short taste of liberation women experienced, and the strength they showcased before being forced back into the home. I admire what they did with what little they had, and how they dealt with the hardships and tragedies. This was reflected in the styles adapted, I really love the make do and mend and DIY aspect of the war era, as it’s something I can be creative with.

Solanah victory sweater
DG: You’re well known not only for writing about vintage fashion but for modeling it in fashion shoots on your own site and also for the store you used to work for (that’s actually how I first became aware of you). What’s the secret to a good vintage fashion picture? How important are the poses you strike to how you feel about the outfit?

Solanah: In our shoots we tried to emulate a lot of original fashion portraits from magazines and ads. They really showcased the garments well, and I think there’s a certain strength in “striking a pose”, rather than the very casual, candid poses we see a lot of today.

DG: What do people who wear vintage fashion have in common (if anything)?

Solanah: The most obvious is a love for the past, but I have found many vintage enthusiasts are very involved in various forms of fantasy, fiction, and escapism. Or “geeky” interests, if I could put it simply. Fantastical television shows and movies, comic books, anything that diverts away from the confines of the modern world. I think it has to do with how different people deal with the pressures of modern living, there are those who adapt well and embrace it, and those who need to step back and slow down.

Solanah hair taking curls out

DG: Wearing vintage every day seems like a lot of work--just for the hair styling alone. What’s the most challenging part? Time-consuming? Satisfying?

Solanah: It can look as though that’s the case, but compared to a modern woman’s beauty regimen, it probably takes about the same amount of time and effort. Most vintage wearing women do wet sets at night and wake up with curls. Whereas a non-vintage woman might spend most of her morning curling or straightening her hair with a heat device. When I do that it takes me about a minute or two to do my hair in the morning, but looks like it took an hour. It takes the same amount of time to get dressed comparatively, and I keep my makeup simple: tinted moisturizer, eyeliner, powder, lipstick. I do love getting dressed up, in stockings and hats, and heels for lunch with friends or a cocktail party. Feeling that kind of glamorous is nice every now and then, the kind where you really put in effort and it shows.

Solanah eating breakfastDG: Who inspires your look?

Solanah: Fellow vintage lovers, WWII women workers, old family photos, really any “real” people. I don’t take much inspiration from the airbrushed publicity shots of movie stars, because that type of style just isn’t a huge part of my lifestyle.

DG: Who do you consider glamorous?

Solanah: The type of women who has a certain something alluring and enchanting. She doesn’t necessarily have to look glamorous, or live a glamorous life, but she does hold her head high and has the confidence of an individual in charge of their own life and loving it.

DG: What’s your most glamorous place?

Solanah: My dressing table is my most glamorous place. It’s where the magic happens.

[Photos courtesy of Solanah at Vixen Vintage.]

DG Q&A: Christian Esquevin Of Silver Screen Modiste

Christian Esquevin Silver Screen Modiste I've been enjoying Christian Esquevin's Silver Screen Modiste blog, which he started in December 2010, for the past six months or so and, thanks to a Google search, knew that he lives in Southern California (he's director of library services for the city of Coranado). So when I went to the Debbie Reynolds auction, I made a point of looking for him in line. Sure enough, Christian arrived not long after I did. In our conversation there and in his subsequent blog posts on the auction, he provided valuable insight for my Bloomberg View column. I also learned that he has a large collection of costume design sketches, which are a beautiful art in themselves. Christian kindly agreed to share a few sketches (don't even think of reusing them without permission), as well as some thoughts on the art and history of movie costumes.

DG: How did you get interested in Hollywood costumes?

Christian Esquevin: My interest came relatively late. My great-aunt had been the head cutter-fitter at the RKO studio during the 1930s. Although I had heard some of her stories growing up, it was not until she bequeathed me many of her photos and costume sketches that I became interested. This interest grew into a passion as I researched many of the unknowns about these beautiful items.

