Talk Description to Me

Episode 49 - Oscars Glamour

May 01, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 2 Episode 49
Talk Description to Me
Episode 49 - Oscars Glamour
Chapters
3:08
Golden Era Glamour
16:14
1960's Glamour
19:52
1970's Glamour
21:49
1980's Glamour
23:03
Today's Glamour
Talk Description to Me
Episode 49 - Oscars Glamour
May 01, 2021 Season 2 Episode 49
Christine Malec and JJ Hunt

This year’s landmark Audio Description of the Academy Awards got us thinking about a hallmark of Oscar night: glamour! What are the visuals of glamour? Is glamour about wearing the right gown and accessories, or is there more to it than just fashion? Has glamour changed over time? And just who gets to be glamorous, anyhow?


Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This year’s landmark Audio Description of the Academy Awards got us thinking about a hallmark of Oscar night: glamour! What are the visuals of glamour? Is glamour about wearing the right gown and accessories, or is there more to it than just fashion? Has glamour changed over time? And just who gets to be glamorous, anyhow?


Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)

JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to Me where the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashtag in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

This has been a big year for audio description and one of the watershed moments is having the Oscars described very, very big news in the accessibility world. And so that means that JJ and I will not be giving a detailed dive into into the Oscars. But what we thought we would do was take a bit of a either a call it a step back, or a dive in to talk about the idea of glamour and how that concept has evolved or not or changed over the last 100 years or so. And so, JJ, what do you know about the the Oscars this year? That's a pretty big deal to have it described for the first time

JJ Hunt:

Oh, massive, just massive. So the audio description was provided by AudioEyes, in the team was very active on social media, they posted pre show notes, they connected with users throughout the event. I mean, it's just a major undertaking. So in a huge congratulations to the audio eyes teams. That's just absolutely fantastic. But I think we should also tip our hat to the others who made this a reality, right? I've got no insider information here. But I am fairly confident that the idea to describe the Academy Awards didn't originate with the Academy, right? These things happen because users demand it, because the agitators keep poking. Because strong, well connected organizations make really good pitches and work their relationships. Honestly, months, even years of work can go into making events like this happen for the first time. So a massive congratulations to everyone who sent an email to the academy or the broadcaster's insisting that they provide ad. Congratulations to those who provided feedback throughout the event and said, this is what's working, this is what's not. And and congratulations to our friends at the audio description project, who I know we're involved in the lobbying and the orchestrating of the event. So truly, like a huge step forward for for audio description. So congratulations to everyone involved.

Christine Malec:

Totally. Hats off. These things never happen in a vacuum. It's lots of people advocating over lots of time. So double Thumbs up for that. When you and I talked about what what our discussion would look like, I realized that the idea of glamour is quite visual. And so I might have a few vague notions of feathers and sequins and stuff. But there's way more I know there's way more to it. And so I think we were going to start maybe back in the in the 1920s. And I'm sure that this notion must be linked with film and the availability of of images for farsighted people to look at. So what can you say about the start of the idea of glamour in the in the modern world?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, glamour is really linked, our current notion of glamour in Western cultures is really quite strongly linked to this golden era of Hollywood. And glamour is really tricky to define. Right? It's one of those things that a lot of people would say, "I know it when I see it", you know, it's tricky. So glamour is an alluring romantic attractiveness that relies quite heavily on elegance, class, charisma, charm, and wealth. And for a lot of those words that I just threw out there are visual components. Visual elements. But there's also just, there's attitude, right? There's there's something ethereal about about glamours. And a lot of it, like I say goes back to golden era Hollywood, and fashions change fairly quickly. But glamour seems to have a bit of a longer lifespan. So that really could be argued that just about every era since the 1920s has relied on golden era Hollywood for its core understanding of glamour and I do think that's true for the visuals of glamour. Right now. We are definitely in an era when midcentury glamour is very hot. So the Oscars right now glamour is really, it's kind of self referential. It's really quite meta. So the Hollywood stars looking glamorous now, they do so by drawing on the fashions and styles of old Hollywood stars. And that's how, that's how our notion of glamour is kind of feeding itself because of the the Hollywood connection from the 20s to the 1950s.

