Recreating Classic Hollywood Glamour Photographs In 2015 To Prove That Glamour Photography Can Make You Feel Beautiful

Recently, I followed in the footsteps of the brilliant Sue Bryce, and spent an evening recreating a collection of classic Hollywood glamour photographs. What began as a simple pitch suggestion from my editor quickly turned into an attempt to experience the confidence boosting effects of a glamour shoot, and hopefully glean a bit of the styling prowess showcased by some of Hollywood's most iconic leading ladies. In doing so, I'm in good company. Countless photographers have mimicked the romance and drama showcased in these quintessential glamour portraits, made famous by photographic masters such as George Hurrell, CS Bull, and Laszlo Willinger (just to name a few). And when it comes to examples of beauty and style, classic Hollywood glamour photography still reigns supreme in many people's eyes.

You may already know that there's been a recent revival of the glamour photography movement, that's heavily centered around self-love. It's a movement that fosters acceptance of our feminine forms, in their various shapes and sizes, and champions the importance of celebrating our individual beauty — even if we're only doing so for ourselves. And while I've spent time photographing some of these inspirational glamour sessions, until the other night, I hadn't taken the time to put myself in front of the camera in the name of glamour — at least not for any significant period of time — so I had to muster up a little extra conviction.

That being said, I knew going into these recreations that three things were likely to occur.

  1. I wouldn't achieve exact recreations of classic shots, just approximations that would pay homage to the tone and styling of the original images.
  2. Since I was going into this solo, it would be a long night, and I shouldn't expect the same quality from the images that I would working with a hair and makeup artist. I was going to have to play the role of HMUA, stylist, photographer, director, and model, which can be tricky to say the least.
  3. This was going to be a whole lot of fun, and a great opportunity to style myself and wear makeup that I don't often have reason to don in my day to day life. That's right, it was going to be a night of dress up, Fergie would be serenading me, and it would be positively G-L-A-M O-R O-U-S!

In preparation for this big beauty adventure, I had to do a little reconnaissance. After much consideration and quality time with the inter-webs, it became clear that my personal starlet idols Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn would top my list of images worthy of recreation, followed by the stunning Veronica Lake, and classic beauty, Rita Hayworth. Of course, considering my recently dyed, intensely red hair, I had my work cut out for me with some of these looks, but I'll come to that later.

Once I'd identified which ladies to emulate, my next move was to take a cue from Macklemore and hit up the thrift shops down the road, proving once again that no matter what styles you're looking for, there's a good chance you can find them rescued from the back of someone's closet.

After an hour or so, I managed to collect a handful of items that would more or less achieve the looks I was going for, and headed home to don my false eyelashes (which were not a traditional part of the classic Hollywood glamour look, but essential in aiding my attempts to squint like Marilyn Monroe) and some rockin red lipstick. Since most of the iconic makeup from the era I was aiming to recreate focused mostly on clean, well defined eyeliner, some subtle eyeshadow, super fleek eyebrows, and bold lips, I had some specific details to pay attention to. However, the look on a whole was not terribly difficult to achieve, and although I channeled various starlets, in the end, I opted to keep my makeup the same for each icon, because visually speaking, they actually weren't terribly far off.

Now, for my photographer friends, I'll take a quick moment to apologize that my lighting and backdrop setups are not entirely accurate for some of these recreations. In other words, as you prepare yourselves for the following final products, let this be another quick reminder that my main goal here is to experiment with iconic styles and share the experience of being on the opposite side of the camera. And to that point, here are some of the things I learned during my classic Hollywood glamour session:

  1. As daunting as it can be to be in front of someone else's camera, having a photographer present to act as your eyes during a photo shoot is priceless.
  2. Seeing an image in which you look entirely different from your daily self, yet incredibly, iconically lovely, goes a long way toward boosting your self esteem.
  3. If you're willing to have an open mind, being photographed, especially in the glamour style, can help you discover beauty in the aspects of your body that you may be struggling to accept or feel an aversion to. Sometimes we simply need a fresh look at ourselves from a new perspective.
  4. True beauty always comes from your personal je ne sais quoi, or uniquely individual essence. No matter how much time you spend emulating someone else's style, you'll never truly shine until you embrace your own. (Hence why I don't feel quite so terrible about my utter inability to mimic Marilyn Monroe's sultry squint.)

With all of that said, I suppose it's time to share the results. I can't say I rocked every look, and some of them are pretty obviously altered in terms of changing my hair color in Photoshop, but the process was a lot of fun, and hopefully you'll agree that the images are as well. Let's begin with the original image of Rita Hayworth.

And here's my spin on it.

Next up we have Veronica Lake's original photograph.

And here's my approach, which I left my hair dark for, since Lake sported darker blonde locks from time to time. Not to mention, this was actually one of the last looks I put together, so by the time it came around, I was ready to move on.

Now for Marilyn Monroe, whom I absolutely adore (who doesn't?). I assembled three separate looks based off of some of her more memorable glamour and lifestyle photographs, however, the first two are all sorts of campy, so set down your latte and try not to shoot scalding hot milk through your nose while you laugh at me.

And last, but not least, here's my attempt at emulating Audrey Hepburn, which feels nearly impossible, since she is one of the most sophisticated and incredible women to have graced Hollywood's silver screen.

After recreating my quick visions of those classic Hollywood glamour photographs, I was tired, inspired, and overcome by the urge to photograph myself, simply as... myself. So, I let my hair down and discovered that even after studying all of those amazingly stylish women, I still think I look best as silly little me. How's that for self-love?

Images: Jen Schildgen; loves_from_mo, viviensoldhollywood(2), dan_kohn_xx/Instagram; ilovethisxoxox, xoxomarilynmonroe/Tumblr; Giphy