Adrian Silver Silver Screen to Custom Label by Christian Esquevin DG: You've written a book about Adrian, who with Edith Head is probably the most famous Hollywood costume designer. What makes his work particularly significant?

CE: There were, and are still, many great costume designers for films. Adrian, I believe, was a genius. He combined his artistic and fashion abilities with the needs of the movie character and the actor playing the part to make indelible images. I truly believe that along with costume designer Travis Banton he created the modern look of glamour.

You can actually look at a photo of some of their creations and say that there was no precedent for such a look – that’s where modern glamour started. Take any of several photos of Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, or Carole Lombard for example. The look of knock-your-eyes-out glamour is there, and it’s still the look today. And with Adrian, you can look at fashion at the time (late 1920s and 1930s) and draw the connection between his costume designs for the stars on film and what women wanted to wear around the world. His looks have been knocked-off for so long that people nowadays can no longer make that connection. Yves St. Laurent was heavily influenced by Adrian in the 1960s, but it’s YSL that gets the mentions.

Los Angeles is always being compared unfavorably with other cities in fashion creation and influence. But in the 1930s and early 1940s, Los Angeles and Hollywood were where fashion trends were started, and that was due to the influence of costume designers like Adrian.

Irene EasterParade costume sketch DG: You're now writing a book on Irene, Walter Plunkett, and Helen Rose. What should people know about them?

CE: These three costume and fashion designers were as influential and accomplished in their day as Dior or Schiaparelli. They all led fascinating creative lives designing the looks of movie-star icons, yet who hears of them today?

If your resume stated that you created the costume designs for Gone with the Wind, Singing in the Rain, and King Kong among many others, as it would for Walter Plunkett, people would be impressed. Or that you designed Grace Kelly’s wedding gown, much of Elizabeth Taylor’s early wardrobe, and for such stars as Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Cyd Charisse, Doris Day, Esther Williams, Debbie Reynolds, and many others, people would take notice.

As for Irene Lentz Gibbons, known simply as Irene, it was said at the time that she dressed everyone in Hollywood. [The sketch to the left is one of Irene's designs for Easter Parade.--vp] Since she worked both as a costume designer and a fashion designer with her own boutique and then her own fashion business, she really did work with many leading ladies. Her customers and stars included Marlene Dietrich, Loretta Young, Carole Lombard, Dolores Del Rio, Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo, and many others. When you look at her gowns and suits you’ll quickly see why she was so admired. They are impeccable and drop-dead gorgeous. While each of these designers is fascinating in their own right, they all worked at MGM at the same time for a period. What a combination – a unique time and place in history that will never be repeated. I just couldn’t leave that story alone.

DG: You collect costume design sketches. How do the clothes change from sketch to actual garment to what we see on film? What's the difference from medium to medium?

CE: I’ll talk about the process during the classic, “studio system,” which is what I’m most familiar with. At that time the studios employed virtually all the talent they needed on a long-term basis. In the wardrobe department this was a vertical integration, so that a designer had one or more “cutter-fitters” they worked with, and seamstresses working under them. These skilled cutter-fitters made muslin patterns based on the costume sketch a designer created. And consider that the costumes fabricated could be Elizabethan, classic Roman, or satin glamour gowns.

The costume sketch itself could be rendered by a sketch artist that had the artistic ability to paint figures and costumes. In these cases the sketch artist had to develop a close working relationship with the designer. Some designers wanted to do the sketch themselves. Adrian, for example, did not want anyone else “interpreting” his designs.

After the cutter-fitter used the sketch to devise patterns, the seamstresses would sew the final fabric based on the individual pattern pieces and then sew them for the fitting. Beaders and embroiderers would also base their work on the sketch.

Still, changes came about in the movie-making process. So some costumes were later modified from the original sketch for the movie. Edith Head liked to change her costume designs as she went along. Adrian wanted his costumes to look just like his sketch.

What is particularly fascinating about having an original production-made costume sketch is that this is an artifact that was handled by the stars, the director, often the producer, and the artisans that made the costume itself, as well as the designer. These pieces often have approval initials from these individuals, as well as budget information on the back. They are unique pieces of Hollywood film history.

