Cross dressing refers to the wearing of clothing and jewellery of the opposite sex and the associated behaviour. Here it is not the performance in the theatre that is meant, but that in real life.
There are a number of motifs for such a change of role.
Relatively often women change into men's dresses when times are uncertain or in war.
In the case of Johannes Anglicus alias Popess Johanna this phenomenon should also be investigated.
Only the change from female to male appearance is of interest here.
Sociological studies show that especially in unstable times or during wars women appear as men.
However, there are numerous indications that in the first centuries of our calendar women north of the Alps had a quite different position than in the Mediterranean area. A study from Sweden published in 2017 shows that a highly respected Viking warrior was a woman.
In April 2019, the Georgia Southern Univeristy published the research results on Kasimir Pulaski, a hero of the US War of Independence.
They also call it «War Time Crossdressing». Have a look to this list.
Because of a lack of perspectives in the female role or because of personal conviction (C.F. Meyer, Gustav Adolfs Page), women hatched in men's clothing, behaved accordingly and were often not discovered or were discovered after a very long time.
It's a way to escape adverse circumstances. Women wear men's clothes because they hope to be able to avoid rape in this way, which is particularly common in warlike situations. There are also known cases where prisoners could flee in the clothes of the opposite sex (Golo Mann, A True Story).
Well-known is the case of Dorothy Lawrence, the English reporter who appeared as a soldier in the First World War.
Sociological studies of modern times prove how Norah Vincent, who called herself Ned in the experiment, credibly infiltrates various male organisations with the simplest means such as adapted clothing, speech training and movement studies. Among other things, she lived in a Catholic men's monastery and remained undiscovered. (1)
Johanna, the maiden from Mainz, who later became Pope, was born in exactly such a time.
In order to continue her education and to pursue the studies she was interested in, the young woman entered a men's monastery as disguised man. And obviously her thirst for knowledge, her intelligence and her heart-building were very great. Later she distinguished herself by this and for this reason was very much appreciated by her predecessor in the Papal Office, Benedict III. These qualities led to the fact that this Cardinal Deacon had finally been elected Pope; this, of course, on the assumption that he was a man.
The clothing habits in the 9th century Franconian Empire differed little between men and women. It was sufficient to shorten the robes and wear the hair in a kind of pageboy cut. As a monk, a woman had to wear a cowl: monks wore the tonsure, but not a beard.
Figure «Norah Vincent as Ned:» Self Made Man. Norah Vincent
Figure «Dorothy Lawrence »: Public domain
(1) Norah Vincent, Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again, 2009