Fashioning a Male Actress: Charles Pierce

Michael Mamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research documents the fashioning of Charles Pierce, a prominent female impersonator in the mid-to-late twentieth century. During his career of over forty years, Pierce delivered acclaimed comedic impressions of gay icons such as Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn. This paper contextualizes and interprets the development of Pierce’s cross dressing from tuxedo and a few woman’s fashion accessories (to avoid arrest) to full drag. Pierce’s career as self-styled “male actress” coincided with the gay liberation movement. Much has been written about drag, less about female impersonators, and no known research examines their costumes. This paper thus provides a rare analysis of the material culture of female impersonation through Pierce’s costumes and accessories at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California, and the Charles Pierce papers at the Billy Rose Theater Division of the New York Library for the Performing Arts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America
StateAccepted/In press - 1800


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