[Glamour Guide] What Does Glamour Mean Anyway?

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The New Jersey Finishing School for Would-Be Glamour Girls & Boys

“Waiting to get my nails did and a lady just walked in wearing a floor length mink coat over a track suit.  Also:  SO MUCH JEWELRY.  ALL THE (YELLOW) GOLD JEWELRY.  New Jersey, I love you.   Never change.”  – a text received by me from Ms. K, the ex-opera singer at 4:14p yesterday.

I can never sleep this close to the Winter Solstice.   I run in my sleep like a dog, turning fitfully and dreaming about missing teeth.

Not even the nouveau riche have whimsical, dreamy (and expensive!) perfect bedrooms. I would know, I’ve changed diapers in enough of them.

Our bedroom has just enough space for our bed, two bedside tables and my vanity table crammed in the corner.  There are piles and piles of clothes around the bed.  In our bed: A package that needs to be returned, a clean fleece pajama top acting as a a mini extra blanket, a stuffed lambie, sheets crumpled at the foot of our bed and a book Jow fell asleep reading.  I’m wearing old flannel zebra striped pajama bottoms from Target and a BMO t shirt from Hot Topic with wool socks that the elderly wear.  I insisted on painting our bedroom in nighmarish purple and violet stripes that look more like a Pinterest Fail than anything else but we have been too tired to repaint it.  I don’t even know what we’d repaint it in anyway.  I don’t know what got into me, it was only three years ago.  I don’t know why I thought it would be glamorous but I did.  The stripes kind of bleed into each other in blotches and the top of the stripes were painted haphazardly by a former roommate with more enthusiasm than skill .  My uncle saw the stripes as a testament to Jow’s love for me.  His only comment was, “Stripes are a bitch to do, huh?”

Still. I have my wrought iron vanity table with its little stool with the violet flannel covered seat, an Erzulie sigil sketched onto the mirror by me.  I can use it as a tiny sanctuary.  It’s where I carefully paint my face and select the perfume I’ll wear and etch sigils onto myself, absently jamming magical curios into my bra.  Battle plans are carefully decided there for the night, occasionally for the day. Everything is ephemeral and nothing has been decided yet.  The first song has not yet been played, the first drink has not yet been drank and offenses have not yet been made.  There is still time for the night to be so great that I’ll whisper, I never want this moment to end.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Every time I have to look up a word in the dictionary, I’m delighted. – Vivienne Westwood

What your friendly neighborhood Pinners think is glamorous. Seems legit for PTA meetings.

glam·our noun \ˈgla-mər\

 a very exciting and attractive quality :  an exciting and often illusory and romantic attractiveness<the glamour of Hollywood>; especially :  alluring or fascinating attraction —often used attributively <glamourstock> <glamour girls> <whooping cranes and … otherglamour birds — R. T. Peterson>
:  a magic spell <the girls appeared to be under a glamour — Llewelyn Powys>
Origin of GLAMOUR
Scots glamour, alteration of English grammar; from the popular association of erudition with occult practices

First Known Use: 1715

The Thin Line Between Imagination and a Damn Lie

“A truth that’s told with bad intent/ Beats all the lies you can invent.” ― William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

We love to gloss over hardship.  Hardship in and of itself isn’t exciting and it’s notoriously hard to put into words.  Writing about the thousand small worries never do it justice anyway.  Will Mom’s dog die this year too?  Why does my car idle high when I’m in reverse or parked or braked?  I still need to pay for my bloodwork.  Will working more hours in my day job help me or hinder me?  When will I simply be offered a book deal?  When can I have clean hair regularly?  

J.K Rowling is perhaps the most famous rags to riches story for writers.  Here’s a spoiler: You aren’t going to write children’s books about a charming young wizard that’s going to make you worth £560 million.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a comfortable living from your art.  And it doesn’t mean you can’t learn something her fight as an artist, because she sure did struggle.  Her mom died of MS before Joanne even wrote enough to tell her about Harry.  She had a short, tumultuous marriage that ended in divorce and she was working little jobs where she could to feed her daughter.  She wasn’t a success (until she was), she was a cautionary tale for her friends and family to cluck over. Rowlings said, Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

What does hardship have to do with glamour?  Well, hardship is part of what makes you exciting and attractive to others.  And if there’s anything occultists and witches know how to do is to make something out of nearly nothing.  More than that, to make it pretty.  Even my mom recognized that when trying to describe what a witch is.

We may be eating kale casserole for dinner but godsdamn if we can’t tell you what a great superfood kale is.  There will be chocolate quick bread for dessert (chocolate is an antioxidant, dontcha know?) and a cordial if the fresh berries were cheap enough at the market and someone gave us a bottle of vodka at party.  We’ll give it a ridiculous name like Lucrezia’s Lament.  It will all be served it on a creaky table that never got put together quite right, no matter how many allen wrenches we used.  But the table will be laden with tealights in jelly jars tied with yarn and served on plates with maps on them we found on clearance at the Pottery Barn for $3 each (dishwasher and microwave safe!). We’ll always sparkle with enough glittering jewelry for four and twenty magpies that we picked up in unlikely sale and we will always show a bit too much skin and be swathed in a bit too much sumptuous sensual fabric.  There will always be music that we sing and play for each other on instruments and computers.  There will always be stories we have to tell each other of far away lands we managed to see, traveling on mostly empty stomachs.   Stories about local spirits who play rough when the moon is right.