DG: Can you share a few of your favorite sketches with our readers and tell us a bit about them?

CE: I have many sketches, and each is special in its own way. Although they have traditionally been called “costume sketches,” they are really water-color paintings, with more attention taken than would a pencil sketch. They were nonetheless working tools, and equally important, they represented the costume designer’s original design. I emphasize this because there are also pieces floating around that were often done many years after a film had been made. These were often done by the designers themselves as commemorative illustrations, or because they did not possess the original sketches, and were made for some of their fashion shows. Since these were done as show pieces, they are typically exact reproductions of how the costume looked on film. But even as working tools, the sketches are usually beautiful – they had to “sell” the director and star on that look.

Swanson1

I have picked a few that I like and I think will be of interest to the viewers, or that illustrate a point I want to make about costume designing and sketches. One of the icons of the movies is Sunset Blvd. with Gloria Swanson. The costumes were designed by Edith Head. This is the costume sketch for Gloria Swanson’s opening scene in the film. It’s interesting because it’s not a regular dress but rather what was then called a hostess gown or hostess dress which was worn over pants. You only notice that when she descends the stairs in the movie. As with many of Edith’s designs, the final costume was changed in that the interior lining was no longer a plaid but rather a leopard print.

Edith Head sketches

Here is another Edith Head costume sketch, done for Betty Hutton in Preston Sturges’s The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek in 1942 (left). Edith Head sketches are pretty rare from the early 40s. Over her long career her sketches look quite different. That’s because she used different sketch artists over time and each had their own artistic style. Also, many costume sketches are never signed. When it was a real production sketch, everyone knew who the designer was, so it was not necessary to sign the piece. Sometimes that makes identifying a particular sketch difficult. The next sketch is also by Edith Head from this period, but there is nothing to identify who it was for or for what film.

Mary Wills costume sketches Virgin Queen Hans Christian Andersen

The next two are costume sketches designed by and rendered by Oscar winning costume designer Mary Wills. The first was done for Joan Collins in The Virgin Queen in 1955. Joan played Beth Throgmorton in the film. A fabric swatch is attached. This costume was one sold at the Debbie Reynolds auction. The next one was also from Mary Wills and was done for “extras” in the outdoor market scene in Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye. This is one of many sketches Mary Wills did for a variety of outdoor vendors that made the scene really come to life. The sketch looks more like it was painted on an easel at the actual Copenhagen market than a costume sketch in a studio.

Donfeld 1
This sketch by Donfeld (Don Feld) was done for Angelica Huston in Prizzi’s Honor. Donfeld’s sketching style was very distinctive, with exaggerated long limbs. This sketch was probably done later than the actual film production sketch.

Costume sketch Rose - Paris
Here is a costume sketch designed by Helen Rose for Edie Adams in Made in Paris in 1966. The sketch was actually rendered by Donna Peterson, Rose’s long-time sketch artist. Some sketches actually showed two views of the costume, or with and without a jacket or coat.

Costume sketch Travilla Valley of the Dolls

This sketch was done by William (Billy) Travilla for Sharon Tate in Valley of the Dolls in 1967. Travilla is famous for his costume designs for Marilyn Monroe, a couple of which sold for several millions at the Debbie auction.

DG: Are there any contemporary films whose costumes you particularly admire?

I really liked the costumes designed by Coleen Atwood for Alice in Wonderland last year. This was a challenge because of the fantastical nature of the story and the well established look of most of the characters, but she did a great job. Another “fantasy” type movie was The Tempest, with costumes designed by Sandy Powell for Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, and the other cast members. Powell really created the fantastical look of these characters based on the Shakespeare play.

