What Do You Want From Me?: How Billie Eilish Has Changed the Meaning of Fashion for Young Women

Since the beginning of her career, Billie Eilish has been critiqued and criticized for her style. I think I can speak for most people when I say this, but whether you were introduced to her several years ago during her days on Soundcloud, or more recently after achieving 6 Grammy wins, we’ve all noticed that her clothing and the way she presents herself has been used as a way to express herself in the most non-traditional ways we are used to. In the past, many women in the spotlight such as Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and Lizzo have worn revealing clothing as a source of empowerment for women’s bodies, however, Billie has her own take on style through baggier clothing that are almost 2 or 3 sizes too big. What has started as a topic to spark jokes, has now connected and inspired many women all across the world to dress the way they want to dress, and not because of the way society tells them to. 

Speaking on my own experiences, I was very confused about my relationship with clothes and never understood why I felt the way I felt in certain items, or why I would wear a sweatshirt in July to hide my body despite sweating my ass off in the Midwest summer heat. Now looking back, it could have been my own experience with body dysmorphia, or the fact that I was wearing bras before middle school and getting my period before all of my other friends and grew uncomfortable with the fact that my body was changing. It was until I was introduced to Billie and heard her speak on her relationship with her own body that I finally could relate to someone else and these blurry conceptions of my body just became a little clearer #iykyk. 

We’ve all seen the memes on Twitter comparing the singer’s large clothing style to those like Adam Sandler and his baggy t-shirt and basketball shorts look, but a few years ago, Billie came out and explained the reasoning behind her style. In her Calvin Klein ad, she reveals that she buries herself in her clothes to avoid the sexualization of her body or any discussion about her body; the way that we always have something to say about everyone’s body no matter the shape or size. She, like me, was going through changes way before the rest of her friends and felt completely trapped in her body, which stemmed from the idea of feeling undesirable by her past partners.

I guess in a way, I found myself doing the same thing without even knowing it, but now I have found ways to play with fashion and not limit myself to the tiny skirts and dresses that society tells me to wear because I am a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up and wearing more feminine clothes like skirts and dresses, but her style has exposed me to a more androgynous side of fashion, which doesn’t restrict me from going outside of my box of femininity and explore femininity in a nontraditional way. It allows me to wear sneakers and baggier clothes without stripping my identity as a woman because wearing these clothes doesn’t make me a man and doesn’t make me less of a woman.

Briefly, before the pandemic hit, Billie planned to go on a sold-out world tour and released a short film (that was meant for the tour) focusing on the double standards within body image. The video starts with her in a large black hoodie and continues as she strips down into her bra and slowly submerges herself into a pool of black liquid while doing a voiceover about the criticisms she’s dealt with about her body as a woman in society. She ends the video by saying “The body I was born with, is not what you wanted? If what I wear is comfortable, I am not a woman. If I shed the layers, I am a slut. Though you’ve never seen my body, you still judge it and judge me for it. Why? You make assumptions about people based on their size. We decide who they are. We decide what they’re worth. If I wear more if I wear less, who decides what that makes me? What that means? Is my value based only on your perception? Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?”

In this video, Billie is criticizing society and its attack on women’s bodies in an extremely vulnerable way. No matter what size or shape a body is, people will always have something to say and have an opinion about who you are, which contains absolutely no value or actual worth in the person you really are. I highly applaud her for releasing this film, especially with the large platform she has as a celebrity, as it sends the message to young women that we are more than just our bodies and encourages young individuals to use fashion as a way to express themselves in society. Not only does she have the voice of an angel, but her influence has shown how fashion is ever-changing in order to fit with our societal views and is allowing for the expansion of what clothes mean and symbolize.