Billie Eilish was the talk of the red carpet when she arrived at the Oscars in head-to-toe Chanel that seemed to defy the conventions of, well, Chanel.
Chanel is boucle. Chanel is perfectly tailored skirt suits and walkable shoes. Chanel is calfskin leather quilted handbags. Chanel is … an 18-year-old musical wunderkind with slime-green hair?
Eilish’s oversize, baggy boucle suit featured glittering versions of the infamous interlocking “C” logo, and she accessorized not with the Boy Bag or cap-toe slingback, but with Madonna-esque fingerless lace gloves, which read “Chanel” when she crossed her fisted hands at the wrist. Her hair, dyed green at the roots, was pulled back with a logo barrette, and just in case you missed the umpteen other Chanel references, she wore a ribbon with about a million different “Chanel” logos. She completed the look with black-and-white sneakers, also Chanel.
As the internet’s chosen one, Billie received praise from all corners of the web for her ensemble — not only for seeming to make one of the most powerful French fashion houses on the planet bend to her preferences, but for skirting the show’s black-tie dress code by declining to wear the typical ball gown or tailored tux.
“Billie Eilish is probably the Coolest Person on The Planet in 2020,” tweeted luxury reporter Kim Bhasin. “This is great for Chanel.”
Not everyone was a fan, with some spouting their preference for the more traditional vintage Chanel haute couture gown worn by Margot Robbie; others raised concerns that Billie “disrespected” the black tie dress code, and therefore the sanctity of the event itself.
However, many people’s appreciation had nothing to do with the ensemble, and more to do with the cultural impact that Eilish’s style has.
“[Billie’s] commitment to oversized silhouettes as a way of moving the conversation away from bodies is something I so wish was happening when I was a teen,” tweeted Rachel Syme, a writer for the New Yorker, and sometime InStyle contributor.
Billie’s spoken about her preference for tees that swallow her up and pants that pool around her ankles in the past. In a video spot for Calvin Klein last year, she said she opts for oversize ensembles so that “nobody can have an opinion because they haven't seen what’s underneath,” and so that can she retain an air of mystery in the spotlight.
“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,’” she continued. “No one can say any of that because they don't know.”
A few months later, in an interview with Pharrell Williams for V Magazine, she elaborated that her clothing preferences have nothing to do with being “anti” feminine. "[The] positive [comments] about how I dress have this slut-shaming element," she said. "Like, 'I am so glad that you are dressing like a boy so that other girls can dress like boys, so that they aren’t sluts'. I can't [overstate how] strongly I do not appreciate that, at all," she said.
Of course, the teen is hardly the first woman to don a baggy outfit on a prestigious red carpet. Musicians, and particularly women of color like Missy Elliot, have been wearing the oversize suit “trend” since the late ‘90s, which is another criticism Billie’s been fielding for her looks of late.
But beyond her message about the dichotomy in the way that we talk about women’s bodies, the significance of Billie’s look is the distinct Billie-ness of it all. GQ’s Rachel Tashjian pointed out that long before she was making history at the Grammys and bringing tears to the eyes of the most important people in show business with her rendition of “Yesterday,” she was sporting cheeky oversize gear printed with faux designer logos. “Billie Eilish used to wear streetwear that poked fun at luxury logos,” wrote Tashjian alongside a photo of the singer in the brand Tsuwoop, “which makes wacky bootlegs of Gucci, [Louis Vuitton], Chanel.”
“Now she is wearing pieces by the luxury houses themselves that appear to imitate the bootlegs. A wild evolution!”
Whereas most emerging starlets (and I) would faint at the very idea of wearing a Chanel gown, Billie proved she’s the one with the power by not wearing a look typical of the fashion house, something with more straightforward sex appeal, or a poofy skirt — she wasn’t going to give up her style for the sake of a name brand. Of course, it’s a privilege to even have the opportunity to wear a label like Chanel , but the idea that they conformed to her tastes shows the uniqueness of her celebrity. The power that has.
Later in the evening, Eilish swapped her Chanel ensemble for a glittering, oversize Gucci jacket layered over an equally shiny turtleneck, this time all-black, which she wore while performing during the In Memoriam segment. She made her third outfit swap at the Vanity Fair afterparty, layering a mesh top under another oversize Gucci shirt, styled with matching pants, sunglasses, and chunky, jewel-encrusted platform sneakers.
However you feel about her style, the point is, we were talking about it — and in 2020, that means something. Her commitment to wearing clothing that is decidedly counter to the mainstream red carpet looks may have been divisive this awards season, but Billie Eilish knows how to make a moment.