For more contemporary costume I liked A Single Man, with costumes by Arianne Phillips and directed by Tom Ford. You’d expect the best costumes to come with a Tom Ford movie, and these did not disappoint both for the men’s and women’s wardrobe. And for those period costumes that are close to the “Mad Men” rage, there’s Revolutionary Road, designed by veteran costume designer Albert Wolsky for Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The one dress that has made the biggest splash over the last several years is Keira Knightly’s green satin, backless gown from Atonement, designed by Jacqueline Durran. The movie was set in the 30s and 1940s, and this gown is really right out of the classic movies of that era.

The DG Dozen

1) How do you define glamour?

The original meaning of glamour was “to enchant” and that’s what it’s still all about. The person or the dress of glamour is one that captures attention and holds it in a mesmerizing and basically pleasurable way. It is strictly visual, so you know it when you see it without being able to describe it. That’s one reason why new looks in fashion or glamour occur.

2) Who or what is your glamorous icon?

There are several, including classic icons such as Jean Harlow, Loretta Young, Marlene Dietrich, Gene Tierney, and Catherine Deneuve, and more contemporary ones like Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, and Marion Cotillard.

3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?

It is a luxury, but also a necessity in that it’s a human need that many people pursue.

4) Favorite glamorous movie?

There are many, but I’ll mention Dinner at Eight, The Women, Shanghai Express, To Catch a Thief, and The Thomas Crowne Affair (with McQueen & Dunaway).

[Questions 5, 6, and 7 omitted.]

8) Most glamorous job?

I think that even creating art, music, beauty, or fashion involves toil. Creating glamour is work, and displaying glamour oneself becomes a role. The most fun is being the person watching glamour.

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

Parties. I would make an exception for the “masked ball” parties that were held in France by such bon-vivants as Carlos de Beistegui during the first half of the last century, for which I was regrettably not around.

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

Formal dining outdoors for lunch.

11) Can glamour survive?

It will, but it’s always in short supply.

12) Is glamour something you're born with?

No. But It helps if you’re born in the right milieu. Mostly you acquire glamour through cultivation. Some people acquire it through the expertise of others. Garbo was glamorous on the screen, but it was Adrian that created that glamour for her.

[Sketches are owned by Christian Esquevin and used with permission. Do not even think of republishing them without permission. Tumblr counts as publishing.]

DG Q&A: PaleoFuture Blogger Matt Novak

Matt Novak Paleofuture blogger

Domed cities, disposable clothes, fashion wired for sound, robot servants, electronic shopping, and, of course,flying cars. Since 2007, Matt Novak's PaleoFuture blog (now supplemented with a popular Twitter feed) has been sharing such past visions of the oh-so-glamorous future, as depicted in old newspaper articles, ads, illustrations, and world's fairs. Here, he shares some thoughts about futurism and nostalgia, along with some favorite images.

DG: How would you describe PaleoFuture—the site and the concept—to someone who'd never seen it?

Matt Novak: The PaleoFuture blog looks at past visions of the future, primarily focusing on 20th century predictions of the American future. Paleofuturism, or more commonly retrofuturism, looks at the predictions of scientists, advertisers, designers, and average people to see what those predictions say about the time in which they were created and how they may have shaped our current times.

DG: How did PaleoFuture come to be?

MN: In 2007 I was taking a writing class that included starting a blog. While most people in the class started blogs about their personal lives I decided that I wasn't very interesting and would write about something else. I started to explore this idea that I had been thinking about since I was a child: how people of the past imagined the future.

Magic Highway Miehana 6 paleofuture
Magic Highway U.S.A. (1958)

DG: What used to be glamorous about the future?

MN: Images of the future are reflections of the time in which they are created. The future was most glamorous at times when this abstract idea of glamour was important to popular culture. The 1950s is considered a golden age of American futurism. The 1950s techno-utopian ideas of progress sometimes appear to be reconciling the shiny plastic future alongside the more traditional ideas of glamour and the American dream.

DG: What are your favorite PaleoFuture images?

Paleofuture chysler solar-powered cars 1958 closer than we think
Closer than You Think (1958): Solar-Powered Cars

MN: My favorite images of retrofuturism often come from a Sunday comic that was syndicated by the Chicago Tribune from 1958 until 1963. [More examples here, here, and here.]

