To establish what outfits are best for a magician’s female assistant we need to remind ourselves what the purpose of the assistant is.
Here are some of the primary roles:
- Holding and moving props
- Shifting props on and off the stage as required
- Used for certain illusions, like sawing the assistant in half, etc.
- Looking attractive to distract the audience
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Underestimating the Role
Many assistants take issue with the name “Magician’s Assistant” as they feel it understates their role.
Joanie Spina, who was worked for David Copperfield stated once that she felt the title “Magician’s Assistant” suggested a manual worker who simply moved props, when “many of us are highly trained dancers and actors.”
This is supported by the fact that Joanie Spina went on to create and choreograph a dancing and magic act she performed with magician John Bernard.
A performance she also directed. Clearly not just a stagehand.
Perhaps the most famous assistant in the UK is Debbie McGee, former assistant (and wife) of Paul Daniels.
Prior to joining Daniels, she used to run her own ballet company and is a trained dancer.
Since Paul Daniels death she is now working as a radio presenter on the BBC.
Once more, clearly not a stagehand.
Importance of Appearance
If we look in particular at the last three items on the list (which I have underlined) we see that appearance plays an important part in those roles.
The stereotype of a magician’s assistant is an attractive provocatively dressed woman.
If you were to search for “Magician’s Assistant” on Google images, you would see that not one of them is dressed in a plain outfit.
They are virtually all revealing outfits.
This stereotype stems from the early 20th Century when stage magic made a comeback in the Vaudeville shows which often featured burlesque acts.
These early assistants came from this background.
We are aware that a lot of magic tricks are achieved by distracting the audience so they look at one point on the stage while the magician is actually doing something elsewhere.
Magicians choreograph a trick and they know the very moment where the audience will be distracted and that is when they make their move.
Naomi Paxton, a former magician’s assistant and theatrical academic talks about her experiences on stage and describes the role of the magician’s assistant in which she says:
The magician’s assistant is often hyper feminized and wears sexualized costumes that draw the eye to the body rather than her face.
This opened up a lot of opportunities and allows her to use different areas of the stage to make the audience move their heads as well as their eyes away from the magician and what he is doing.
She creates distractions that appear spontaneous, but are actually choreographed and timed meticulously.
The original question was “what outfits are best for a magician’s female assistant.”
Now we have made certain we understand the role of the assistant, we can start to look at outfits.
To establish what is seen as normal today, in terms of costumes, I thought it best to investigate what theatrical costumers had for magician’s assistants in their catalogs.
Interestingly, in view of what I said about the early connections to Burlesque, the costumes were also classified as Burlesque costumes.
Think about most magicians.
They typically tend to dress well, and have a suave appearance, often wearing evening dress.
If we put aside all other considerations about suitable costumes for a woman assistant to wear we would expect that to accompany the image of the magician that the woman too would be wearing glamorous clothes.
Typical Outfit For Magician’s Female Assistant
The costume comprises the following items:
- Silver-colored corset
- Stripey silver-colored tailcoat – skimpy that only covers sides and back so corset is revealed
- Black hot pants – pulled up high on the thigh
- Black Showgirl Skirt – this skirt has no front to reveal bare upper thighs between hot pants and black stockings
- Black fishnet stockings
- Black High Heeled shoes
- White Gloves
Although the costume has two layers and not a lot of skin is on show, the bare thighs and low-cut revealing corsets are designed to attract the eye.
This whole costume (excluding shoes) would sell for around $125.
I looked further online at pictures of current magician’s assistants and in every case (excluding cases where themed costumes were worn) the costumes all had low cut tops and very short skirts or hot pants that emphasized the lengths of the legs, and breasts.
The majority of the tops were designed in figure-hugging corset styles. Top hats were also popular accessories.
Clearly, traditional costumes are not going to be regarded as politically correct with their reliance on hypersexuality and the woman’s body shape.
If it is any consolation, I can confirm that the few male assistants I was able to see were all young muscular guys.
However, I did see some female assistants who due to their body shape would not look particularly good in these hypersexualized costumes, which is great.
These ladies wore a variety of costumes such as Chinese costumes with rice paddy hats, wearing tuxedos similar to the magician (sometimes colored), and novelty clothing. I have to admit that they were quite rare.
There still seems to be a favored look for assistants.
Learn Magic Tricks!
If you’re a magician, you might want to check my lists of the Best YouTube Channels and Websites for learning magic tricks:
How much are Magician’s Assistants Paid?
Finally, although not directly related to the original question, after talking about magician’s assistant costumes and their levels of skill I thought it would be interesting to find out pay rates.
I first found an advertisement for a magician’s assistant based in Dubai offering between $130 and $260 for 45 minutes close up magic performances and between $260 and $520 for stage performances.
The only catch was that the magician wanted a three to six months training period where the assistant would perform for free.
On checking an employment agency website in the USA, I saw that they too suggested that there would be a period of working for free before getting a paid job.
Zip recruiter claims the average salary for a magician’s assistant in Texas is $75,000.