Notes from the Field: American Glamour

January 17, 2011

Growing up in a small town thirty minutes south of Boston, my love of glamour was first aroused when my mother’s mah-jongg club would convene at our house once a month on Tuesday evenings at around seven. The five women who made up the club arrived with waists cinched by wide belts, freshly painted red fingernails and hair swept up, in anticipation of an evening out of the house and with “the girls.†As I would kiss my mother goodnight before their game commenced, the women, sitting around a folding card table in our small living room, exuded an air of allure that I would forever equate with glamour.

In the introduction to Alice T. Friedman’s book, American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture, Freidman writes, “Glamour is experiential and ideological: it is a look, an attitude, a feeling, and a message.†Freidman proposes that the aesthetic of mid-century modern architecture was a reflection of this ever increasing fascination with glamour.

Full disclosure: Friedman is a good friend. Over decidedly unglamorous Sunday suppers of scrambled eggs or meatloaf, we’ve spent more than a few nights discussing the complicated nature of glamour. What defines it? How is it manifested? Where is it found? In this technological savvy age, is glamour outmoded? Or–and this seems more to the point–has it just morphed into something different? How do we incorporate a touch of glamour in our lives and keep the intrigue of its seductive appeal alive?
–Cheryl Katz

Photo courtesy of Yale University Press