Fashion is our main method of self-expression. It's how we communicate our individuality to the world. Our fashion choices define who we are. So why is it, when someone goes slightly against the norm they're punished for it. Clothing can be an symbol of freedom, but only for those who don't take it too far. For some, their style choices exclude them, stereotypes them, and in some cases, destroy them.
Mental health is not something we tend to consider in terms of fashion. We all know that that keeping up with the latest trends can become over-whelming, but what about those who go against the grain?
Billie Eilish's Style
Singer and song-writer, Billie Eilish, has been in the public eye since age 14. Now age 19, Billie is known for her 'baggy', alternative clothing style.
Over the years, there's been much speculation around her reasons for dressing in this manner. Some have pinned it on her struggles with body dysmorphia, other on her reluctance to be sexualised, which she admits all do play a role. However, Billie claims that her main reason for her unconventional fashion is simply because that's her style. For some reason, she has to justify that.
Billie has openly discussed how uncomfortable she feels in the praise she receives for covering up: "I don't like that there's this weird new world of supporting me by shaming people that don't want to dress like me."
"The positive comments about how I dress have this slut-shaming element. Like, 'I am so glad that you're dressing like a boy, so other girls can dress like boys, so that they aren't sluts." - Billie Eilish
Consequently, Billie reluctance to 'show off' has lead to a strange applauding for her being different to other stars. In other words, their words of appraisal is shaming other young women, for wearing short skirts and fake tan.
However, talk of Billie Eilish's outfit choices has always been disturbing, specifically linking to the 'male gaze.' Her choice not to wear fitted clothes has lead some people to act as if they are owed something from her, and she's hiding it. Furthermore, when the singer turned 18 disturbing comments were made viral. These comments included how she is now of 'legal age', so sexualising her is allowed. This is predatory behaviour demonstrates how women really can't escape sexualisation.
The tank top image
In October 2020 an image was leaked of Billie wearing a tank top and shorts. The photograph was shared, without her consent, and scrutinised by the public. Despite her efforts to conceal her body for years, comments on the leak included referring to her as having a 'wine mom body' and sexualising her chest.
So it seems either way, women can't win. Covering up makes you a prude, showing off deems you a slut. The media's connection between fashion and stereotypes makes Billie's clothing choices understandable. We live in a society where our clothing choices come attached with a label, a pre-determined stereotype.
The impact of stereotypes
Billie Eilish has spoken out on her battle with body image for years. Despite this, public opinion still continues to shame her over this image. Shaming a person's fashion choices is about much more than style. Body image, slut-shaming, and classism all come into play, all which can have a detrimental impact on mental health.
“When people ask me what I’d say to somebody looking for advice on mental health, only thing I can say is patience." - Billie Eilish.
Moreover, ex-Little Mix member, Jesy Nelson has been completely hounded by the press on her weight. In recent years, she has admitted this lead to her eating disorder. Furthermore, public opinions ended in her leaving the band. The singer was pitted against the 'slimmer' band members for their on stage costume choices. It was a running discussion that she should not be wearing the same tight and revealing clothes as the other girls. Jesy Nelson is a clear example of how these stereotypes impact a person's mental health.
We live in a society where our clothing choices come attached with a label, a pre-determined stereotype. If your clothes aren't branded, you're poor. If your clothes are revealing, you're promiscuous. If your clothes are concealing, you're frigid.
Fashion should be a means of expression, not one of critique or prejudice. For too long we've accepted the stigmas attached to certain items of clothing. Fashion should mean expression for all, not some.