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Pricing Beauty

The Making of a Fashion Model

Ashley Mears (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 328 pages
ISBN: 9780520270763
September 2011
$29.95, £25.00
Other Formats Available:
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

1. Entry
2. Economics of the Catwalk
3. Becoming a Look
4. The Tastemakers
5. Size Zero High-End Ethnic
6. Runway to Gender
7. Exit

Appendix: The Precarious Labor of Ethnography
Ashley Mears is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University
"Mears gives voice to a group of women who are paid to be seen and not heard."—Slate
“Mears has produced a fascinating study. . . . She knits together her revealing interviews and draws on the work of sociologist C. Wright Mills, feminist theorist Catharine MacKinnon, and other social critics. Yet the greatest strength of “Pricing Beauty’’ is Mears’s own story, one that she artfully threads throughout the book.”—Boston Globe/The Find
“When sociologist Ashley Mears began working as a fashion model for research purposes as a grad student at New York University, it was hard not to get wrapped up in the industry’s allure. . . . Mears documents her discoveries about the industry -- through participatory observation and interviews with models, agents, photographers and other insiders. . . . The author acknowledges that walking the runway can be a thrill unlike any other [but also] notes some of the industry’s exploitative aspects.”—Stylelist
“Mears leads the reader through the curious world of fashion, and in the process, de-airbrushes the industry. The end result is a nuanced, and deliciously complicated depiction of an industry.”—Tottenville Review
“This book is sociology at its finest. Mears’s rarified status as a model-researcher provides rich insight into the specific nuances of fashion.”—American Journal Of Sociology/AJS
“Moving beyond simplistic analyses of the sexist gaze, Mears is rigorous in her analysis of the conservative sexual and racial stereotypes that models embody, but refreshingly honest about the opportunities and excitement that modeling provides young women and men. Mears's book represents an original, highly readable contribution to the field.”—Choice
“A model scout noticed Mears while she was waiting in line at a Manhattan Starbucks and was eager to sign her up. The encounter led her to focus her sociology studies on the modeling industry and, in the grand ethnographic tradition of embedding within a field to study it more closely, to go back to the profession herself. It was a move that would eventually lead to a position as an assistant professor at Boston University and the publication of her new academic book, Pricing Beauty.”—Boston Globe Book Section
“A well-researched, well-written, and thorough study of the industry.”—Publishers Weekly
"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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