BIGGER IS BETTER
For Billie Eilish, and Many Others, Power Dressing Means Wearing Baggy Clothes
The teenage singer-songwriter has become a new face of Calvin Klein and said she wears baggy clothes to combat sexism. Is this the ideal marriage of the comfortable and political?
Billie Eilish’s new Calvin Klein campaign begins with a familiar scene: a teenager spending too much time getting ready in the bathroom.
But instead of hearing the sounds of a disgruntled younger sister banging at the door to get in, those who watch the 30-second spot are treated to a voiceover confessional from the 17-year-old pop dynamo.
“I never want the world to know everything about me,” Eilish drawls. “That’s why I wear big, baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath, you know? No one can say ‘She’s slim thick, she’s not slim thick. She’s got a flat ass, she’s got a fat ass.’ No one can say any of that because they don’t know.”
The blue-haired wunderkind lies in an empty bathtub, wearing not the ribbed white tank and briefs those reared on Marky Mark and Kate Moss Calvin ads would recognize, but a baggy, pear-hued tracksuit.
Eilish exclusively wears shapeless silhouettes—often paired monochromatically—like cargo pants, oversized T-shirts, roomy sweats, and very big coats. As the Calvin campaign implies, she’s hiding her body, a rare move for female pop stars who have long been expected to bare all onstage.
Earlier this year, Eilish told NME that she sees her full-body coverage as a power grab and a way to redefine industry norms that objectify young female artists. (Though Eilish also wrote the song lyric, “I’m that bad type... Might seduce your dad type,” so she’s fine with a little self-sexualization.)
“If I was a guy and I was wearing these baggy clothes, nobody would bat an eye,” she said. “There’s people out there saying, ‘Dress like a girl for once! Wear tight clothes, you’d be much prettier and your career would be so much better!’ No it wouldn’t. It literally wouldn’t.” (It’s somewhat reassuring to see that Eilish, lauded for being wise beyond her years, still overuses the world “literally” like a true Gen Z’er.)
Eilish’s influence along with the seemingly unsinkable nostalgia for ‘90s style that continues to rage with the fashion machine season after season—see: Marc Jacobs’ recurring grunge collection—have contributed to an influx of baggy clothes us normies can buy, too.
Tomboyish utility trousers—or, how haters hope to rebrand the oft-derided cargo pants—have flooded department stores and high street shops. Nordstrom currently sells nearly 50 options. Styles range from a humble $52 set from Madewell to this $1695 lux satin number from Italian house Brunello Cucinelli. Urban Outfitters, no doubt taking inspiration from Eilish, has 80 cargo styles in stock.
On May 15, Whoopi Goldberg, who has been quietly studying the industry for years as a New York Fashion Week front row staple, launched Dubgee, her own line of easy-to-wear basics.
Along with many graphic sweatshirts printed with word salad slogans like, “Normal is just a cycle on a washing machine,” Dugbee’s lineup features kaftan-esque dresses and tent-like silhouettes. In promotional images, Dugbee clothing reduces its models to amorphous blobs.
Since the neutral color palette mostly includes dark gray, navy, and black, Dugbee designs demand much less attention than Eilish’s typical fare. If Eilish’s boxy jackets and printed cargo shorts scream “fuck your beauty standards,” Dugbee’s parachute midis groan, “It’s laundry day.”
Coziness is a noble pursuit, and requires little analysis—if something feels good, wear it. But for Eilish and her ilk, baggy clothing can be a form of power dressing.
Women of another generation might remember when acting out through clothes involved buying the cheapest, shiniest, tightest, and shortest mini skirt at the mall.
Blame it on all those early-aughts paparazzi shots of Paris Hilton getting in and out of cars—there is a subversive delight that comes with leaving the house in a get-up that might flash the world. Lizzo, another sublime pop singer, subscribes to this school of thought.
The classically trained flutist and rapper frequently pairs shiny, see-through bodysuits with fishnet stockings. She renamed her Coachella set “Asschella” based on her fleshy performance outfits. A self-professed “big girl,” Lizzo's naked agenda exists to subvert expectations—a lot like Eilish, just with approximately 25 less pounds of fabric.
Hopefully, baggy and itty bitty can coexist.