A guide to Billie Eilish’s fiercely subversive style

5 mins
16 Dec 2022
A guide to Billie Eilish’s fiercely subversive style

The singer’s signature disruptive style has defined an era

image Team Woo

words Sophie Lou Wilson

With highlighter-green hair, XXXL tees, basketball shorts and hi-top trainers, Billie Eilish’s trademark look became so iconic that she was forced to ask YouTubers to stop impersonating her in public because they were putting themselves in danger of crazed fans. In 2020, content creators started donning her signature look topped off with neon-streaked wigs and fake security guards to make videos where they duped members of the public into thinking they were Billie. This emo-adjacent tomboyish look became so recognisable in part because it was subversive, defying anyone who still believed female pop stars had to dress a certain way to achieve mainstream success.

However, in a 2019 Calvin Klein ad campaign, the singer revealed that her preference for baggy clothes had a deeper reasoning behind it, highlighting the scrutiny and body shaming female celebrities face. “That’s why I wear baggy clothes,” she said. “Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath. Nobody can be like, ‘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.”

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That all changed when Billie radically abandoned her goth kid look in March 2021, debuting her new blonde hair shortly before that bombshell British Vogue cover broke the internet. It signalled a bold new fashion era, one defined by an elevated Old Hollywood glamour starkly different from her previous androgynous aesthetic. Recently, however, Billie has settled on a happy medium between this glam look and her trademark style, returning to baggy shorts, oversized tees and sneakers on-stage. It’s a humble, easy-to-replicate aesthetic aside from the fact that many of her laidback co-ords are often stamped with luxury monograms courtesy of Gucci, Chanel or Dior.

This high fashion elevation of comfy basics is part of what makes Billie’s idiosyncratic style so fascinating. As the pop star celebrates her 21st birthday, here’s our guide to getting her subversive, shifting personal style.

Opt for oversized

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Rule number one for acing Billie’s style is that baggy is always better. Most of the time, she eschews red carpet gowns in favour of XXXL silhouettes in monogrammed neons and blacks. While her preference for baggy styles catapulted her look to legendary status, there was a sadder reason behind it. In 2020, she told Dazed that she started wearing baggy clothes because she hated her body. Billie says she has a better relationship with the way she looks now, but still tends to favour oversized clothing, even when she tries her hand at awards show glamour. The singer merged her past and present aesthetics in a dramatic ruffled black gown by Gucci at the 2022 Oscars earlier this year.

Soft grunge emo

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Billie’s iconic neon streaked hair riffed on classic emo teen aesthetics. Her love for oversized hoodies, bold graphics and dark colour palettes channels all the angst of ‘00s teenagers while her music reflects their moody emotions. These days, her style is often more sophisticated than her scrappy goth kid looks of yore, but in February this year, she posted a pic in an emo-style graphic black tee and shorts with bloody knees that felt like a playful callback to Tumblr-era soft grunge.

Blonde bombshell

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When Billie debuted her blonde locks in March 2021, the internet went into a frenzy. A photo, posted on her Instagram got a record one million likes in a mere six minutes. The British Vogue shoot that followed was another internet breaking moment. In the photos Billie served major blonde bombshell vibes in a vintage-style silk corset, kickstarting a bold new style era. She continued in this sartorial direction at her first Met Gala in 2021 channelling Marilyn Monroe-meets-fairytale princess energy in a custom tulle gown by Oscar de la Renta.

Keeping cosy

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Billie knows a thing or two about keeping it cosy. Whether she’s sporting oversized hoodies, comfy co-ords or slacker-style basketball shorts, comfort is always key. She often tears up the red carpet rulebook, favouring giant silk shirts and chunky sneakers over traditional glam garms. As for on-stage looks, sporty styles reign supreme. Her go-to tour uniform of baggy tees and cycling shorts is designed to support energetic live shows. We have to stan a comfy, practical queen.

Mono mania

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Many of Billie’s outfits might look understated at a glance, but look closer and many of her outfits are covered in luxury monograms. For a long time, monograms were considered a tacky remnant from the ‘00s, but Billie helped boost them back into the realm of cool. One of her most iconic looks was a luxe take on her signature style in head-to-toe Gucci embellished with the brand’s monogram in bright green crystals to match the neon streak in her hair. She wore the outfit to make music history at the 2020 Grammys where she went home with four of the night’s biggest awards, beating Taylor Swift’s record to become the youngest ever solo winner of record of the year. And she looked cool as hell doing it!

Cartoon nostalgia

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The only thing that could make Billie’s signature style cosier than it already is would be a dose of childhood nostalgia. She might be most known for her dark personal style and introspective songwriting, but that doesn’t mean there are no playful elements to her look. Notably, she often wears tees, shirts and shorts stamped with nostalgic ‘90s and ‘00s cartoons and manga, including the Powerpuff Girls and characters from Japanese manga JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Slime green

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It’s futuristic alien meets nu-raver. During Billie’s most recognisable era, she had highlighter hued green hair that she often matched with similar bright clothing. The colour was dubbed slime green or sometimes called Shrekcore. Her obsession with the shade is a lesson in finding a colour that works for you and sticking with it (until you get bored and want to shake it all up again, of course!)

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