Christine Malec:

I'm interested in the fact that it's not just about the clothes, or the styles but it's it's probably to do with your department or your carriage or the way you hold yourself or your some personal charisma that I think that was a word you used. Is it possible to? I guess when you see it? You see, one person might have one aspect, but not the other? Like, is it possible for someone to be in a stunning gown, but just not carry it off? Or someone to be in something really simple but have a carriage that's just like they could be wearing of house dress and they'd still look good?

JJ Hunt:

Yes, absolutely. Like the donning of the gowns or tuxedos alone will not make you glamorous. Glamour is in no small part about your attitude, like you say it's how you carry yourself. It's really important. Visually, the way that comes across is, is a confidence, a kind of confidence. So we're talking like a chin up a back straight kind of confidence, not cocky, cocky, and boastful is not glamorous, but real, genuine confidence cut that comes across in smooth movements. So glamour tends to be, there's an elegance to its smooth movements not rushed, not nervous, not jerky or halting. There's an element of ease in the way someone carries themselves in the end and the expression on the face is generally it's pleasant. But it kind of resides somewhere near arrogant or aloof, not like I say not cocky, but tends to be relaxed, right? Even if you're smiling. It's a relaxed smile, trying too hard in any one direction. Kills glamour, a net brow, not glamorous darting eyes, a tense jaw fidgeting, those are not glamorous glamour tends to have an ease. There's a smooth kind of flow to your gestures to your gait. Glamour is not rushed. You have to be at ease with yourself at ease in those clothes to be glamorous. And you're absolutely right. I know people who are glamorous, wearing a you know, a sweater and capris. And I know people who can put on the fanciest tuxedo and never come close to glamorous. You have to have the attitude. It's so important.

Christine Malec:

I know that we're going to be talking mostly about women's styles. But those qualities you describe men can have those two. So let's Can we take a second to just talk about what glamour means in men?

JJ Hunt:

Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So glamour can definitely be applied to men or women. You can have a glamorous car, you can have a glamorous building. Men certainly can be glamorous, it just happens to be the case that fashion for men tends to be a little smaller, it's a little tighter, the there are more restrictions. And that was certainly the case in the 20s 30s 40s and 50s. Right when you're talking Hollywood golden era. So then glamour for men, as you're looking at fine suits and tuxedos neatly trimmed hair. For formal events like the Oscars, it was all black tuxedos, you might get a white bow tie instead of a black bow tie like that's the kind of that that was the reach that you were allowed to have that was that that was the stretching you're allowed to do the boundaries. That but you know, you can accessorize with maybe a nice pocket square or cufflinks very minimal accessorizing facial hair in general was not considered glamorous, then perhaps you can have a fine mustache that hugged the upper lip like Clark Gable, I found a really great photo of Clark Gable with Grace Kelly at the 1954 Oscars. And he's got this like very Gable smile which is he's got a dimpled chin, the smile is pulled up to one side as you know his he's got a bit of a squint in his eye a glint in his eye and his hair is slicked back he's had a clean part on on the left. And it appears to be outdoors. Gable is wearing a dark overcoat over his tuxedo you can see the black tie underneath. He's got a dark overcoat on over his tuxedo with a long white scarf and white gloves poking out of the pocket. That was glamour for men in that era.

Christine Malec:

Before we start digging into the specifics of what glamour looks like, I'm curious about one other thing. How does body type play into this? Can someone of any body type be glamorous?

JJ Hunt:

God, great question. In thinking about the people who are at the Oscars thinking about the famous people who are considered glamorous, theoretically, sure, but it's hard to find the examples of them. We're not presented with many.

Christine Malec:

Let's talk about specifics. What were glamorous people, mostly women, I guess, looking like when glamour first became a public, something for public consumption?