DG: You recently wrote on your Twitter feed that "Nostalgia is not a disease, but a symptom of fear." How do you define nostalgia? Do you have to have experienced something yourself to be nostalgic for it?

GOING TO THE OPERA IN THE YEAR 2000 (1882) paleo future
Going to the Opera in the Year 2000 (1882)

MN: Nostalgia as a symptom of fear is far too broad of an idea, and frankly I regret saying it so matter of factly. There is an important distinction I feel that we should make between personal nostalgia and societal nostalgia. Personal nostalgia is that smell of your first teddy bear or the feeling of your first kiss. Personal nostalgia is a wonderful part of the human experience. But I feel that personal nostalgia is anecdotal and thus dangerous when used as ammunition to describe this desire to return to a "better time." I find that more often than not, the time and place that society is nostalgic for never existed. Romanticizing the past, while perfectly fine when applied individually, can stifle progress.


1939 vanity fair paleofuture bearded 21st century men DG: Is PaleoFuture a nostalgic site? If not, why not?

MN: I do my best to present PaleoFuture as neutrally as possible, though my personal opinions on society, technology, or progress often bleed through. I think many people who visit my site find it to be nostalgic because they're projecting. People often think that even the future used to be better.

DG: You often post mysterious requests on your Twitter feed—advice on finding a book on theme park design or an old robot or jet pack in Los Angeles. What do you do when you're not blogging?

MN: I work for a non-traditional marketing company in Minneapolis called Street Factory Media. We do stuff like this (and by "like this" I mean I cast and managed that stunt). I'm moving to Los Angeles in September and will be working for the same company.

DG: What do you think of the upcoming Tron movie?

MN: Haven't seen it obviously but I'm excited to check it out. I'm generally fine with movie remakes, sequels and prequels. I'm much more of a cinelibertarian than most of my other film nerd friends.

DG: Is there anything glamorous about the future nowadays?

MN: Today? Very little. We're certainly at a low point for futurism at the moment given the amount of apocalypse porn that is being produced (see: Collapse and Countdown to Zero). But as the economy improves I think we'll see many more glamorous and optimistic visions of the future.

DG: What images would be on a PaleoFuture site about 2010 in 2050?

MN: This question is the most clever attempt at making me predict the future that I've seen. But, no dice. I don't know the future and the beautiful thing is that no one else does either.

The DG Dozen

1) How do you define glamour?

Poise and grace. Confidence is the most essential ingredient to glamor.

2) Who or what is your glamorous icon?

Grace Kelly

3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?

Luxury.

4) Favorite glamorous movie?

To Catch a Thief. I've always found Grace Kelly to be more glamorous in To Catch a Thief than Rear Window, though I think Rear Window is a far superior movie.

5) What was your most glamorous moment?

I'm not glamorous.

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

A snifter of brandy

7) Most glamorous place?

New York City

8) Most glamorous job?

Philanthropist

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

Bright red lipstick

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

The sound of breaking glass

11) Can glamour survive?

Yes. It's just cyclical as to whether it's in style or not.

12) Is glamour something you're born with?

The larger question is whether you're born with confidence or not.

EITHER/OR

1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett? Blanchett

2) Paris or Venice? Venice, CA

3) New York or Los Angeles? New York

4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace? Grace

5) Boots or stilettos? Boots

6) Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Deco

7) Jaguar or Astin Martin? Jaguar

8) Champagne or single malt? Single malt.

9) 1960s or 1980s? 60s

Blogs, Fashion, And The Resurgent Glamour Of Smoking

Celia smoking cigarette Flickr malias

Jennine of The Coveted is calling on fashion and street blogs to stop posting “images of cool, chic people standing around casually smoking.” Such images, she argues, promote a seductively glamorous image of a gross and dangerous habit. “Even...people who hate smoking in real life, get a voyeuristic joy out of these cool people who are immune to health hazards and smelly breath.”

