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Tammy Swift, Published March 15 2014

Swift: Glamour shots cool thing to do in 1994

Yes, we all have things from our younger years that we regret.

I certainly do.

My decision to take a data punch-card entry class in high school. My asymmetrical haircut phase during college. My slavish devotion to Whitesnake.

But the Granddaddy of All Questionable Youthful Choices may have been my decision to get a “glamour shot.”

If you are a millennial, you may not be familiar with this term. In the pre-Kardashian days – decades before iPhones or selfies or duck lips – people would actually go to a special, fancy studio in a mall to have their portraits taken.

They would get their hair teased and sprayed until they needed special clearance permits to drive under overpasses. They would be cajoled to adorn themselves like a cross between Alexis Carrington and a Solid Gold Dancer (you may need to Google these odd and exotic words). Gold lamé, long gloves and feather boas might be involved, as would rhinestone earrings the size of hub caps and embarrassing props like fans.

A photographer would bend you into a variety of unnatural poses, which usually involved touching your face, parting your lips seductively and posing so that it looks like your sequined jacket is about to fall off your shoulders. You would be photographed using a cloudy, flattering, soft-focus technique that suggested you were trapped in a closet with a fog machine.

You may read about this and think, “That is incredibly lame.” But in 1994, it was a cool thing to do. Also, one of my good friends worked there, and kept asking me to get it done. And so I did.

I don’t remember much about the preparation, except that it involved application of a putty-like makeup that might have been purchased at a body shop. My hair was teased until it could serve as a nest for a family of ospreys. Eyeliner and flattery (“You’re like a model!) flowed like wine.

Wardrobe involved a medley of soft, gauzy wraps, a black leather jacket stolen from Delta Burke’s wardrobe and – perhaps most humiliatingly – a hat. The actual photo session included a lot of head-tilting, many attempts at looking like a mole-less Cindy Crawford and a lapel-grasping move previously found in Sears catalogs.

Before we were finished, I was convinced we had just done a Richard Avedon-worthy photo shoot. (It may have been more Richard Marx, but oh well.)

Predictably, I loved the photographs. So much so that I bought about $40,000 worth, ranging in size from standard 5-by-7 to something that could adorn the side of a bus. I found myself with no one to give them to, as they seemed frivolous and just a little narcissistic.

In the end, I used one of the more “professional-looking,” non-burlesque-oriented shots as my column photo. I also gave several to my mother, who told me I should always do my hair that way. In fact, she liked them so much that she insisted on displaying them at the check-out desk of her bed-and-breakfast where they remain – much to my chagrin – 20 years later.

After posting a photo of myself sans makeup a few weeks ago, I figured I could also post photos of myself in too much makeup. And so here they are, in all their smoky, feathery, head-tilting glory.

Just blame it on the insanity of 1994.

Either that, or my hat was too tight.


Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at tswiftsletten@gmail.com