The year was 1982 and I was a 14-year-old with a heavy financial decision to make. Do I use my hard-earned $16 for that red corduroy prairie skirt from Hit or Miss? Or, do I go to Model Shotz next to JC Penny’s at the King of Prussia mall for a glamour portrait?
This was my Sophie’s Choice.
Like most mothers, mine nudged me towards the prairie skirt for responsible reasons. She didn’t like the idea of her budding woman-child channelling Lolita in feathers and blue eye shadow for some guy with questionable facial hair and a camera.
But it was hard to ignore the mild horror and confusion on her face. She wasn’t sure why I wanted the picture; would I expect it to be framed and put on the mantel in the living room? Would I send it to random pen pals or lonely heart prisoners? Or was this a symptom of budding, grotesque self absorption? Today, I see them as valid concerns, but the subtext my tender teenage soul took away was withering disappointment in my character and proof that I might have been switched at birth.
What she didn’t understand, is that it wasn’t about the picture, it was about the future. The possibility of a life I thought I could have once I moved away from the humdrum restraint of suburbia and parents. A life like the one Morgan Fairchild seemed to have in any given Movie Of The Week or Falcon Crest, which usually involved a high-powered career and a marriage to a gazillioniare man who loves you unconditionally and embraces drama with open arms.
At 14, I was pretty sure this life began with a glamour portrait from Model Shotz.
Ultimately, the red corduroy prairie skirt won out because I wanted to start high school in style and didn’t want to live in the shadow of my mother’s judgement. Model Shotz turned into an Orange Julius, which turned into a Claire’s, which turned into a Starbucks. But I will always wonder “what could have been” if early 80s me had been frozen in amber by Model Shotz.
Which is why I have to thank Whitney Jefferson over at Buzz Feed who posted the photos and headlines in 12 Ways To Achieve The Very Best Glamour Shot. I added the additional color commentary to fill in the journey of my own personal Hot Tub Time Machine.
So, in tribute to all who have ever thought “what if” after passing a glamour shot studio, this one’s for you.
1. Hold on to your collar. A small gesture that says so much, like “hold on camera, gorgeousness comin’ your way at 100 MPH”. This doesn’t work if you’re wearing a T-shirt though because you’ll look like you have a twitch.
2. Wear silk gloves. No one will ever second guess your socio-economic status again.
3. Wear a feather boa. The feather boa was the 1980’s stylist weapon of choice because Spanx didn’t exist yet. Feather boas cover EVERYTHING except your head.
4. Play up your hands. Tease and tantalize with your hands to imply you’re spontaneous, totally comfortable with your body and sexuality despite the fact you’re covered in 50 lbs of feathers.
5. Expose those shoulders. A suggestive tease that says “Under my clothes, I’m naked!”.
6. Make sure your hair is awesome (read: big). Hmmm….I’m pretty sure 1982 me would have seen this and thought yessss, bring on the Sebastian Ultra Hold. And I’m pretty sure I owned that jacket.
7. Try combining as many of the above options as possible. It’s like the braces aren’t even there.
8. Opt for a cool hat. I love hats and look especially good in cowboy hats. If I didn’t live in Manhattan I would wear one all the time, like Larry Hagman from Dallas. I like that it implies I might be a sheriff or packing heat.
9. Add studs to your favorite jacket. Heck, add studs to anything! It was for moments like this I had always yearned for a Bedazzler. 1982 me would have approved, not matter what I was wearing.
10. Make use of props and accessories. Today, my favorite prop is a pillow or my child. Kids are great for taking family pictures because not only are they part of the family, but they can hide things like a slightly paunchy belly. But hey, a deck of cards might do and it says you’re a formidable “Go Fish” card shark.
11. Bring a friend. That friend can also be a bottle of wine. Or, an extra roll of tin foil.
12. Don’t do a Granny Glamour shot.
Which brings me to this: how different are Glamour Shots from selfies? Take out the feather boa and sparkles, and aren’t they the same thing? You, at your fantasy best, with lots of flash controlled lighting?