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What TV Has Taught Us About Glamour

Small screen icons were as influential to Gen X as the Kardashians are to their Insta followers today. Here, MARIE KELLY and three other IMAGE insiders reveal the television pin-ups they wanted to become when they grew up.

For many women, it was their grandmother or mother. But my childhood glamour icon was no relation, although she could be found just as close to home, via the small TV set in the corner of the living room. Today, the leading ladies teenagers (MTV has labelled this generation the Founders) look up to are the stars of Instagram and Snapchat, the heroes of Pinterest and Facebook, but despite having no social media in the 1970s and 80s – and only six television channels (yes, really millennials) – Generation X was never short of icons or inspiration. That unassuming box we watched every evening with those funny rabbit ears on top taught us as much about glamour and guts as anyone in the virtual world today.

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AUDREY HORNE: THE GIRL YOU WANTED TO BE and the boys wanted to be with. Coquettish to the max (that surname was surely no accident), she had Twin Peaks wrapped around her pinkie; a small-town pin-up with big-time ambitions.

Who killed Laura Palmer, we all wondered, but also: who’s that girl? Sherilyn Fenn, as it happens, and she was quite the sight for my 15-year-old eyes. There I was, wearing shapeless T-shirts, second-hand jumpers and long denim shorts with opaque tights (hey, it was the
early 1990s …). I would “ironically” crimp small sections of my hair, and had yet to be introduced to tweezers. And there was Sherilyn: arch of eyebrow and with a feline physicality. By day, she rocked a school uniform – a sultry Lolita in a burgundy jumper and plaid, pleated skirt – and by night, a cinch-waisted siren in a pencil skirt, fitted sweater and – the cherry-pie on top – lashings of attitude. Whether sporting a gamine crop, an Elizabeth Taylor coiffure or, heck, a relaxed perm, Audrey was damn fine.

This was grown-up glamour – timeless, sophisticated, but with a hint of danger. (And when it was revealed in the press that Fenn had been engaged to serial- fiancé Johnny Depp, she was off-the-scale cool.)

“I’m Audrey Horne and I get what I want,” she purred – and you never doubted it. She was everything I wanted to be, but never dared. She smokes!

She flirts! She dances alluringly in the middle of empty diners! She also courted John Wheeler, played by Billy Zane when he was young, handsome and had hair.

The previous decade, shoulder pads and embellishment were de rigueur. In contrast, this 1950s-style look was exotic in its simplicity, but no less potent. Did I subsequently blossom into my girl crush? Did I heck.

For the next few years, I continued to dress more like a Twin Peaks lumberjack than the town tease. But still, there’s nothing more intoxicating than a tight sweater and a pencil skirt à la Audrey. Maybe in honour of Twin Peaks’ second coming this year, I’ll take a bite of her sartorial cherry …

Lucy White, editor, CARA Magazine

GROWING UP DURING THE 1980s, glamour meant one thing and one thing only: Joan Collins’ Alexis Colby.

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While I was becoming intimately acquainted with a brown school uniform that I would reluctantly wear for the guts of a decade, Alexis was shimmering on screen in gold lamé and offering a masterclass in power-dressing. While I was desperately trying to fit in, she was unapologetically standing out.

When I started experimenting with my mother’s make-up, Alexis had perfected purple shadow to accent her dark, glistening eyes. As I nervously discovered boys, Alexis was devouring  men for breakfast. She had attitude, passion and a sense of drama that my safe little suburban life seriously lacked.

As Larry Hagman’s Stetson-wearing JR played the baddie on Dallas, it was Alexis who took centre stage on Dynasty, often delivering her ultimatums in over-the-top outfits that were almost as entertaining as her bitchy one-liners. (“I loved that outfit, I’m surprised it lasted so many seasons.”) She might have been the scorned ex-wife of Blake Carrington, but she was nobody’s victim. She eventually got her revenge by becoming the CEO of ColbyCo and was the first ballsy businesswoman I was introduced to on mainstream TV. Her feminist zeal was as intoxicating as her frill-trimmed costumes. Nolan Miller, who created the wardrobe for the show, had previously worked with Joan Crawford and based Alexis’ look on the movie star: blacks and purples, stoles, hats, gauntlet gloves, cropped veils and a slew of jewels and clutch bags.

