THE BLOG
23/10/2013 12:51 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Women Modelling Menswear: Cross-dressing for Models Who Wish to Work After the Age of Thirty

With their tall and slender frame, they can pass themselves off for beautiful boys - boys rather than men, due to their lack of facial hair. To some people this may seem to be a complete novelty and some go as far as claiming that it shows that fashion is embracing diversity. No, not quite.

Elliot Sailors and Casey Leger are currently both signed up by Ford male division and model menswear. With their tall and slender frame, they can pass themselves off for beautiful boys - boys rather than men, due to their lack of facial hair. To some people this may seem to be a complete novelty and some go as far as claiming that it shows that fashion is embracing diversity. No, not quite.

These women in their everyday life continue to be women, they are not transgender. Legler keenly emphasises that she is a visual artist and through her modelling as a male she is trying to explore the possibility of performing her masculinity, in a playful way.

Women wearing male clothes, posing as men, is an old trick as far as fashion is concerned. Fashion is fixated with adolescent bodies: editorial and catwalk models are usually young, tall and slender and androgyny has featured as a favourite in fashion for a long time. Androgyny and cross-dressing go together.

Cross-dressing is hardly new. There has been a long tradition of female cross-dressing throughout history - has it been forgotten? Women wearing men's clothes - Hollywood stars such as Garbo, Hepburn and Dietrich did so - have an erotic edge and a sexiness that stems from their being able to play with their gender identity, appearing to be men but not quite men. Having female models infiltrating top agencies' male divisions is but an extension of this age old practice. It sounds like great fun.

What troubles me, however, is the fact that Sailors decided to turn herself into a 'male' model only because she could not get any more work as a female model at the age of thirty-one. It was a pragmatic decision motivated by the desire to continue to model and be distinctive as a model at an age when modelling, for women, is very difficult, due to age discrimination - which does not seem to exist for male models. She reckoned that by chopping her hair off she could emphasise her androgyny and be seen as a young man.

I fully understand her predicament and applaud her decision. I think that having female models cross-dressing and playing at being male models is wonderful, but it is not so wonderful that female models should be discriminated against because of age. I would not want to see cross-dressing as the only way to make a modelling career last.