The Glamorous Life of Chanel No. 5 : A contribution to the theory of glamour

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för journalistik, medier och kommunikation (JMK)

Author: Heidi Hautala; [2011]

Keywords: glamour; Chanel; semiology;


Glamour is an ideal that permeates our highly visual culture, yet the concept still remains indefinite. Despite its highly ideological function, it has been included in the academic discourse only in the recent years. The aim of this study is to broaden the understanding of glamour as a modern phenomenon and elaborate it as an analytical concept. This is achieved by examining the advertising imagery of Chanel No. 5, the legendary French perfume from the influential haute-couturier and socialite Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. The theoretical frame consists of the history of glamour as well as the semiology of advertising. Semiology is also used as a method for analysing the adverts. The journey with Chanel No. 5 starts from the year of its creation, 1921, and one advert from every decade is chosen to a closer interrogation. Based on eight semiological analyses of Chanel No. 5's adverts, I argue that glamour is a media myth that becomes activated through a system of signs. The glamour of Chanel No. 5 depends on the use of celebrity personas, on skillful and exclusive media treatment, and on the circulation of signs which connote luxury and feminine sexuality, yet always with a fresh, contemporary touch. In the end, glamour is a highly manufactured, unattainable ideal which entices and invites for consumption.

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