JJ Hunt:

So this Hollywood glamour of the 20s 30s 40s and 50s. I mean, obviously, that's a big span, 40 years into the early 60s. There were lots of different styles that were in vogue at the you know, during that time, but like I said, glamour kind of has a longer lifespan. So if you want some cultural references, as we're talking about this to help kind of place the era think like Lana Turner, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor Grace Kelly, Marlena Dietrich, Sophia Loren, Sidney Poitier, Cary Grant, Clark Gable. For movies we're talking The Jazz Singer, Forbidden, King Kong, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Sunset Boulevard, North by Northwest. This is the era we're talking about. And for women, golden era glamour, generally meant a dress or a gift not generally always meant a dress or a gown. Like there was no pant glamour, you couldn't be glamorous and pants in this era nautic and just not the case for women. So we're talking long floor length, gowns, even gowns with a train generally strapless with very fine straps. And again, these were all white women, these were all thin women. That was, for popular culture of the day, ie white culture of the day, that was what glamorous looked like in body type. So a few specific classic gowns, Grace Kelly in 1954 wore to the Oscars, she a fair skinned white woman quite lean blonde hair was up, she had a delicate teardrop earrings in and she wore the silky mint green gown became very famous at a reasonably stiff bodice with a straight neck line. And it had a pair of very fine straps over each shoulder, and really quite luxurious amounts of draped fabric in the skirt that were gathered at the back. And she wore elbow length white gloves. And what's amazing about this dress now is that she wore that same dress three times to different events to the Oscars to a photoshoot and to some other event I can't remember now, it's extremely were almost unheard of, for someone to wear the same gown the same dress, like to multiple events in different occasions. My goodness never happens. Audrey Hepburn 1956 she again very thin, small white woman with dark hair pulled back into a bun and in 56 she wore a white gown with a fitted bodice and again a straight neck line with wide straps this time, not thin straps over the shoulders. Her long skirt had had a stiff train and she also wore white elbow length gloves and fairly bold makeup so her lips her brows and her eyes really popped against her fair skin. Sophia Loren 1958, the Italian actress with dark brown hair light brown skin. She wore a fitted dress with a low straight neckline and thin straps that really accentuated her hourglass figure for the time. That was a fairly sexy cut, to accentuate the figure and not have a skirt that flared at the bottom but reasonably fitted. No gloves but instead she had a white first stole and a lacy choker around the necklace. So that's the kind of glamour for women that we were there was kind of foundational so long, long skirts, long hands often a luxurious amount of fabric. Right? That's one of the you've got enough money to have this much fabric gathered and trailing behind you. Clean, elegant lines and silhouettes. Fairly minimal accessorizing, bold makeup, dramatic makeup right deep red lipstick, heavy lashes and brows. And so these aren't just dresses and gowns that look beautiful or sexy. There's also an elegance to them. That's important, right? There's a class element at play, the white gloves, the sophisticated cuts, so it's not gaudy in this era. It it's clean, it's classy. And again, the way these women are carrying themselves as they present or receive their Oscars or walk down red carpets, if there were any, there's a regal quality to the way people are carrying themselves. That's kind of the foundation of glamour that people call upon now.

Christine Malec:

Would they ever have their hair down?

JJ Hunt:

That's interesting. I'm trying to I'm just going back over the images in my mind. And I think mostly up mostly up or side part. So certainly not just down and draped onto the shoulder, there's always a do. So there might be like, luxurious curl in the hair and aside, then swept to the side, but generally, pulled back pulled up some sort of jewel in the hair, so maybe a band like a tiara or something in the hair. But not, not just down the back of the shoulders as if you know you're you're out and about for the day for these for the Academy Awards. There's a "do" involved, there's an up, there's a swept, there's a curl.

Christine Malec:

And so how do these looks change? Maybe starting in the 60s,

JJ Hunt:

