Androgyny has long been a part of runways and retail ads, but only in the last few years have we begun to see a trend of female-identified models walking in and wearing menswear. Casey Legler, Erika Linder and Elliot Sailors are known for their androgyny which, combined with handsome faces and cool swagger, has given them an edge on the male market. One of the new players is Rain Dove, a firefighter turned fashion model who has leant her image to designers like Malan Breton, Vivienne Hu, Chromat and Rochambeau at the recent Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week.
photos by Zhi Wei
Standing 6’2″ with dark features, a piercing stare and a masculine pout, Rain seems like she was built to be a model, though she says she only attended a casting call because she lost a bet during a football game.
“When I showed up they told me I showed up on the wrong day,” Rain said. “Turns out the next day it was the men’s casting call and that they assumed I was male. I decided to do it and it blew up my career pretty quickly.”
Rain (yes, that’s her real name) said she never thought of herself as androgynous growing up. Instead, she saw herself as “an ugly woman.”
“I never had bad feelings about it, I just felt that maybe I was that one girl,” Rain said. “It wasn’t until I was wilderness firefighter for a while and that’s when I felt more empowered in my ambiguity and sexuality as far as gender presentation goes.”
People frequently assume Rain is male, and she doesn’t correct them. “When I was a firefighter they thought I was a male and I went with it because I really need a job and I was out in the middle of nowhere in Colorado,” she said. “So I utilized my gender bending profile as something that had gotten me a bunch of odd jobs from nannying to landscape.”
Rain grew up on a farm which she said gave her “big muscles,” and the fact she was “a foot taller than everyone else” made her stand out.
“My parents called me Danny thru elementary school because they thought my friends would tease me for my name. They thought it would make me stick out more than I stuck out,” Rain said. “In high I learned the truth. But having a different name didn’t really help much, they still teased me and called me ‘Tranny Danny.’ I was too young to even know what tranny meant.”
The very same attributes that might have gotten her picked on in her youth are why she’s a sought after model in both menswear and womenswear. In her every day life, she says she hates heels and prefers sneakers. She wears boxers but she’s not opposed to putting on a skirt.
“Depending on if I’m having a commercial male day or female day,” Rain said. “I’ll wear a vest that shows off that I have breasts, or I will wear a baggy men’s shirt so I can blend in with the male crowd.”
Rain seems to prefer more menswear styles off the runway, but is often called to do womenswear, too.
“Womenswear is harder for me emotionally,” Rain said. “It’s very difficult to contribute to a particular genre of our culture like fashion that says women have to be a particular way. When I do women’s clothing I can’t see myself, when I walk in a suit, I can pop a squat on the floor and they say its brilliant. But with women, your butt is out, your chest is out, your lips are puffed…. There’s a small things that infuriate me about the women’s industry that makes it difficult to model in that. So I prefer to do women’s wear because there’s activism in it but I am a lot more comfortable doing men.”