Almost one year ago Time magazine introduced us to Casey Legler, a French former Olympic swimmer-turned-model. What made Casey so interesting on the catwalk was she was working in the men’s shows, modeling alongside males in pants and sweaters and leather jackets. Androgyny has most often been part of women’s fashion, with Jenny Shimizu‘s cropped-do and overt masculinity making Calvin Klein a boundary-pusher in the ’90s, and more recently Andrej Peji donning both menswear and womenswear for designers like Jean Paul Gaultier. But the new trend of late embraces androgynous women crossing over into clothing created for the opposite gender, as fashion is still, unfortunately, clearly described and divided by these specific lines.
In a piece for The Guardian over the weekend, Casey writes,
Interestingly, the individuals mentioned have all been hailed as queer icons, even Stella Tennant, a straight-identified model and mother of four. Oftentimes the queer community serves as tastemakers, a counter-culture with our collective fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist before the mainstream can become the wiser. Yet we’re also still second class citizens in so many ways that we have to wonder how much we are truly valued when it comes to our influence. Not enough.
This could now be the case with the “female model as a male model” trend that Casey might reluctantly be a part of. Last week model Elliott Sailors was a source of fascination because she was once a long-haired, highly feminine bikini-wearing model, and now she’s wearing shit-kickers, tank tops and a short blonde coif. Elliott tells The Daily Beast that going into male modeling was her decision.
Elliott cut off her locks, but The Beast says, “emphasizes that she is married to a man and that the only physical changes she has undergone have been cutting her hair and wrapping her breasts in order to appear flat-chested. ”
How much does sexuality or gender-identity matter when it comes to these models? To Casey, it is so much more than a job, as it seems to be for Elliott. Again, Casey writes:
Seeing the queer community reflected in fashion–a community in which we are very highly involved–is and always has been important. Outside of the touches of androgyny and recurring trends of women in “boyfriend jeans” and menswear-inspired (but not made for men) looks, we have had to settle for Sapphically-tinged fashion ads where women are selling sex, not acceptance. Perhaps the difference is intent, and knowing that Casey Legler is participating in fashion with an intention on making queers feel a part of the commercial and corporate world is what makes her participation both exciting and worth examining.
This isn’t to say that Elliott Sailors or other straight-identified models that pose in what can be considered queer portrayals are exploiting us–we can certainly enjoy their work for what it is without forcing an identity on them. Because, as Casey writes:
And to anyone who is making that space in the wider world, we are thankful.