I’d like to say my weakness for Joan Collins’ wardrobe has abated over time, but who am I kidding? It’s regularly fuelled by her daily wardrobe updates on Twitter (@Joancollinsdbe). Turning 83 this month, she continues to push the expectations of age and style further.

That’s what I call a style icon.

Rosaleen McMeel, editor, IMAGE

I WAS NEVER ONEOF THOSE PRINCESS- OBSESSED KIDS. I always thought Cinderella was a bit of a wimp, and had much more of a thing for ballerinas. I liked to endlessly draw them in various poses in my notepad – the elegance of a foot en pointe! I also had a major “glamour” moment when I watched Torvill and Dean perform “Bolero” at the 1984 Winter Olympics, marvelling at their perfect performance (the only one to score 6.0 from all judges), and all that flowing purple fabric – swoon!

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But back to princesses. No, I wasn’t a fan of either the Disney or Ladybird book iterations of genteel nobility, but I was a huge fan of one real-life princess – Diana. I was five when Lady Diana Spencer became engaged to Prince Charles in 1981, and the perfect age to become transfixed by the entire goings-on. From the instant I saw their engagement shoot – the blue dress! The white pussybow blouse! The ring! –
I was hooked on her. I had those paper cutout dolls where you could collect outfits and attach them to her likeness.

Her wedding was the most glamorous thing I had ever set eyes on. I can still remember how long I would spend staring at pictures of her at various balls and tours. There was a green gown she wore with a diamond and emerald choker in 1982, and I adored it. She wore the same choker as a headband with a slightly more racy off-the-shoulder dress as she danced with Charles on an Australian tour in 1985.

She had also discovered good hair and make-up artists by then – her glamour evolution was in full swing. And evolve it continued to do. She grew into her glamour until her name became totally synonymous with style. As I grew up, I kept a close eye on her sartorial choices and how it mirrored her marriage and subsequent divorce.

That black dress she wore to the Serpentine Gallery the day Charles admitted his affair with Camilla was the stuff of every first wife’s revenge. She looked the best she ever had – confident, beautiful, sexy and strong. She may not have been a princess anymore, but the lady knew how to work a dress. Ellie Balfe, editor, IMAGE.ie

Ellie Balfe, editor, IMAGE.ie

I GREW UP ON A DIETOF DALLAS, DYNASTY, THE COLBYS AND KNOTS LANDING (oh, and Falcon Crest!).

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I say diet because my dad, who considered these kitsch American soap operas to be “unsuitable” – and basically rubbish – desperately tried to ration them. But as I was the fifth of six children, he’d lost a lot of his fight by the timeI turned into a TV-savvy pre-teen, so I’m sure I got to see far more of JR’s shenanigans than any of my older siblings did.

If supermodels defined the 1990s, then super-bitches characterised the 80s. Alexis, Sue Ellen, Abby et al wore diamonds at breakfast and silk negligees at night. They spent their days either plotting revenge on a rival or scheming to seduce a lover. But to me, each one was a caricature. I watched them for sport, not for inspiration. I didn’t envy them anything – not their overdone hairstyles or their over-the-top lifestyles.

Instead, I wanted to be Christine Cagney, the blonde maverick detective in the 1980s TV crime show Cagney & Lacey, and partner of mumsy, do-it-by-the-book Mary Beth. I adored Cagney’s freshly blow-dried, perfectly feathered blonde hair. I loved the stylish way she wore the sleeves of her sweaters softly bunched around her elbows, and the collars of her shirts upright around her neck. Her outfits changed as often as her mood, and I was enthralled, both by her, and her wardrobe. Cagney’s life was one I could aspire to. She loved her job, she owned her own place, and in her personal life she answered to no one (it was rare to see a thirtysomething singleton on an 80s TV show).
I envied the New York apartment in which she lived alone, with its beautiful exposed brick (even at the tender age of ten, I knew this was a good thing); the solitude of her own space. At the end of a tough day fighting off criminals (and the advances of fellow detective Isbecki), she would retreat to the quiet and privacy of her own apartment, throw on a pair of silk pyjamas, and contentedly open a bottle of wine. To me, this was the height of glamour. It still is.

Marie Kelly, fashion editor, IMAGE

This article appeared in the June issue of IMAGE Magazine, on sale now. 

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