“Would it be too much to ask to put out the cigarette for a moment, for the sake of social responsibility?” she asks.

She’s not the first to make that argument. Her prime target, The Sartorialist, has long drawn criticism for showing so many street-fashion icons with lit cigarettes. (Examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) The topic has become something of a joke among commenters, and this post included a disclaimer declaring that the image isn’t supposed to celebrate smoking.

St Tropez smoker black leather FaceMePLS Flickr

The problem, of course, is that these cool, chic people do smoke, particularly on the street. (The New Yorkers in these photos often look like they’re on the street precisely because they’re smokers fleeing no-smoking buildings.) But, Jennine correctly notes, such photos are always selective. Why not edit out the cigarettes? In effect, she’s arguing that fashion blogs should further glamorize their subjects by deleting their nasty habits.

In truth, these blog photos rarely glamorize smoking. Unlike images like this, this, or this, they don't emphasize the smoking. It is unimportant to the image and the emotions it evokes. Rather, these photos normalize smoking, by depicting cigarettes as no more unusual or problematic than cell phones. You have to care about cigarettes to imbibe any message about them.

Of course, that normalization is something of a change from the treatment of cigarettes in my youth, when smoking was generally viewed as a low-class habit for losers. The unrelenting campaign against it has given smoking new cachet, making it an emblem of “heroic, sexy social outlaws,” as one observer put it in British Vogue.

Still, the main pro-cigarette bias on fashion blogs isn’t overt. It’s a side effect of the photographic medium. The still image removes the smoker from time and, thus, from the long-term consequences of the smoking. In this way, the photos are indeed glamorous, offering escape into a perfect, and illusory, moment beyond entropy, age, decay, or death.

[Celia enjoying a cigarette by Flickr user Malias, St. Tropez smoker by Flickr user FaceMePLS, both used under Creative Commons license.]

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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.]


DG Q&A: Manolo The Shoeblogger

Manolo2Manolo the Shoeblogger answer our "wickedly hard set of questions." As his answers suggest, The Manolo (who is not Maestro Manolo Blahnik) is not just a very funny shoe lover and blogging tycoon but an erudite intellectual whose style comes with loads of substance--something that should surprise no one familiar with his little book, The Consolation of the Shoes, which is modeled on the medieval classic The Consolation of Philosophy (but much more fun).

Manolo: Who wears them. Manolo Blahniks and Christian Louboutins are glamorous because they are worn by glamorous peoples. Aside from this, however, they are also exceedingly beautiful and costly objects, to be desired in their own right, and one would wish to own and wear them even if they were not on the feets of the famous.

DG: Glamour requires mystery, something you know a lot about. Short of creating an anonymous persona, what do you advise people who want to maintain some mystery and glamour?

Manolo: The Manolo is convinced that it is almost impossible to make yourself glamorous, especially since you have no way of judging if you've succeeded short of being feted by the President at the Kennedy Center. After all, if you wake up one morning and say to your self, "Huzzah, I have achieved glamorousness!" you may be certain that you have not, and that are you are surely and unattractively self-deluded.

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If you feel the need to talk, as the Manolo frequently does, keep your conversations glittering and light and witty. Avoid telling everyone about your difficult childhood, your terrible divorce, or the details of your recent colonoscopy.

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However, it is always and forever the good idea to surround yourself with the little bit of mystery, and the easiest way to do this is by shutting your mouth. Strong silent men and mysterious women who say little will always be objects of desire and admiration. It is not necessary in ordinary conversation to reveal every detail of your life, so do not. If you feel the need to talk, as the Manolo frequently does, keep your conversations glittering and light and witty. Avoid telling everyone about your difficult childhood, your terrible divorce, or the details of your recent colonoscopy.

As for the glamour part, nothing we mortals can do will ever get us closer to glamorous than putting on formal wear for the evening-time event. If, like the Manolo, you are not possessed of physical beauty and great wealth or fame, dressing up in the tuxedo and going out for the fancy dinner and dance is perhaps the best simulacrum of glamour that can be achieved.

