Sociologist Ashley Mears takes us behind the brightly lit runways and glossy advertisements of the fashion industry in this insider’s study of the world of modeling. Mears, who worked as a model in New York and London, draws on observations as well as extensive interviews with male and female models, agents, clients, photographers, stylists, and others, to explore the economics and politics—and the arbitrariness— behind the business of glamour. Exploring a largely hidden arena of cultural production, she shows how the right “look” is discovered, developed, and packaged to become a prized commodity. She examines how models sell themselves, how agents promote them, and how clients decide to hire them. An original contribution to the sociology of work in the new cultural economy, Pricing Beauty offers rich, accessible analysis of the invisible ways in which gender, race, and class shape worth in the marketplace.
List of Illustrations
2. Economics of the Catwalk
3. Becoming a Look
4. The Tastemakers
5. Size Zero High-End Ethnic
6. Runway to Gender
Appendix: The Precarious Labor of Ethnography
Ashley Mears is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University
"Ashley Mears is a talented ethnographer, a first-rate sociological thinker and an artful writer. Pricing Beauty offers a dazzling, engaging, utterly original contribution to public and scholarly understanding of embodiment, gender, race, culture, and markets. A riveting work of priceless beauty!” —Judith Stacey, author Unhitched: Love, Marriage and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China
“Mears’s winning formula: combine deep inside knowledge of the fashion business, based on intensive observation, with useful sociological ideas, and present the result in readable, witty and incisive prose. I learned a lot and you will too.” —Howard S. Becker, author of Art Worlds
“Ashley Mears shows us beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder but in the complex ensemble of organizational imperatives, social networking, and critical timing. She reverses stereotypes of gender pay, sexuality, and the making of markets. It is a first-hand analysis that does not let up in its page-turning intelligence and unremitting clarity.” —Harvey Molotch, Professor of Metropolitan Studies, New York University
"Pricing Beauty is a a courageous and provocative book. Mears takes us behind the curtain of high-stakes fashion. Drawing on her own experiences as a model, Mears uncovers the far less glamorous side of the industry, one that few of us will ever see. This is sociology at its finest: thoughtful analysis, great storytelling and an empathetic perspective on the lives of so many who pursue their dreams, only to find a few nightmares along the way. A must read for anyone interested in understanding how celebrity is made." —Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Gang Leader for a Day
"This book is a pleasure to read—an entertaining, well-written and sophisticated analysis. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in the intersection of aesthetics, gender, and labor.” —Debra Gimlin, author of Body Work
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