Delving into Billie Eilish on Vogue

If they knew what they said would go straight to my head, what would they say instead?
Image credit: British Vogue

“My body was the initial reason for my depression when I was younger.

“If I’m honest that’s why I hate my stomach.

“Showing your body and showing your skin – or not – should not take any respect away from you”

Does this sound like the voice of a women crying out for sexual attention, or the voice of a teenager trying to overcome her own insecurities, whilst empowering other young girls to do the same? This pin-up style shoot, directed by Eilish herself was a statement and a shock to both her beloved fans and onlookers. Causing an online stir, with comments of the outfits being too revealing, that the popstar had succumbed to ‘female in the spotlight’ stereotypes, and that she was simply playing to the ‘male gaze’. But the fact these accusations have been made puts the problem, Billie is trying to tackle, on a podium.

First of all, the word revealing. Originally meaning, making interesting or significant information known. Yet, to the masses, this word is simply associated with scantily clad women and their sexualisation. But I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the outfits that Billie is wearing are form fitting, and not actually revealing much of her skin. However, due to the sexual meaning of this word they have been labelled ‘revealing’ with no correlation to the actual garments she is adorned with.

Delving deeper into the clothes, we can see Billie in a corset, after the comment she made in her interview “I hate my stomach”, paired with the restrictive nature of a corset, I can’t help but think it was used as a way to mask her insecurity and force her body to fit societies beauty standards. The pin-up theme to the shoot, adds symbolism of being beautiful to meet another person’s desires, as images of these girls would be pinned up for informal display. Editor in chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful, comments “as always with Billie, it goes deeper, and it is the story behind the transformation that is key”. In October, paparazzi pictured Billie is a form-fitting vest and shorts, which sparked a flurry of negative and misjudged sympathy, praising her for being confident in her body, as in their opinion it was not up to 2021 beauty ideals. She later went on to shoot with Calvin Klein where she said the reason, she wears the baggy clothes is to hide her body so no one can give an opinion. The Vogue shoot was a full circle moment for Eilish, directed and decided for her own confidence journey.

In one shot, Eilish is wearing an Alexander Mcqueen corset with lace and draped skirt, very similar to ones featured in his A/W 1995 highland rape collection, where the idea of female rape was romanticised, with themes of abused power, particularly male power, running throughout. This statement sits parallel to the message Billie is making with her shoot, as Women should not been seen as objects or victims based upon the way they are dressed. Furthermore, the use of the Burberry trench coat over the lingerie is similar to that of outfits worn by sex workers; however, we know that the iconic Burberry trench was made simply as a stylish way to combat the rain – with no sexual connotations intended.

This highlights that the sexual and fetish perceptions that these clothes can provide, should be kept in context, and should not be taken as consent to unwanted attention. Billie summarises: “You’re going to complain about being taken advantage of as a minor, but then you’re going to show your boobs? Yes, I am, motherf**ker! I’m going to because there is no excuse”.

Because at the end of the day, your body is your choice.

By Freya Fowler

Feature image: British Vogue

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