Otherwise, you should dress stylishly, wear excellent shoes, be confident and cheery, and treat others with courtesy and kindness. That may not be glamorous, but it is the Manolo's definition of super fantastic.

DG: What books would you recommend for understanding glamour?

Manolo:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

The Story of My Life by Giocomo Cassanova

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly

Garbo by Barry Paris

The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen

The DG Dozen

1) How do you define glamour?

Glamour is the peculiar and elusive characteristic that combines, in unspecified and unspecifiable proportions, the qualities of charisma, style, beauty, desirability, confidence, rarity, and mysteriousness. In fact, it is almost impossible to fully define what makes something glamorous. As with the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of obscenity, we have trouble defining glamour, but know it when we see it.

Having said that, the Manolo further avers that of all the previously mentioned characteristics, the most important are beauty and mysteriousness.

That which can be held closely and examined intimately loses its glamour, which is why the most glamorous of persons (Jackie O, Greta Garbo, Lord Byron, Galla Placidia, Cleopatra, Sappho) have always had something wonderfully opaque about them. Their motives are not well known, perhaps even to themselves, and thus it is this mysteriousness that in large part makes them glamorous. Likewise without beauty, such mysteriousness does not fully compel us.

By this definition, to be glamorous is to be extraordinary, perhaps even uncanny, unheimlich, if you will; the exact opposite of ordinary. What makes someone glamorous cannot be fully and clearly comprehended.

This, of the course, naturally raises the important question, can inanimate objects can be "glamorous" in and of themselves. Or is it perhaps true that only people can be glamorous?

The Manolo is of two minds on this topic. On the one of the hands, objects can be indisputably and often indescribably beautiful. And, as we know, beautiful objects clearly have the ability to evoke powerful emotions, of lust, love, desire, envy; indeed, they can even inspire some to commit great crimes, or others to great acts of charity.

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Mysteriousness does not apply to something as comprehensible as the Aston Martin automobile; it is the work of mechanics and men, of designers and engineers. There is little of that necessary glamorous mystery about it.

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The Manolo believes that what we consider to be the glamorous object is only is only glamorous by reflection, because of the person or persons who are closely associated with the specific things.

For the example, our Aston Martin automobile is glamorous because it is associated with James Bond and rich English playboys, not because it is inherently glamorous in itself. The Aston Martin is beautiful, costly, well made, rare, and extremely desirable, and yet it was not fully glamorous until it was adopted as the symbol of the particular and desirable mode of life. Without Ian Fleming, the Aston Martin would simply be one more marque of luxury automobile.

Thus glamorous objects are glamorous by association, and are not inherently glamorous. And here, in the matter of objects of desire, the Manolo nods in the direction of Thorstein Veblen, even as the Manolo denies that personal glamour can be explained by reference to theories of class. (The glamour of the glamorous person is too individually unique to be explained by such methods.)

And so, to come back in the circular fashion to the Manolo's original point, glamour is intensely difficult to define. It is elusive and will-o-the-wisp, but beauty and mystery are its chief components.

Pericles_Pio-Clementino_Inv269_n2 2) Who or what is your glamorous icon?

Pericles.

3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity?

It is neither. True glamour is like the shooting star, it is unpredictable and transitory, it cannot be willed into existence, and can be destroyed far too easily to be relied upon. You cannot buy glamour, you can only buy objects that reflect the glamour of others. Glamour is created within the individual person, and is not the style to be worn like the suit of fashionable clothes, but rather something inherent.

4) Favorite glamorous movie?

Napoléon by Abel Gance.

5) What was your most glamorous moment?

The Manolo knows himself too well to have had the glamorous moment.

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

Ray Ban aviator style sunglasses. Because they are the rare example of the object this is very common, relatively inexpensive, and yet indisputably glamorous. If objects reflect the glamour of those who wear them, then Ray Bans reflect the glamour of heroic fighter pilots, who like bullfighters, astronauts, and football quarterbacks, have the sizable portion of glamour baked right into their jobs. Also, sunglasses are inherently glamorous accessories because they conceal.

