Book Review – Glamour: Women, History, Feminism by Carol Dyhouse

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Do you have what it takes to be glamorous? Being glamorous means to have an attractive quality, to be fascinating, appealing and, alluring. Being glamorous doesn’t only mean looking beautiful on the outside, but also in the inside. Glamour: History, Feminism, Women is a book written by Carol Dyhouse. She is a researcher who emphasizes gender in her research. She is currently a research professor at the University of Sussex.  Some of the other book she has written include Growing Up in Late Victorian and Edwardian England and No Distinction of Sex? Women in British Universities and Students:  A Gendered History.  

The specific focus of Glamour:  Women, History, Feminism is on the classic period of Hollywood from the 1930s to 1950s. The book notes during this time Glamour is seen as sophisticated and often sexually alluring. It discusses how fashion trends, movies, magazines, and stars influenced how people lived.

The book is composed of seven chapters

1The origins of glamour: demi-monde, modernity, ‘It’

The chapter described how the word glamour during the nineteenth century meant to do something like sorcery or magical charms. The book talks about the history of glamour during the twentieth century.

2. Hollywood glamour

The word glamour is associated with American cinemas during the 1930s to 1950s. The word glamour in Hollywood is typically used to describe female stars. With its success in Hollywood, these female stars became icons that women all over the world would try to imitate including their clothing, accessories, hairstyle, and even mannerisms. It had a big impact on women, and how it changes the visualization of many on what it means to be glamorous.

3. Dreams, desires, and spending

The author discusses how history repeats itself. Before wearing a fur coat, pearl necklace, elegant dress, elegant accessories, and red lipstick was considered glamorous, but now, wearing red lipstick and having a strong scent of perfume today’s youth doesn’t consider as glamorous.

It also talks about how throughout society and through the decades status is portrayed basically through fashion and appearance. Like today, people from rich, middle class or from poor families tend to buy signature items and beauty products to be seen as glamorous and fashionable. They try to spend a lot on items they desire and dream it will make them like their idols.

4. Princesses, tarts and cheesecake

In the 1950s the idea of glamour was being tainted by it is association with what was known as “cheesecake photography” including pin-up nudes or scantily dressed models in naughty magazines.  It degraded the idea of glamour as something beautiful and to be aspired to down to something tawdry.

5. Revolutions

In this chapter, she presents the less obvious rise of glamour during the women’s liberation movement. The world glamour was often associated with referring to women as sexual objects with the sole focus on the woman’s body.

6. Glamazons, grunge, and bling

She reveals in this chapter how people are fascinated with materials, visual culture, clothes, jewelry, cosmetics and popular fashion trends. How the history of women is mostly defined by clothes, cosmetics and fashion culture.

7. Perspectives and reflections: glamour for all?

Carol Dyhouse said: “Nothing empowers women as well as a good education and a well-paid job. But it is about self-assertion too.”  Having a good education and a well-paid job makes you powerful in a way similar to men.  You can have a good education, unlike before when women could not study and advance but were left at home to tend to children and chores. The author focuses on women being empowered by more than just their looks and fashion.  But that women can also use the idea of glamour can be women-empowering and a path to identity coupled with the modern feminist movement.

The author ends by arguing that there is nothing wrong with being fashionable as long as we can afford it and it looks good on us. But that doesn’t have to define the whole women and you don’t have to be glamorous.  What is a beauty if your brain is empty? What can your glam help you achieve in life if you cannot defend yourself, especially your rights and ability to take up new opportunities?  Glamour:  Women, History, Feminism is a fascinating look into what it means to be glamorous.