It is unexpected. The old saying about Hollywood applies here as well: No one knows anything. I’ve casually surveyed countless people over the years—fashion directors, photographers, and various women with various interests—and none of them can agree on the constituents of glamour. Is it wide cheekbones that rake the light, symmetry (you’d be surprised how often this comes up, a bit of pop-psychological nonsense), small features, and thin bodies? Because they are trying to sell clothes, you know. Or, no, it’s about large, bright, expressive eyes and curvy bodies, because they are trying to sell a way of being, a character for whom the clothes are ultimately only accessories. Given all this disagreement, it’s a wonder we can make glamour at all.
It’s a wonder, too, that we even try. Glamour is among the most superfluous of things. Many have never seen it, let alone borne it; many more have paid it no mind. It’s utterly frivolous, strictly speaking, worthless, and even those who are blessed with the ability to manifest it—photographers and the people they shoot—tend to denigrate their gift and sometimes abandon it. Because it’s nothing, really: just a bit of flash and glitter, a smile, and goodbye. It’s not going to save the world.
No, but it’s one of the things that can make the world seem worth saving. Pleasures aren’t so easy to come by, after all, and the purer the pleasure, the more pointless and inexplicable, the more we tend to prize it. Glamour is one of life’s great indulgences, as addictive as opium; it really does exist, and when you see it, see it true, see it flash before your eyes, it’s fantastically impressive—and in a curious way, redemptive. Because it offers us a glimpse into another world, more perfect than this one, and for that moment, enchantment swirls around us. And then it is gone again.