7) Most glamorous place?

Can the place be glamorous? Yes, but only until you visit it, and then your illusions of glamour are dispelled by the mundane things of the everyday world that you cannot help but notice, like traffic jams, and garbage collection, and sewers that back up when it rains too much. Thus Venice is glamorous, until the breeze off the Adriatic brings in the smell of rotting fish and raw sewage, at which point it is like Hoboken with better architecture.

And so, the Manolo would have to say, that for him, the current most glamorous place in the world is Saint Petersburg, but only because he has never been there.

As the footnote, the Manolo must explain that romantic and glamorous are not the same. The place like Venice, which sometimes smells of rotting fish, or Paris, where the traffic is sometimes horrific, are still terribly romantic, while Hoboken will never be romantic, even if it were to smell constantly of roses and freshly roasted coffee.

Bull_fighter

8) Most glamorous job?

Bullfighter, indisputably.

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

Madonna, George Clooney, Scarlett Johannsen, Kate Hudson, Katherine Heigl, and 99.97% of the people who are commonly considered glamorous, to include almost anyone seen in the most recent issues of Us and People magazines. Also, by definition, any person who appears in the regular network television series cannot be glamorous.

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

George Washington. Tall, handsome, wealthy, mysterious, and possessed of real charisma. This is the test of true glamour: If your countrymen wish to make you king, you are probably glamorous. If you then refuse to be made king, you are indisputably glamorous.

George Washington 1782 painting 11) Can glamour survive?

Individual glamour never survives intimate contact (hence Marilyn Monroe's many divorces), and very rarely can it survive the ravages of old age (Garbo and Jackie O. are perhaps the only counter examples) which is why dying young is the surest way of maintaining one's glamour indefinitely.

As for the larger question, can glamour survive the ravages of our paparazzi-and-Perez-Hilton-ridden, Age of Full Disclosure? The Manolo does not know. Glamour depends upon mystery, which is becoming harder and harder to maintain in our time.

12) Is glamour something you're born with?

The uncanny nature of glamour, the mysteriousness of its genesis, and its persistent elusiveness tempts the Manolo to say yes, and yet, real glamour can only be expressed in the full bloom of adulthood. Can you train yourself to glamour? The Manolo supposes anything is possible, although it seems to happen far more by accident than planning.

EITHER/OR

1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett?

Peoplenoglam

Cate Blanchett. Until the few weeks ago, it would have been Angeline Jolie. But then the People Magazine published the pictures of her in the matronly cotton nighty. Matronly nighties are like kryptonite to glamour.

2) Paris or Venice?

Neither. The Manolo has been to both places.

3) New York or Los Angeles?

Neither. The Manolo has lived in both places.

4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace?

Princess Grace. Without the single tiny second of hesitation.

5) Tokyo or Kyoto?

Kyoto. But, then the Manolo has been to neither place.

6) Boots or stilettos?

Boots. There is more mystery and fable in the good pair of boots than in all the stiletto-heeled sandals combined.

Kiss 7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau?

Art Nouveau. The 1890s are far more glamorous than the mundane 1930s.

8) Jaguar or Astin Martin?

Aston Martin

9) Armani or Versace?

Versace.

10) Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour?

Diana Vreeland. Please this one is fish in the barrel.

11) Champagne or single malt?

Champagne.

12) 1960s or 1980s?

1960s, but only because of the first three years, which rightly should be grouped with the 1950s. Likewise, 1980s glamour is confined mostly to the person of Ronald Reagan alone. All else, including Nancy, is not especially glamorous.

13) Diamonds or pearls?

Diamonds.

14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell?

Models are rarely glamorous. Only those like Charlize Theron who become actresses have achieved true glamour.

15) Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?

Sean Connery, then. Daniel Craig, now.