From designer Coco Chanel to model Casey Legler (with all of you inbetween)

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” –  Coco Chanel

Marlene Dietrich in a Coco Chanel suit (1913)

From the mad pulse on the digital streets today of LGBTQ fashion design and modeling, these words offered by French fashion designer Coco Chanel hold true today. Alternative masculine fashion is hitting a high as more fashion designers, seamstresses, pattern makers, etsy & FB entrepeneurs, and models are coming out or coming into the limelight for their brave and adventureous contributions to a world where butch / masculine cis-gendered women and transmen have increasingly more opportunities to purchase a shirt, suit, shoe, bowtie, or pair of britches made Just For Their (Our) Bodacious Bods.

How excellent that Ford Models signed on art maker Casey Legler  as one of their “male models.”  Seriously, how hot is it to shatter the glass ceiling?!  Check out the’s video interview with Casey here.   Casey identifies as female and Ford employs her as a male model, and while that particular syntaxical dance may not speak outrightly to the concerns of trans male emobiment, it does offer cis-gendered butches, studs, ags, bulldaggers and other female masculines some very flattering visibility.  And, what’s exciting is that Legler’s presence as a male model means that, really, the industry can no longer legitimately function on the assumption that all ‘men’ nor ‘masculinity’ belongs to or is possessed by bio-male models!  The cat’s out of the bag officially.  Finally we’re able to see the shifts encouraged by early male impersonators, drag kings, trans men, and queer/trans theory taken up by the fashion industry and, more importantly, the media.


Casey Legler, Ford Male Model

It’s an exciting time. The work of many of you queer innovators and LGBT’s have been doing for years and years — in art, in social justice work, in film, performance, photography, portraiture, leather production, costuming, thrifting, fashion writing, critical thinking et al — is coming to a new place of recognition in the international, visible marketplace.  For better or worse, the market is feeling our heat!

So, today, we’re giving kudos to Casey Legler and to early fashion pioneer Coco Chanel. Legler + her friend photographer Cass Bird + Ford deserve big luv for putting female masculine / alternative masculine modeling onto the runway. That’s no small feat.  Woot!

And, we’re shouting out to the spirit of the young Coco Chanel for her work on gender-bending fashion. While Chanel has become a brand and symbol of conservative, white, upper class America, there’s some juice to her early days worth remembering.  We don’t applaud her or her company’s participation in the worst aspects of the Paris-centric fashion industry (definitely check out scholar Dorrine Kondo’s analysis of the fashion industry’s Euro-centrism in her book About Face).  But we do like the flavor of her early, youthful persistance and  vision to make something courageous happen.  In her day, Chanel provided something for women and free thinkers that did not, sartorially or semiotically, yet exist:  Not just “men’s wear” appropriated to the world of “women’s fashion,” but also an expansive sense of what fashion is.

And now we ask you, readers, who do you want us to honor and celebrate? Who has positively influenced your gendered and sexual identities over the years, when it comes to style and clothing? Which fashion designers or stylists made  a different in your world?  Which entertainers, musicians, public figures have made not only your genders and sexualities make sense, but given you confidence and inspiration to dress and make it rock? What do you think about all that is going on these days for alternative masculine fashion design and modeling? Make a comment below, here, or email us at

 French fashion designer Gabriel “Coco” Chanel, portrait by Man Ray (1935) 


One response

  1. Thanks for this amazing fashion history lesson and a much needed reflection on what many of us (ME) take for granted: who influences me? and the images are great: the model is very handsome; i think it interesting when i am a tracted to masculine women. This would make for an interesting journal essay and then book chapter!

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