Billie Eilish: Future of Youth Fashion?

If the Bad Guy singer was not at the Grammys, she might have been a resident of Suzhou, an eighteen-year-old punk-auntie taking a walk in the city in jammies


Billie Eilish Grammys

Billie Eilish, it’s not enough that you won four Grammys, you had to turn up in that outfit. You had to align yourself with Gucci; you had to get them to make you a set of pyjamas to strut the red carpet. In fact, head-to-nail-to-toe Gucci. Sure, we get it: this is a luxury take on what you’re used to. And yes, Gucci’s fastest-growing slice of the business is consumers like you: 24 and under—what marketeers call Gen Z. We get it. You have made some unconventional musical choices, why did you make a conventional fashion pick? We don’t mean just the get-up; we mean the brand too. Seriously, how much more anti-fit clothes do we need to see, how many more logos-as-repeated-patterns?

You’re known to wear figure-obscuring clothes, but we didn’t think that you’d don your dad’s nightwear to the Grammys. Or, obnubilate what were later revealed to be not unattractive eyes and mouth, from which you had sung so captivatingly. We know you like to dress to avoid being tagged babe or sexy. We know. But must modesty be this covered-up? Must not-following-the-contours-of-the-body be this baggy? Must taking attention off the female form be this androgynous?

Sure, it’s different, what you’re doing/wearing/showing. You don’t have Lisso’s heft to need to prove that sexiness can come in other shapes. You don’t have Ariana Grande’s pony tail to show that cute can negate curly, flowing locks. You don’t have Lana Del Rey’s retro vibe to wear things in a certain way and, as a result, look not of the present. But, you don’t have to obscure your youth to downplay it or diminish it. You don’t have to succumb to the persistent convention that ugly can be pretty.

As a performer, you’re compelling to watch. In the Bad Guy MV, it is a joy to see you prance about—the infectious synths and bass so divorced from your soft, almost whispery near-monotone vocals that soundtrack your don’t-give-a-damn play with the camera. You bring to mind Janis Ian (Mean Girls), but you make her look lame. Even your yellow hoodie and jogger make The Bride’s (Kill Bill) similarly hued track suit pale in comparison. It helps that all the while, you sing that you’re the “make-your-girlfriend-mad type/might-seduce-your-dad type.” In baggy clothes? What sexual powers are hidden in them?

Your debut album, last year’s beautiful oddity When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? include the standout track, the seductive/hummable/tender Everything I Wanted, which sounds like it is in the process of being written… in a corner of a dance club… with the EDM in the background. Or, something Miley Cyrus probably wished she had composed. In the accompanying self-directed MV that seems like a snap of a suicide attempt, you sing mostly in an ominously dark car. Your clothes cannot be discerned; they may not even be there. We saw only your anguished face. Fashion doesn’t matter. Billie Eilish, you’re no Taylor Swift. Thank goodness for that.

Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images