Glamour and Modernity

In this chapter, we have shown that glamour is integral to capitalist modernity. It emerged at a specific point in history characterized by: the shift in terms of the general order of meanings and priorities from a society dominated by the aristocracy to one governed by the bourgeoisie; the extension of commodification into ever wider public and private spheres; the development of a new urban system of life permeated by consumerism and the importance of fashion; the closer proximity of the theatre and high society; the creation of patterns of leisure shared by virtually all urban classes; an obsession with the feminine as the cultural codifier of modernity’s tensions and promise.

Glamour became more important as modernity spread and the mass media developed. Popular magazines, cinema, radio and, later, television provided opportunities for staging, representing and inventing people, events and commodities. For this reason they were seized on by retail and cultural industries. Over time, a language of commercial seduction evolved and was codified. It may be suggested that, in recent times, the forms taken by this language have tended to be nostalgic or to employ pastiche.

The fashion spreads that appeared in the leading magazines at the time of the glamour revival of 1994, for example, had a dull and familiar feel to them. Caprice, as a contemporary embodiment of glamour, seems more like a reminder of American television shows like Dynasty and Baywatch (which themselves were influenced by classical Hollywood cinema) than an original.


There are several reasons for this. One is related to the sheer quantity of glamorous images that have been produced over the last century. Today we live in a complex, highly visual culture in which the iconic images of the past have, through repetition, acquired more resonance than everyday reality.

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