The line between a lie and a good story has been as thin as a cobweb ever since our ancestors started telling each other their “this-one-time-in-band-camp”  stories.  Sometimes it’s all we have for each other.   A well told story that makes us remember that the difference between “the curves that hugged her husband’s favorite shirt, soft from many wearings” and “an old ratty black t shirt with spills from eating chips before bed on it that never fit her boobs correctly”. Start working on this in your personal narrative.  It’s everything.  

Once Young and Beautiful, Now What?

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.  But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked….– Baz Luhrmann

Glamour is easy when you’re in that halcyon age between 16 and 25.  The world wants to believe that everything is beautiful and talented about you, so it’s easy enough to go along with it.   Your hair is shiny so skin blemishes are overlooked, your figure is likely the best it will ever be so no one cares about your small imperfections and your fashion sense seems gamine and charming no matter how much eyeliner and glitter you smear onto yourself (I’m looking at you too, boys.  You know who you are.)  You are filled with unfulfilled potential.  You could be a singer, a writer, a dancer, an artist, whatever you want to be.  You don’t care about living conditions much anyway, as long as there’s booze and/or drugs and friends.  Living off of ramen and popcorn is chic as long as there’s chopsticks.  As long as you’re young, you’ll be beautiful.  As long as there’s a tomorrow,  you’ll always have time to fulfill all of that potential your family and high school teachers saw in you.  Today for you, tomorrow for me, right? Dead wrong, bitches.  Welcome to your existential quarter-life crisis.

From Joseph Rosa’s Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture:
Glamour is not just beauty or luxury. It is not a style but an effect, a quality that depends on the play of imagination. Its power is not sensation but inspiration. War can be glamorous; so can police work or garage entrepreneurship or laboratory science. Their glamour includes the risks but omits the tedium, the sore feet, the dirt, the accounting. Glamour is never boring. Its grace makes the difficult seem achievable, available to all. Its mystery invites identification without the distracting or deflating details of intimate knowledge: you could be like this, it suggests. You could have this life. Through its grace and mystery, glamour transports us from the world of compromises, constraints and disappointments. It is, to quote a recent fashion blurb, ”all about transcending the everyday.” Glamour invites just enough familiarity to engage the imagination. In its mysterious blend of accessibility and distance, it is neither transparent nor opaque. It is translucent. Dramatically photographed in the right light, the ubiquitous concrete screens of midcentury modern architecture, like those of Charles Luckman’s Parke-Davis Building, evoke the glamour of a partially revealed setting. We only glimpse the life behind them.
When the party stops and you are not glamorous anymore by virtue of youth, what happens?  Some people just give up and give in.  They speak fondly of their past memories and dreams and just fade into middle age.  That’s fine if you’re okay with your heart dying.  You’re not?  Really.  You don’t say.
True glamour is more than lipstick, more than bottle service at the club, more than what others think of you.  It’s easy to stop there because those are the easy parts.  Those are the parts that the boy-run media want you to care about.  If you’re always chasing the dragon (youth, what was, what never was), you take your eye off the ball and what’s actually important.
When you are at your darkest, lowest point, when you feel like you’re a dried up husk with nothing left, when you feel like you have no new tricks, when you feel like you’ll never be anything of worth, when you feel like you’ll always struggle just to pay the goddamn electricity bill, when you feel like you can’t remember what lust feels like or what it means to find something beautiful, that’s when you go into your bathroom and turn out all the lights and lay your head against the floor and hold the darkest, most powerful mirror up to yourself and look for what you see reflected back.  Does it scare you?  It should.
We’re done chasing dragons, Charmers.  We’re going into the heart of darkness in 2014.  Come with me.
Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


3 Responses

  1. “when you feel like you’re a dried up husk with nothing left, when you feel like you have no new tricks, when you feel like you’ll never be anything of worth, when you feel like you’ll always struggle just to pay the goddamn electricity bill, when you feel like you can’t remember what lust feels like or what it means to find something beautiful”

    This would be right where I am right now.
    I don’t actually know if I have a purpose or a function right now, let alone some sort or grand or even tiny Thing I’m supposed to accomplish to make my existence actually worth the effort of breathing and taking up air.

    I don’t even know what that mirror is supposed to look like. I’m afraid the reflection will show me that I’m worthless.

    • Believe me, I totally understand. Our dining room table is still in “party configuration” so we have an empty dining room and I chose last night to utilize that space by rolling around on the floor, loudly complaining that I will never be famous or get a book deal, ever.

      But I also know you. And I know the reflection in the dark mirror will not show you that you’re worthless. Whatever dark things are there can be worked with, one way or another. Keep fighting, sister. You create beauty and wonder, never forget that.
      Deborah Castellano recently posted..[Glamour Guide] What Does Glamour Mean Anyway?My Profile

  2. I am here right with you. Once again I got all misty eyed after reading what you wrote – again AMAZING.

    Oh and Melinda – you are not worthless. You are WORTHWILD…your name alone means both gentle and honey. I’m rooting for you :)I always felt ugly and worthless, never glamours (especially thanks to those diva stars I’m related to) but guess what I look at me now and every day I work to be better.
    Sunny recently posted..IggleBugsMy Profile

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