Into the 60s, we're transitioning out of the fairly conservative glamour of the Golden Era, right? So this is the 1960s we're into second wave feminism, what was then called the women's liberation movement. And Motown was also becoming very influential, not just the music, but also the fashion. So for the first time, it wasn't just white men deciding what was glamorous on behalf of everyone else, right? So Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's seems to me like a pretty good example of this transition away from conservative glamour. So in many ways, her classic black dress is classic Hollywood glamour, right? It's very sleek black dress. It's very elegant, very sophisticated, sleeveless, very high neckline, almost up to the shoulders quite a high neckline. Black gloves above the elbow - not white gloves - black gloves above the elbow. Her hair is up with a glittery tiara that matches the pearls and diamonds around her neck. But now there's more of an embracing of the overt sexuality that wasn't always present in earlier decades. So she's got a slit up the leg of her floor length fitted dress and like Sophia Ren had that fitted dress, but she was a bit of a special case. You know, now we've got Audrey Hepburn with that slit up the leg, the floor length fitted dress, and frankly, the way she holds her foot long cigarette holder in her mouth could be considered suggestive, right. So this is a transition still some of the conservative glamour but there's some new ideas in this glamour too. And then there are the Supremes, right, Motown's the supreme is a somewhat rotating lineup of very talented, beautiful black women that included the likes of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard. Sometimes the Supremes wore matching gowns when they were performing and you know, at Sullivan Show or in concert, sometimes their matching gowns, frankly, would have looked perfect on the red carpets of decades gone by, complete with pearls and elbow length white gloves, and straightened black hair and wigs in up dues. But they also wore skin tight sequined dresses with bold, dramatic makeup, glossy lips, heavy eye shadow, and their hip shifting dance moves. They're synchronized finger snapping they're generally slow and gentle, very smooth movement movements. They were absolutely sexy, but they were modest and they were refined. The Supreme is very convincingly adopted the confident attitudes, movements and gestures of glamour. So really, the importance of attitude and glamour cannot be overstated. And now with with the likes of the Supremes, we have women of color considered glamorous in mainstream - that is white - popular culture. That was pretty revolutionary in the 1960s.

Christine Malec:

What about hemlines? Do they start moving around at that time?

JJ Hunt:

They do! So in the in the 60s, you've got the miniskirt that's popular and fashion certainly has an influence on glamour. And so some of those shorter hemlines get pulled into, into glamour, you see the not always miniskirt but you see the hemlines rising a bit you are allowed to be a little bit more a little bit overtly sexy as you're being glamorous. And you can see some more of this pulling of fashion into glamour in the 1970s right so in the center That means materials and colors are shifting. So you've got like rayons and lamay. and vibrant shades of yellow, pink and turquoise is really bright shades that you probably wouldn't have seen earlier. This is the disco era, right? You wouldn't have seen those colors and some of those fabrics in glamour in earlier years. And there's a more, there's a casual quality to 1970s fashion that gets pulled into glamour as well. So now you have miniskirts that were pulled into glamour in the 60s. You've also got pants and jumpsuits that are kind of more popular in glamour. So there are glamorous gold lame jumpsuits, you find in the 1970s. And you also in the 70s start to get this funny offshoot of glamour glam. So glam rock, even glam drag, were some of the trappings of glamour, like the glitter that you know, the sparkly, the attitude, the drama, those elements of glamour, are fully embraced. But the actual wealth and power that had been key to the original notion of glamour isn't available. So you kind of you're trying to gain some of the power and some of the notions of wealth through the trappings even if you don't have it yourself, right, that's a little bit of what glam was about. And obviously, it's outside of our scope. But there is some really interesting material available. Some very cool reading and some interesting videos out there on the role of glam in LGBTQ history. So some very cool stuff that people talk about there. So that's kind of where you start to get in the 1970s. As you say, the mini skirts, pant suits, there's a shifting of glamour in the 70s. And then into the 80s. I think it's fair to say that the 1980s was about as far away from the simplicity and elegance of classic Hollywood glamour as we have been. So glamour fashion in the 80s got big. Big shoulders, big bows, big hair, oversized blazers, layers of eyeshadow, puffy sleeves. So the part of traditional glamour that was fully embraced was the displaying of wealth and power that was still attached to glamour. So bigger jewelry, flashy cars, prominent brand names on handbags and things like that. That wouldn't have been considered glamorous in years gone by. But in the 80s, it's bigger, it's bolder, and you lose some of the simplicity, some of the clean lines and the cuts of dresses from earlier eras and instead have, frankly, what we would probably consider now a little bit gaudier than classic Hollywood golden era glamour.

