Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Was a Glamour Don't


It's true; I was a Glamour Don't— and more than once, mind you. Lest you imagine I must have seen the error of my ways to result in my current state of fabulousness (irony), I will tell you it occurred when I was on staff at the magazine (from 1965 to 1989). We staffers often did double-duty as models or extras in shoots, and the story of Dos and Don'ts is an interesting one.

Glamour's Dos and Don'ts are hands-down their most popular feature. Though fashion is fickle, and one year's "don't" can be next year's "do", there will always be those who get it wrong or just don't get "it" at all— "it" being a modicum of good taste. The magazine started running a regular column of candid photos in the early 1960s. Redesigns and new editors have not eliminated the Dos and Don'ts feature, which keeps chugging along and has spawned two books: "The Glamour Dos and Don'ts Hall of Fame" (1992) and "Glamour's Big Book of Dos and Don'ts" (2006). In the early days all the shots were genuinely candid, with black bars superimposed over faces to protect the guilty. One of the junior photographers (not a big gun but perhaps his/her assistant) and a fashion editor would hit the New York City streets, parks or nearby beaches, with an agenda in mind. In summer it was surely bathing suits, but it could be undersized skirts or over-sized shoulders, too big hair, too much cleavage or jeansjeansjeans. The magazine started to receive letters from irate readers all over the country objecting to being labelled as "don'ts". One particularly poignant letter came from a mother in California who berated us for photographing her overweight daughter (in a skimpy bathing suit) as it was such a blow to the daughter's self-esteem. Despite the fact that the letter-writers were obviously mistaken, lawyers advised the column should be "staged", and so it was for the remainder of my time there.

Although I still have frayed and yellowing clips of Ali McGraw from her "Love Story" days, I failed to keep tear sheets of my published appearances. I did make "Hall of Fame" and am on page 25 enveloped in a fox fur chubby that I wore seriously and still do not think qualifies as a "don't". I bought it for the equivalent of $25 at an outdoor flea market in London in the early 70s, and that is an authentic Biba cloche on my head. I wore that jacket to death (well, its second death). I have no PETA-related regrets as it must have died the first time around 1930. I also loved those pants, though I see now they were too short. The point of the photo at the time was my carrying a straw tote bag in the dead of winter!
C'est moi

The current issue of Glamour still has a Dos and Don'ts feature. This time around the dos are celebrities (one is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth). The don'ts are still concealed with black bars and look to be celebrities as well but of minor wattage.

QEII rockin' a flower print
For some time the phrase "Dos and Don'ts" has been copyrighted. You can plainly see a register mark to the upper right of the second "s". This was brought to our attention rather pointedly when another magazine I worked at some years later included "Dos and Don'ts" in a fashion feature. There followed a frosty letter from then editor-in-chief Ruth Whitney chastising us for not noticing the register mark and cooly suggesting we refrain from doing that again.

My Glamour days were, in retrospect, quite glamorous (although it used to annoy me greatly whenever anyone punned that suggestion). Imagine doing exactly what you wanted to be doing five days a week and getting paid for it??? Later jobs may have expanded my intellect and stretched my creativity, but those 24 years as a cog in the fashionable wheel of Conde Nast are the stuff of stories. Like this one.

10 comments:

  1. Welcome to 40+.
    You have in me a new follower, and hopefully a future blogger friend.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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  2. I love this story. Sounds like great times.

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  3. Do's and Dont's were staged!?!? I feel like my bubble has just burst. But I'm glad to know that there was a time when authenticity ruled. Great post, and love the plaid pant in your photo!

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  4. This is the fascinating thing I've read today! I can remember when it dawned on me that the Glamour Dos and Don'ts were staged. I was so disappointed!

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  5. This blog is a delight. I recommend it to all my peeps, wherever it is relevant, just as it had been recommended to me. Michelle, you are like a butterfly, a stylish Monarch, alighting on a perfect flower, recognizing it as a good place and making the most of it. (I'm probably more like a dragonfly, darting from here to there, my fashion choices iridescent, my movements unconsidered.) Glamour obviously recognized and rewarded you to keep you for 24 years...Your writing is charming, and you are a happy woman, and your husband is a happy man to be married to you. Please do wish him a happy birthday; it is the same as my sister's, so I remember it from the long time ago when he and I both worked at Progressive Grocer in the Graybar Building. Keep the blog going. Jarmila

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  6. What a great post. Like many other commenters I didn't know the "don'ts" we're, and I guess are, staged. Burst my bubble,

    Heather
    The style confessions

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  7. Bunmi— The jacket is—sadly— landfill.

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  8. I WAS A DO A FEW TIMES ( FACE UNCOVERED) WHEN THE PROPER DO COULDN'T BE FOUND (SURELY OFF SEASON) AROUND THE CONDé NAST BUILDING--- AND LIKE MY PAL THE BLOGGER ( SHE FAILED TO MENTION IT BUT MAYBE SHE WILL ) I WAS ALSO A GLAMOUR MAKEOVER. MY YEARS ( MORE THAN HERS) AT GLAMOUR WERE JUST AMAZING- I WOULD NOT TRADE THEM FOR ANYTHING...HOPE SHE WILL DO MORE GLAMOUR STORIES- HOW ABOUT IT, MICHELLE

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  9. One of the delightful things about meeting a new friend is learning of her delightful past. Such is my Michelle. I admittedly am a poor blog follower -- so over an occasional lunch -- Michelle will suggest a post I'd really love. She's all ways right. I enjoyed this post and found myself wishing that we'd somehow crossed paths in NYC in the 1980's, when we both worked in Manhattan. We probably did cross paths, but Michelle was surrounded by photographers and I missed her. Ha.

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