If you asked me four months ago who Billie Eilish was, I would have said “Who’s belly eyelash?” and probably continued eating a burrito with a fork. Now, not only do I know who she is, but I think about her on a rigorous daily basis—particularly her look, which is a blend of hip-hop, street, and skate style that she consistently credits to her music-industry predecessors and idols. These looks often take the form of baggy monochrome sweatsuits, “chunky” sneakers, logo-maniacal gym shorts with oversized tees, a jewelry store’s worth of silver chains and massive rings. When they’re juxtaposed against the traditional sartorial trappings of the pop genre (essentially all things “flattering”), she stands out.
“I wear baggy shit and I wear what I want,” Eilish said in a recent interview with V Magazine. “I don’t say, ‘Oh, I am going to wear baggy clothes because it’s baggy clothes.’ It’s never like that. It’s more, just, I wear what I want to wear…I’m just walking around dressed how I always wanted to.”
Eilish is not alone in pushing the boundaries of what defines “pop style” in 2019, but something about her approach has really stuck to my sticking place. Maybe because her style encapsulates so many things I like—oversized everything, color-blocking, comfort-wear—and takes them to an extreme. When I read this comment she made in Harper’s Bazaar when she was 15 (!!!), my intrigue crystallized: “I want to dress in a way that if I was in a room full of people wearing regular clothes, I would be like, ‘Oh, I bet everyone’s looking at me.’ I want to feel that way. That’s my casual.”
As someone who typically finds their stylistic flair by way of cutesy touches rather than huge statements, I needed to know what it felt like, if only for a day, to stand out in a Billie way. And so I asked the glorious Eliz Tamkin to “Billie” me, the results of which are below.
This is an “early days” look. I was on page 21 of Getty Images when I found this army green dress, camo cap, and dirty sneaker combo. The first thing I thought when I looked at her in this shot was that I couldn’t fathom becoming a famous pop star at age 15—the media scrutiny and the intensity of adapting to whims of record labels, all while hardly knowing who you are. Here, Eilish looks like the nascent version of who she is now. Wearing this outfit made me feel 15 again, too, but at age 15 I was probably wearing a second-hand Juicy Couture tracksuit and fake Uggs.
I’m the “Bad Guy”
In my life, I have never worn head-to-toe yellow. I have never worn a full sweatsuit. I have never worn a belt harness. Now I can happily say I’ve done all three. For the latter component, Eliz’s genius was in hooking two belts together to recreate Eilish’s vest-suspender-harness amalgam. A group of people hooted at us while we were attempting to take this shot, which confirmed that a look like this elicits a reaction, I guess. I felt distinctly “cool” in a way I never have before, despite the beads of sweat trickling down my back.
Just Hit Up Kith, Need an Iced Coffee
This look was easily my favorite. From the moment I walked outside, I was carrying myself differently. I felt simultaneously so anonymous and so visible, which led to me feeling as though I have never in my life looked as objectively “awesome.” I’m still questioning why that is, though. When I sent these photos to my mother the day after the shoot, she responded with perplexion: “I like the way YOU dress,” she said. Well, I like the way I dress, too. But I also like imagining a world in which I could dress like Billie, mom.
Eilish’s look is a product of her upbringing, her community, the people she has invested time and energy in researching, uplifting, crediting, and knowing. My style is a product of the same, but the components that make up my whole are so very different from hers, which is why her style is not mine to own—I haven’t done that work and I haven’t lived that life. But it was fun to know what it feels like, even if just for a few hot minutes on the streets of lower Manhattan.
Styled by Elizabeth Tamkin; Photos by Sabrina Santiago.