Christine Malec:

And so since the 80s is it sort of a cycling of style, the round and round that contributes to glamour between the 80s and say, now?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, we're definitely cycling back. Through the 90s into the 21st century, we are moving back to a version of glamour that I would say is closer to the golden era of Hollywood glamour. But now there's a bit more flexibility. Our understanding of who can be glamorous has expanded considerably, and men have a bit more choice when being fashionable and glamorous. So for example, in 2017, Chris Evans and Riz Ahmed both wore blue tuxedos to the Oscars, and Terrence Howard wore a belted blue silk smoking jacket. And now on red carpet events Beyonce and Jay Z are always sought out by the photographers. In 2005 Beyonce wore a strapless curve hugging black velvet gown with a train and she had long fan shaped diamond earrings with a matching bracelet. And Jay Z wore a black tux with that had gently curving silk lapels into lapel pin. And in 2018, a Chilean actress named Daniela Vega attended the Oscars in a decidedly glamorous, gathered floor length deep wine colored gown, and she was the first openly trans performer to present on stage at the Academy Awards. In 2014 Lupita Nyong'o won Best Supporting Actress for 12 years a Slave. She's a lean muscular, young Kenyan-Mexican woman with dark short naturally curly hair. And when she stepped onto the stage, she had to hold up the hem of her long pale blue Pete pleated dress and the dress had the famous Marilyn Monroe very deep v neck line that dips all the way To the waistline. So we're getting different people who are allowed to be glamorous, and who are seen as glamorous by almost everyone in our culture. In 2019 actor Billy Porter wore a truly fabulous and glamorous tuxedo gown to the Oscars. He's a lean black man with short naturally curly hair and a goatee with a little bit of gray in it. And the tuxedo top to his gown was in black velvet with a chest high cumberbund and oversized black bow tie. He had ruffled cuffs on his white shirt, and on the bottom, the ball gown was an absurdly luxurious wealth of black velvet. There must have been serious infrastructure under it because it just billows out all around him probably five feet across where it gathered on the red carpet. And when Porter was posing for photos, he maintained only the slightest of smirks, very cool, very detached confidence. Because even in a gown like this, you cannot be glamorous without the attitude.

Christine Malec:

Your discussion of the inclusion of new groups of people in who can be considered glamorous, makes me wonder whether there has ever been people with an obvious disability who've appeared on stage at the Oscars.

JJ Hunt:

There have there have been a few but they're relatively few and far between. So Christopher Reeves after his accident, I think it was 1996 he came on stage in a wheelchair in a full tuxedo, white bow tie. He actually had some medical equipment, I'm not sure what if it was, he had a plastic tubing that came from under the collar of his white tuxedo shirt, and then tucked into his black waistcoat. And he came on stage in a power chair - but that was from backstage! This is another issue that the Academy Awards often has, is that you have to, if you are an Academy Award winner, climb stairs to get up onto the stage. And there's something glamorous about, as as I mentioned, holding up the hem of your gown and walking up the stairs. It's supposed to look very glamorous. But that's a real accessibility issue. And this year, there was a ramp put at the side of the stage because Crip Camp was nominated for Best Documentary and there were several members of the team who use wheelchairs. Three members of the team in wheelchairs and one has a service dog as well. And I'm just looking at an image of this group of people who are posing on the red carpet, the Crip Camp team, and one woman is wearing a beautiful, looks like a floral print gown with a wide slit up her leg. Another woman in a silky white pantsuit, and a gentleman and a blue tuxedo. I mean, they're gorgeous. They're looking absolutely glamorous and so I would tell you absolutely, these are glamorous people. The woman in the in what looks like floral printed dress also has these Catseye glasses and a big smile, and dangly earrings. And the woman in the in the silky white pantsuit has what looks like open toed red shoes. It's a flash of color that matches her red nail polish and lipstick, and she's wearing dark sunglasses. Like, these are absolutely fashionable, absolutely glamorous people. But I'm not sure how many front pages they appeared on after the event. My God even the service dog has gold jewelry around its collar, and little puple garters around his legs that match the harness on his back. It's a glamorous group by any [measure]. Because glamour is a conceit, glamour is an idea and it's about what is generally considered. Do I think those in that group from Crip Camp look glamorous. Absolutely! I've got no hesitation in saying yes, I believe them to be glamorous.

Christine Malec:

Yeah.

JJ Hunt:

Are they considered glamorous by the definition of glamour that is currently held across the culture? I'm not sure as a describer I can say that, and that's a, that's a, that's an unfortunate moment.

Christine Malec:

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Golden Era Glamour
1960's Glamour
1970's Glamour
1980's Glamour
Today's Glamour