“Power Dressing”: Hyper-Feminine Performance and the Professionally Self-Sexualised Female Body
Keywords:Hyper-Femininity, Fashion, Identity, Power-Dressing, Slut-Chic
Taking as its inspiration Joanne Entwistle’s understanding of the “power-dressing” phenomenon that took over the United States from the late 1970s as a discourse on the body, sexuality, gender performance, and power, this paper considers the implications of power-dressing when applied to another iteration of gendered performance; one which instead of carefully negotiating between masculine and feminine traits, instead presents a hyper-feminine, hyper-sexualised professional appearance to the ends of power and professional success. However, the professional backdrop of this research is not of the office but of sex-work (defined in the Dictionary as “a person employed in the sex industry, as a prostitute, pornographic film actor, stripper, nude model, or creator of sexually explicit online content”), and celebrity. This paper uses the case studies of two women who employ exaggerated feminine performance, and explicitly harness, rather than “manage” their sexuality, in their professional careers during the 90s and early 2000s – writer, filmmaker and ex sex-worker Virginie Despentes, and media personality (and sex-tape star) Paris Hilton. My aim is to explore how hyper-feminine dress and presentation, synonymous with unacceptable female sexuality, might interact with questions of power and agency, and subvert historic theories on the subject.
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