Fashion Shows, Strip Shows and Beauty Pageants; The Theatre of the Feminine IdealFashion Shows, Strip Shows and BeautyPageants: The Theatre of The Feminine Ideal
(Under the direction of W. JOSEPH STELL)
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Acknowledgements Table of Illustrations
This study is an analysis of fashion shows, strip showsand beauty pageants, and the methods used in theirpresentation, focusing on the similarity of the threepresentation styles and the differences between their finalresults. Detailed descriptions of the three audiencegroups, performer images, and uses of stage space, are usedto explain how the single format used by all three isadapted to idealize the female figure preferred by eachaudience.
Fashion shows, strip shows and beauty pageants areshown to have a large number of structural similarities suchas: predominantly female casts, use of a runway attached tothe stage for promenading, a focus on the performer'scostume as defining her image, silent performers promenadingto music, and an emphasis on the performers as embodimentsof ideal female sexuality. On the basis of these similarities the study postulates that these three genres oftheatre are actually a single form ("the theatre of thefeminine ideal") with three variations. The variations arethen dissected in terms of audience expectations, the idealembodied by the performer, and the use of stage space.Fashion show audiences, composed primarily of women,view models as substitute selves "with defects mercifully
and miraculously eliminated." Strip show audiences,composed of men, imagine strippers as super-sexualizedaggressive females. Middle-class family audiences viewbeauty queens as ideal daughter figures, representingyouthful virtue.
The performers' attempts to embody the preferred idealof their audiences are shown to be the results of consciouseffort by contrasting the projected images of performerswith the reality of their lives.
Physical staging techniques used by the performers to put the ideal in the correct spatial arrangement with eachaudience are discussed in relationship with Hall's
theories of social, personal and intimate distance.The "theatre of the feminine ideal" is thus argued tobe extremely flexible by this demonstration of the widelydivergent ways these three genres of performance haveadapted their common format to different uses.