Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Power of Glamour

Book jacket and naked bound book

The Power of Glamour: The Women Who Defined the Magic of Stardom by Annette Tapert (1998)

Get this book if you love Old Hollywood's gossip, glamorous stars and fabulous gowns. This book covers eleven of the best-dressed stars of old, like Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, Dolores del Rio, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich.

I refer back to this book often. The most important thing I got out of it was how a woman's personality influenced and enhanced her style. These women looked great but also gave off a sense of being comfortable in their clothes and/or bodies. Basically, they knew they looked good.

Another interesting thing I found throughout most of the profiles was that women throughout time have thought they had body flaws and that a great way to disguise the bad and highlight the good was with fashion. Crawford’s shoulders were thought too broad for her slim hips so the shoulders of her gowns and jackets were exaggerated, making them a design choice instead of a body flaw. Claudette Colbert thought her waist was too thick and her neck too short so she insisted designer Travis Banton draw the eye up and away from her perceived flaws by showing as much of her bosom as possible in 1934's pre-code Cleopatra.

Also, who can resist 200 photographs like this one?
Joan Crawford at home

Interesting revelations:

  • Young Joan Crawford (see above) was such a natural beauty with her freckles unhidden and only 5’4” tall. Unfortunately, the most common image is of a later Crawford with stark drawn-on brows and a harsh uncompromising mouth.
  • Claudette Colbert essentially wore the same hairstyle, a short bob with bangs, her entire life.

Greta Garbo and Kate Hepburn, looking fabulous!

Norma Shearer in one of my favorite outfits from the book

There is also an earlier companion book, The Power of Style: The Women Who Defined the Art of Living Well by Ms. Tapert and Diana Edkins from 1994. It explores the personal styles of fourteen women such as Slim Keith, Babe Paley, Millicent Rogers, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I can not wait to check that one out too. Lately, I can't seem to stop reading books on vintage fashion and sewing lately.
I highly recommend this book. Enjoy.

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